You may find it hard to believe that, as an undergraduate at the University of Maine, I was not politically involved. It sounds funny even to me now, as your state representative in the Maine Legislature. Sure, I read the newspaper occasionally, and I watched the news on a regular basis, but my outlets as a student were not through local, state or federal issues. However, I did choose to get involved in university and student issues on campus, because while I was there, I felt I could make the most difference. I’m here to tell you now that you, as a student, faculty member or staff member at UMaine, can make a difference in Augusta.
This session, I worked with many individuals and groups on campus to better my ability to represent you.
Aaron Sterling, as president of the Off-Campus Board, came to Augusta to testify on LD 611: An Act to Strengthen Tenants’ Rights When There is a Failure to Correct a Dangerous Condition. Working together with Aaron and the Maine Apartment Owners and Managers Association, we convinced the Joint Standing Committee on Legal and Veterans Affairs that tenants need further protection under the law, now allowing them to withhold up to $500 of rent when a landlord does not correct a dangerous situation. With a special resolution from UMaine’s Student Government, the law passed unanimously out of committee and in both the House and Senate.
As a member of the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee, the most compelling testimony I often heard came from members of the UMaine community. Several students, faculty, staff and administrators came before us to discuss their passionate feelings on the controversial University of Maine System Strategic Plan and also on the exciting new Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. The College Republicans and members of the faculty made their presence known in Augusta during a very long and thorough hearing on the Academic Bill of Rights. Other members of the faculty, such as Professor Alan Cobo-Lewis came to testify on other education policy issues. I also drew upon the vast knowledge of UMaine by asking for guidance on education policy questions through calls to Dean Robert Cobb and others.
On two bills I sponsored before the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee, I worked with many faculty, staff and students. Professor Susan Brawley organized an impressive group of administrators, faculty and graduate students to ask for funding to support an increased number of graduate fellowships. Dean of Libraries Joyce Rumery collaborated with other librarians around the state to advocate for increased funding for Fogler Library’s digital library capacity. Both of these bills are still before the appropriations committee, waiting for the opportunity to be funded in the second half of this session.
During the hearings, floor debate and vote on LD 1196: An Act to Extend Civil Rights Protections to All People Regardless of Sexual Orientation, I was proud to have UMaine students in the State House working hard to ensure the bill’s passage with such overwhelming success. I am also proud to continue to work with those same students now to educate others about the importance of voting “no” on question one this Nov. 8 to keep this vital law on the books in Maine.
I also had the privilege to host students, faculty and staff before the House of Representatives to honor them for their accomplishments in academics, teaching and athletics. And many of you called or e-mailed me regularly to let me know your thoughts and feelings on my work in Augusta or on pending bills before the Legislature.
The point is, you can make a difference. All of the people I mentioned, and more, made a difference by informing me and other members of the House and Senate and enabling us to make better decisions. When we reconvene in January for the second half of the session, I look forward to continuing to develop relationships around campus and working with all of you, so I can represent you accurately. I love the work I do in Augusta, and I know I am lucky to have so many amazing people in my constituency to help me along the way.
State Representative Emily Ann Cain represents House District 19 (part of Orono) and can be reached at email@example.com or 207-866-3753.