This picture was taken in my backyard, but it may as well be a snapshot of the Legislature’s Policy Committees.
As you likely know, most of Maine was in a drought last year. Now, I don’t know where we stand at this point, but if my backyard is any testament, those conditions have improved. The Androscoggin floods almost every spring. Last spring, however, it basically stayed in its banks. Great for my yard clean up, not great for wells and farmers.
As I sit at my kitchen table writing this post, the river reminds me of this legislative session. The legislature was off to a very slow start this year. No one can put our fingers on exactly why, but even though the threat/challenge of 1,800 bills loomed over our policymakers, they were slow to refer bills to committee and even slower to schedule public hearings. Every bill gets a public hearing and the legislature has exactly 6 ½ months to finish their work, but they, like the rest of us, seemed frozen for most of January, February and March.
That all changed in April. Now, committees are scheduling a half dozen or more public hearings most days of the week and hosting work sessions on close to a dozen at a time. (Work sessions occur after public hearings and they are where questions are answered and preliminary votes are taken). All told, there are over 50 bills that the AHA could weigh in on this session. We have to prioritize so that we don’t drown as the banks overflow, but we and our amazing volunteers put on our lifejackets and do all we can. We testified on 2 obesity bills last week, clean water bills and insurance coverage the week before, this week it is marijuana and tobacco and next week we are testifying on PE. This does not even count the work we are constantly doing on the horrible public health cuts in the proposed state budget. There may be more, but like the Mighty Andro, I don’t want to overflow your email with lists and to-dos.
If you ever want to testify on any bills for AHA, or if you’d like to pull on your own lifejacket and join me at the state house, just let me know. Or, if you want soggy drift wood, please shoot me an email. Becky.Smith@Heart.Org