In my view, the 127th Legislature was a great success. We addressed the opioid addiction crisis, invested in our infrastructure and schools, and made our welfare laws more sensible, among many other things. For my part, I am very pleased that my bills protecting children from abuse, keeping the election polls free from intimidation and improved carbon monoxide safety regulations were all signed into law. But the time to reflect on what we have accomplished is over. Now we must prepare for the next session and a new set of challenges.
Over the years I have heard from you about three issues in particular that could use some consideration: Stronger deterrents for would-be animal abusers, reducing property taxes in order to allow folks to keep more of their hard-earned money, and eliminating the all-too-common practice of using hand-held devices — cell phones — while driving.
Animal abuse is one thing that has bothered me for as long as I can remember, not only because it is a terrible thing to harm a defenseless creature, but because of what it says about us as people. Are we the type of society that looks the other way and allows this kind of cruelty, or are we kind, sympathetic and sophisticated enough to make sure this behavior is strongly discouraged and severely punished?
As a member of the board of directors for the Maine State Society for the Protection of Animals (MSSPA) I see the sad results of animal abuse way too often. Maybe it's time to take bold action in order to significantly reduce cruelty to animals. That is why I will introduce a bill that will make the most serious offenses of animal abuse a felony. We must deter the types of people who would do such a thing by instituting stiff penalties for such a crime. I would like to hear your thoughts on my bill - good or bad idea? Changes you'd make?
Also on my radar screen for next year is to address the steady drumbeat of frustration over property taxes. For too long Maine property owners have been taxed to the hilt, and as I and others have pointed out repeatedly, these taxes do not account for how many mouths you have to feed, whether you are on a fixed income, or anything else other than property value.
The state addressed this issue in the 1970s with a revenue sharing program, which put 5 percent of income and sales tax back into the pockets of Mainers in the form of property tax relief. Over the years, changes were made to the program: Large cuts were made and the money started being diverted to plug holes in the state and local budgets. In the upcoming legislative session, I will propose to reinstate the original purpose of the revenue sharing program and require that all of the money be used for direct property tax relief, as it was originally intended. Property taxes are critical to funding education and many other pressing needs in the State of Maine, but they must be levied fairly and cease to be such an enormous burden on the working class and those of fixed incomes.
Finally, while Maine already has a law on the books that prohibits texting while driving, we all know that any use of hand-held devices while behind the wheel is dangerous. When I see someone trying to dial a phone or send a text and then drifting into the lane of oncoming traffic — and it happens often — I think about the accidents this reckless behavior can easily cause. Sadly, the statistics bear this out.
Those who engage in this dangerous activity put other innocent people in serious danger. I plan on re-introducing my bill from last year that will ban all use of hand-held devices while driving. There is extensive research to support the need of my bill. Handless phone devices would still be allowed under my law. It seems to me that when behind the wheel of a moving car, the law should mandate that we pay attention to the road, not our phones.
These matters are not Democratic or Republican, liberal or conservative. They are common-sense solutions to problems that affect so many of us. So I am looking forward to celebrating Christmas with my family and I certainly wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a safe New Year. I look forward meeting my new colleagues in the senate, greet my old friends on both sides of the aisle — and get to work.
As always, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or (207) 287-1515, if you have questions or comments.