We were sworn in on Dec. 4 last year to represent our communities of Topsham and Brunswick in the 130th Legislature. January marked the beginning for the first session, which will continue through June. We are back at it, but, of course, it looks very different than it did when we could convene face to face and visitors could testify or chat with us in person. Just like many of you, we are working remotely, meeting with our committees from home via the Zoom platform. As the pandemic continues, we must take the recommended precautions against spread of the virus. Nevertheless, we remain committed to informing you, our constituents, of the new ways in which you can follow our work and add your voice to policymaking.

We both currently sit on the Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee which oversees policy regarding health insurance coverage, banking, credit unions, the Bureau of Consumer Protection, mortgage lending, foreclosure prevention and mutual funds, which have become increasingly important due to some of the consequences of the pandemic.

On Jan. 19, we held our first virtual committee orientation. These meetings, as with all committee hearings and work sessions, will be available to you via the Maine Legislature YouTube Channel (1). If you’re interested in receiving email notifications about a particular committee’s work, you can do that by signing up on the legislature’s mailing lists site (2). You can also find a schedule for all committee meetings on the legislature’s calendar page (3).

Although this session won’t be like those of the past, public hearings on bills remain an important opportunity to participate. It is your chance to share your thoughts, perspective and opinions on a bill that could impact you, your loved ones and your community. Committees’ public hearing dates will be announced at least 14 days in advance, giving you time to plan ahead and prepare testimony if you desire.

Each week, you can check which bills are being heard by looking on the committee pages of the Maine Legislature website (4). Anyone can weigh in on a bill that concerns them, by filling out the Testimony Submission Form for the relevant committee (5). We know this form works as we are already having written testimony forwarded to us. You can also sign up to testify “in person” on the zoom platform. If you don’t have a computer, or are uncomfortable using Zoom, but wish to weigh in on a bill, you can call the Legislative Information Office at (207) 287-1692 or (800) 301-3178 and ask how to reach the committee clerk. They can help you arrange to testify by telephone.

If you’re looking for a specific bill and you know its legislative document (LD) number, you can use the search engine on the legislature’s homepage to see its status as it moves through the legislative process (6). If you’re wanting a broader look at which committees are meeting and the work they have in front of them for that day, you can find that information on the Legislative schedule page (7).

We are certainly looking forward to the day when we can return to the State House and welcome you back into the halls to participate in our democracy face to face. For now, we understand the importance of staying home, and will continue to do our part until vaccination makes in-person gathering possible. The URLs for the resources discussed are listed below in the order they were mentioned.

If there is anything we can do to help you or your family, whether related to the legislature, the pandemic or something entirely different, please reach out. We believe that our work cannot be successful without your voices, without knowing what is important to you. We can be contacted at [email protected] and [email protected] or at our listed phone numbers. It is an honor to serve our communities.

Rep. Tepler is serving her fourth term in the Maine Le0gislature and is the House chair of the Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee. Rep. Arford is serving her first term in the Maine Legislature and serves on the Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee.

Resources:

1. https://www.youtube.com/mainestatelegislature

2. https://lists.legislature.maine.gov/sympa/

3. http://legislature.maine.gov/Calendar/#Weekly/2021-01-17

4. http://legislature.maine.gov/committee/#Committees

5. https://www.mainelegislature.org/testimony/

6. http://www.legislature.maine.gov

7. https://legislature.maine.gov/bills/phwkSched.html

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