Yet another busy week in our Maine Government course. This week, we learned about the “nuts and bolts” of the Maine State Legislature and watched and reacted to the Governor’s “State of the State” Address. In addition, we were joined by two distinguished former legislators: Mary Cathcart (now a Research Associate at the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center and Co-Director of the Maine NEW Leadership Program) and Chris Rector (now the regional representative for US Senator Angus King).
We’ve been talking about the contemporary state of Maine politics quite a bit in this course (as one might expect). One of the themes that we’ve highlighted is that politics in the state of Maine has become more rancorous, more polarized, more partisan than one would typically expect in state with a “moralistic political culture.” Maine is typically known for its pragmatism, its centrism, and the tendency of voters to punish politicians who engage in partisan brinksmanship.
Yet former Legislators Cathcart and Rector left us with an important message. The thing they noted about their time in the Legislature is that even those individuals who they disagreed with vehemently on policy issues often were acting from a sincere belief that they were doing the right thing for Maine and for its people. This is an important lesson and one that I think we all hope remains true about Maine politics. Though we may disagree on the issues, we can have an intelligent debate informed by evidence, and one that affords respect to even our political adversaries (grounded in the fact that we all are truly acting in what we believe to be the best interests of Maine’s people).
Some great analysis and commentary from the from the students this week as well. Unsurprisingly, many students chose to focus on dimensions of Governor Paul LePage’s State of the State Address. Both John Chase and Jake Posik focused on the Governor’s discussion of EBT misuse–zeroing in gaps in the existing regulatory framework for how these funds are used. Jaymi Thibault also addresses the speech asking why we can’t have our cake (tax relief) and eat it too (Mainecare expansion). Lastly, Ben Algeo examines the Governor’s claims on energy, questioning some of the claims made about the benefits of natural gas and hydroelectric power from Quebec.
Many students this semester are working on the issue of demographics. Dean Soltys examines the inroads that the Maine Republican Party is making with younger voters (most recently evident in UMaine Student, and Political Science Minor, Margaret Howson’s election as Hampden Republican Committee Chair). Liam Nee writes about the other side of the “age gap”–discussing the recent Maine Summit on Aging. Cam Marcotte stresses that while we are seeing migration into the state of Maine, it’s likely not the type of migration to deal with our current demographic woes.
A few other great pieces this week that aren’t thematically linked. Spencer Warmuth has a quick take on the dust-up in Appropriations over the $40 million revenue sharing motion, voted on while Republican lawmakers were absent.nment role in the provision of health care benefits can and should open a space in which we begin to think, societally, about our diets and consumption of foods known to induce health risks. Last, but certainly not least, what would a Maine Government class be without some serious talk about lobster? Derek Williams offers his take.
Check out the blogroll for more of the students’ work. And stay tuned for more updates!