AUGUSTA — They asked about seat assignments and water bottles.

They got clarification on how to address the entire chamber.

And they learned how to talk to reporters.

New lawmakers – some new to legislative service and others who took a break or switched chambers – began four days of training Monday to learn about the state budget, what’s in the law library, what ethics rules apply to them and what’s going on in other states.

“I’m looking forward to everything about the whole process,” said Rep.-elect Deborah Sanderson, R-Chelsea. “There’s so much to absorb at once.”

Unlike the first round of training, which incoming lawmakers got shortly after they were elected, this week’s sessions are more policy-oriented, said David Boulter, executive director of the Legislative Council.

“This week will be a little more substantive,” he said.

The 53 new House members – out of 151 – and 14 new senators – out of 35 – started Monday in their respective chambers to learn about legislative etiquette.

In the House, one new member wanted to know when he would be assigned a seat.

Republicans were still working on it, but it would likely be done by the end of the day, said House Clerk Millie MacFarland, who will leave legislative service now that Republicans have the majority in the chamber.

“Your desk number and your locker number will be the same,” she said.

In the Senate, outgoing Secretary Joy O’Brien and her replacement, Joseph G. Carleton Jr., shared the duty of explaining how things work.

Food isn’t allowed, but members sometimes hide candy in their desks, O’Brien said.

If you have a cold, it’s OK to keep a water bottle at your desk, as long as the top is on.

And, when addressing the chamber, it’s all about proper etiquette.

“You can’t refer to the governor and you can’t refer to the actions of the House,” she said. “You can’t call commissioners out by name.”

Carleton then added: “There are rules of civility. They are designed to take personalities out of debate.”

late in the afternoon, Rep.-elect Louis Luchini, D-Ellsworth, sipped on a caffeinated soda.

“It’s a lot of information,” he said. “Right now, I think the tough thing is going to be working with the budget. Everything is going to be looked at in that light.”

During another session, Gene Rose, director of communications for the National Conference of State Legislatures, talked about the importance of continuing to communicate with voters.

He also gave hints about dealing with the media.

He explained that when a legislator speaks with a reporter, everything is on the record and could end up in the newspaper or on television.

“When you are talking to a reporter, it’s a presentation, not a conversation,” he said. “Once you open your mouth to a reporter – it’s fair game.”


MaineToday Media State House Writer Susan Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at: [email protected]