In November, voters in Acton, Kennebunk, Lebanon, North Berwick, Wells and part of Berwick elected me as their next state senator. In December, my legislative colleagues and I were sworn in to our new roles, and it has been a whirlwind ever since.

Joseph Rafferty

For those of you whom I haven’t had a chance to meet yet, I’m Joe Rafferty. I’ve spent my career teaching physical education and coaching football at Kennebunk High School, and since retiring from full-time teaching, I’ve been working as a substitute in the district, filling in where needed – even driving a school bus some days! While teaching, I was active in our union serving as president, building representative on the executive committee, and chief negotiator on the contract negotiation team at different times.

In all of these roles, I always had the same goals of supporting my students, colleagues and our communities, through living wages, access to affordable health care, and a stable future for young Mainers, no matter what path they choose in life. These will be the same goals that guide my work in the Legislature.

Since being sworn in to the Legislature, I’ve been working on submitting bill ideas, getting our committee work organized, and learning from experts in different policy areas. Like many of you these days, that has meant a lot of time on Zoom, and that’s going to be true for a while this legislative session.

In order to keep legislators, staff and the public safe, we amended the Legislature’s usual rules regarding public hearings before committees. For the first time, Mainers will be able to provide testimony via videoconference or phone, and you’ll still be able to submit written testimony online. This will make the Legislature much more accessible to Mainers from all walks of life.

Now, a mom in Berwick working from home while also trying to supervise her kid’s remote schooling won’t have to drive the 100 miles to Augusta in order to make her voice heard; she’ll be able to speak to legislators right from her living room. I’m hopeful that getting more people’s experiences and expertise relayed to legislators will make our work better.

This session, I will be serving as chair of the Labor and Housing Committee, and I’ll be serving on the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee. I’m excited to bring my on-the-ground experience in both of these areas to the Legislature. The Labor and Housing Committee is responsible for legislation related to the Department of Labor, working conditions, collective bargaining, public and private sector retirement systems, Maine State Housing Authority, landlord-tenant laws, housing safety, building codes and more.

The importance of these topics has been highlighted by the pandemic, and I am hopeful that we can work together to ensure we build back better than before as we continue to attack the virus and get our lives to a new-and-improved normal.

The Education Committee deals with legislation related to the Department of Education, school budgets, the University of Maine system, Maine Community College system, Maine Historical Society and other related topics. Here again, we’ve seen the importance of a strong public education system with the resources it needs to be nimble and meet the needs of Maine kids. I’ll work to ensure our teachers and school systems have those resources so local students keep getting the strong educational foundation they need.

I want you to know I am always available if you need me. Whether you want to talk about a bill you’re interested in, you need help with a state agency, you’re having difficulty applying for unemployment, or you just want to learn more about our state government, I’m here. You can always reach me at [email protected] or call my office at 207-287-1515. I hope to hear from you soon.

Joseph Rafferty is a member of the Maine State Senate representing District 34, Acton, Kennebunk, Lebanon, Moody, North Berwick, Wells, West Lebanon and part of Berwick. He can be reached at [email protected]

 

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