Annually, the Oxford Dictionaries publishes the Word of the Year. It’s usually awarded to the culturally relevant term that shines a spotlight on our culture and often denotes a change or a shift in the way of thinking and leads us to a broader conclusion about our society.

In 2013, it was “selfie”; 2014 was “vape”; 2015 was literally an emoji, and 2016 was “post-truth.” Post-truth is defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

It is the scourge of our society right now. Attempting to decipher truth from propaganda is becoming so difficult that many people feel lost. Smart people, friends far more intelligent than I, have posted on their Facebook walls some of the most fact-less stories I have seen. But why? How? They are not deceitful people by nature, so what has happened? Post-truth has happened.

Episode One: Don’t Believe the Sound Bite.

One of the major accelerators of post-truth is an unwillingness to fact-check talking points. Too often, a person hears a sound bite or reads an article that supports a personal belief and instead of researching if it is true, they accept it because it fits with their held beliefs. Here is a relevant example that I am passionate about.

There is a debate in Maine about the referendum process. In November, four questions were passed by referendum. As is the duty of the Legislature, they’re trying to implement them into law, while also trying to do what is best for the state.

Some pieces of the referendums are being challenged by legislators, questioning whether voters knew what they were voting for, or in some cases, questioning the language in the referendums to see if they are enforceable, as written. Some legislators have suggested changes, and a few vested groups and opposing legislators have cried out “The legislators cannot change the ‘will of the people,’ it isn’t fair.”

On its face, that sounds indisputable. It’s a good sound bite — a very noble talking point — “All must respect the will of the people.” For those that believe that logic, they don’t see a need to research it further — and that would be an error.

If you go to Maine.gov (legislature.maine.gov/house/path/path1.htm), you see a rundown called “The Path to Legislation.” It is a 10-step process for how a bill becomes a law through the Legislature:

1. Idea Conceived — An elected official sponsors a bill, from a constituent or group

2. Bill Gets Drafted — Into its technical form with help from three state offices with legal review and such

3. Bill Introduced — It’s given a number and is printed

4. Committee Reference — It is given to a specific relevant committee (say taxation committee or energy committee, etc.)

5. Committee Action — The committee schedules a public hearing and accepts testimony from the public and interested groups

6. Report of Committee — The committee presents its initial finding to the larger body (House or Senate, whichever body the original legislator is from) through a first reading including a committee recommendation of Ought to Pass, Ought to Pass As Amended, Ought to Pass in New Draft, Ought Not to Pass, Unanimous Ought Not to Pass, or Refer to Another Committee. Any amendments the committee recommends are added to the original bill.

7. Second Reading — The next day it is re-read and amendments are suggested from the floor (meaning those not in the committee). Those recommendations are considered and voted on. Once amendments are collected, a final vote is taken by the full body, and if it is Ought to Pass or Ought to Pass as Amended, then it moves on.

8. Second Chamber — If it passed originally in the House it goes to the Senate, and if it passed in the Senate it goes to the House. The same process is followed with floor amendments. If the bill is amended it goes back to the first chamber until both bodies agree to pass the identical bill.

9. Governor — The bill goes to the governor to be signed into law. If the governor vetoes it, it gets sent back to the House and Senate; if the governor signs the bill it is in the enactment phase.

10. Enactment — If signed by the governor, a bill becomes law 90 days after the end of a legislative session, unless passed as emergency legislation. If a governor vetoes a law, it will take a 2/3 majority in the each of the House and Senate to override the veto to make it law.

Why is that important?

Look at all of the review, amendments and recommendations a law has to go through. It is the checks and balances of our government so that nothing passes unilaterally, without question. It’s so no singular view can dominate without due process.

Now look back at “The legislators cannot change the ‘will of the people’ it’s not fair.” To adapt, amend, review and negotiate the best implementation of a law is what we elect our legislators to do. It is equally as much the will of the people to empower our legislators to do their jobs, as it is to respect a referendum that passed.

Claiming that legislators cannot change a referendum bill is a false statement. Of course, they can, it’s what their position demands and it is backed by the Maine Constitution. To say that these specific bills should be passed without reasonable review, and not allowing amendments, is about the least fair thing you could do.

On April 5, hundreds of restaurant employees will be testifying in Augusta about a tip credit reinstatement bill, explaining to legislators how it will affect their livelihood. Opponents are organizing protest rallies opposing these workers and saying they can’t change the will of the people.

I wish these brave restaurant workers of Maine all the luck in convincing these legislators of the truth of how this referendum decision has impacted them and I hope that the legislators will give these workers an honest ear.

Lastly, you really have to question the motives of any group who is protesting against hard-working Maine employees who are just trying to talk with their legislators about how a law change is affecting their specific industry — are they really supporting the workers by protesting against them?



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