Sunday, March 1, 2015

Tackling real Maine issues key to overcoming partisan divide - by Mark Bryant

Exclusive to the Windham Eagle
On Election Day last year, the people of Maine elected a Republican-controlled state Senate and a Democratic-controlled state House. With a divided government, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle need to set aside party differences and come together to make progress on the issues affecting Mainers.
This means pursuing legislation that tackles real problems facing our state, not those proposals that serve only as political instruments.
Whether we lean left, right or center, all of us face common challenges — from securing employment to paying off debt to affording heat and electricity to simply finding stability in difficult economic times. Lawmakers can come together to remove obstacles preventing all Maine people from achieving these goals.

That is the approach I’ve taken in my time as an elected official and I plan on continuing that throughout my term in the 127th Legislature.

One bill that I’ve submitted aims to protect children against identity fraud, which has taken a new form in the information age. Lower-income families can easily fall on hard times — often through no fault of their own. Under pressure, some turn to drastic measures in order to support the ones they love. This can sometimes mean misusing the identity of their children in order to receive financial assistance.

In most cases, child IDs are used to secure loans and credit accounts, but they are also used to purchase homes and cars, land a job and obtain driver’s licenses. Carnegie Mellon issued an in-depth report on this issue, which can be found here: I encourage readers to take a look. It reveals just how prevalent a problem this is in Maine and across the country.

My bill is aimed at protecting the child, whose future is jeopardized by these actions. When they grow older, only to find their credit has gone bad due to the actions of their parents and care-takers, the obstacles they face to success are that much harder to overcome.

Additionally, I’ve sponsored a bill to increase enrollment in homebuyer education courses in Maine. While foreclosures often come as the result of a job loss or health condition, in many cases it is because the homeowners simply didn’t understand what their contract demanded of them over the long-term.
My bill would make new homebuyers eligible for the Homestead Exemption — where a town subtracts $10,000 from the assessed value of a home before issuing property taxes — if they enroll in a state-approved homeownership education course. Currently, only residents who have owned a home for at least twelve months could qualify for the property tax credit.

After the housing market collapsed in 2007, it became apparent just how difficult managing a long-term mortgage can be, especially when those mortgages are given out to those who cannot follow through on them. Making sure that homeowners are well educated on what it takes to own a home will help them stay financially stable as they pay off their mortgage.

These bills aim to solve real problems. They aren’t crafted to serve as political devices. The issues they tackle aren’t Republican or Democratic issues — they are Maine issues that can affect all of us. 

It is by working on measures like these that I believe lawmakers can come together and end partisan gridlock to move Maine forward. I look forward to seeing what we can accomplish this session and I am excited to be a part of it. 

If you have any questions or concerns regarding state government, please do not hesitate to contact me by phone at 892-6591 or by email at

Rep. Mark Bryant is serving his fifth non-consecutive term in the Maine House and represents part of Windham. He serves on the Committee on State and Local Government and the Committee on Transportation.

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