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Troy Jackson of Allagash is president of the Maine Senate.
Too often Democrats and Republicans are pitted against one another as if our political party makes us enemies. But at the end of the day, we’re all Mainers.
Over the next two years, we will have to solve some of the greatest challenges our state has ever faced. To be successful, we need to put our differences aside and the hostility of election behind us, and come together for Maine people. Our health and economic recovery are on the line.
Right now, people are struggling. Our neighbors have made difficult sacrifices to keep their loved ones safe and to reopen the economy. Celebrations have been cancelled, memorial services have become private and grandparents have gone without hugs from their grandkids.
Our neighbors have also faced unprecedented hardship. I’ve heard from constituents daily. I’m only grateful that we’ve been able to help some folks when we can, whether it was getting a disabled veteran from St. Agatha a new furnace or working with a woman from Portage to get her husband his unemployment benefits. We’ve even helped a woman from New Sweden put her husband to rest.
In times of uncertainty, being together is where we find comfort and draw strength. Yet, Mainers have faced unprecedented situations with extraordinary courage. Now, we need to do more to take care of them — our veterans, our seniors, our workers and young children.
Maine people have placed their trust in members of the 130th Legislature. They deserve a government that puts them first. We have the opportunity to show them what the government can be. The Maine Legislature isn’t made up of empty politicians. It’s made up of loggers, farmers, doctors, nurses, teachers, coaches, fishermen, business owners and more. It’s at its best when constituents have a seat at the table.
Although unusual, I’m thrilled that the 130th Maine Legislature will be the most open and accessible legislature in history. Mainers will finally be able to participate in public hearings and watch committee meetings from their home. This is a big deal. The people in my district live further away from the State House than almost any other district. If my constituents want to testify, they have to miss a day of work and drive six hours round trip. I believe policies to ensure constituents have a greater voice are long overdue.
To rebuild, we need to champion policies that put Mainers first. It’s why I’m re-introducing Buy American, Hire Maine Legislation. During this pandemic, we’ve seen Maine workers and businesses show up for Maine. When there was a shortage of PPE, Maine manufacturers shifted gears to fill the gap. American Roots, FlowFold, Ntension, New Balance and so many others came through overnight.
Our job is to represent 1.3 million Mainers. I don’t understand for the life of me why we wouldn’t put them first. The goal isn’t to be exclusionary, rather it is to lift up the people, businesses, workers, jobs and products in our backyard.
Finally, we’re living through one of the most difficult moments in our state’s history. But what we do right now has the potential to define the next decade. How we meet this moment can jumpstart a new innovative economy, where there’s room for heritage industries and new opportunities. It can launch a new era of politics, where lawmakers actually talk to each other instead of working in silos. There’s a lot that can happen depending on how we meet this moment.
When things get tough, Maine people don’t walk away from a problem, they don’t retreat to their corners, and they certainly don’t give up. Mainers roll up their sleeves and get to work. They figure out how to bring people together and use what they’ve got to get the job done. No matter the challenge, Mainers rise to the occasion every time. The Maine Legislature must come together and do the same.
Back in June, I replaced my worn out dress shoes. When I went to pack my bags for swearing-in day last week, I finally took my shoes out of the box and realized I bought two right shoes. I had to laugh. Shoes for two right feet are useless. You need a right and a left, otherwise, you’ll be walking in circles.
It’s a good metaphor for the Legislature. The way I see it, we need each other to get things done. Republican or Democrat, north or south, east or west, right or left, we need each other to successfully rebuild and get through this crisis.