AUGUSTA – A recent editorial in this newspaper stated that a proposed realignment of legislative committees was pulled back “from the brink, instead referring it for more study and an eventual vote by the full Legislature.”

In fact, rules governing committee structure require a vote of the Legislature, so it was always a given that such a vote would occur.

The new Republican majority is reviewing how the Legislature does business, and we seek to cut the legislative budget and make changes to improve the economy and ensure a more prosperous future for Maine people.

One proposal before the Joint Rules Committee would reduce the number of legislative committees from 17 to 16 by merging the Committee on Business, Research and Economic Development with the Committee on Labor to create a new Committee on Commerce, Workforce, Research and Development.

After long exporting our youth to other states, we are committed to strengthening private-sector job retention and creation. One common-sense way to do that is to ensure that decisions on business and work force issues are made in context rather than in a vacuum.

Nobody would be diminished by making one legislative committee responsible for weighing the needs and obligations of both workers and businesses.

Nevertheless, some labor union leaders have mounted a public relations offensive against the proposal, noting that a separate Labor Committee has been in existence for a long time. But “we’ve always done it that way” is not a convincing argument for maintaining the status quo.

The Labor Committee was created during the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century when the economy was characterized by the exploitation of laborers, working in harsh and unsafe conditions.

Our 21st century economy is characterized by over-regulation, stifling job creation and contributing to Maine’s listing by Forbes magazine as the worst state in the nation for business and careers.

At its heart, the argument for maintaining two committees is premised on the notion that only a separate labor committee can effectively address issues of importance to workers. But the record shows otherwise.

For example, at the federal level, Congress has no separate labor committee. The U.S. House assigns work force issues to the Education and Labor Committee, while the U.S. Senate handles them in the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

If issues critical to America’s work force can be addressed in committees with multiple jurisdictions, why can’t similar efficiencies be applied to the state legislative level? The answer is that they can and, in the vast majority of states, they already are.

Across the 50 states, there are 94 separate committee structures. That is because 44 states have separate Senate and House committees. Maine is one of just five states with joint committees. Naturally, Nebraska’s unicameral legislature also has a single committee structure.

Of those 94 committee structures, only 17 (including Maine) have a Labor Committee, while 14 others have names suggesting they deal primarily with workforce issues.

Meanwhile, 63 of the 94 committee structures assign jurisdiction for work force issues to committees that share responsibility for other issues.

Most of those — 38 — have jurisdiction for business and work force issues, just as we are proposing for Maine, and some even cover additional issues like agriculture. In six others, work force issues are handled by committees that also oversee issues like insurance, health and welfare.

Another 19 legislative chambers have no committee with labor or work force in their title.

So our proposal is not only mainstream, it is in line with two-thirds of the legislative chambers across the nation. That hardly warrants a public relations offensive to instill needless fear among Maine workers.

The bottom line is that workers and businesses have a shared stake in the future. Jobs would not exist without business, and business could not exist without workers.