The first act of the new speaker of the House took place a day before he was formally elected, and it was a good one.

After a closed-door meeting with House Democratic Leader Emily Cain, presumptive speaker Robert Nutting walked a proposal by Senate Republicans to eliminate the Legislature’s Labor Committee away from the brink, instead referring it for more study and an eventual vote by the full Legislature.

The Republicans certainly have the power to wipe out the committee, and the notion that labor issues could be discussed alongside other business concerns in the Business, Research and Economic Development Committee may have some merit. But making this move unilaterally and without discussion would have been a serious mistake.

It would have been disruptive to the Legislature’s work flow to dump a large number of bills dealing with the intricacies of subjects like workers compensation or the state retirement system on an already busy committee. Time that business committee members spent developing expertise on labor issues would be time unavailable for other important matters.

But more problematic would be the message that the move would send to the working families of Maine. It would have been that because of the results of this election, there is no place for them to go at the Legislature where they can find people whose job it is to listen to their concerns.

The whole legislative process is designed to bring people with disparate ideas and backgrounds together to shape our laws. Eventually, when it’s time to vote, the majority rules. Now that the Republicans have taken control of both bodies of the Legislature, everyone is expecting them to make changes.

But the weight of the majority should come to bear at the end of the process, after all interested parties have had the chance to have their say, not before the debate has even begun.

In the current Legislature, the Labor Committee would have chairmen and a majority of members chosen by Republican leadership, who could make those appointments keeping business interests in mind.

That should be enough. Republicans have the power to eliminate the Labor Committee, but doing so now would have been the wrong thing for the state.