On Wednesday, Jan. 5, Maine legislators from across the state convened at the State House in Augusta to kick off the second regular session of the 130th Legislature. The day is largely a ceremonial one that marks the start of a new session, but nevertheless we arrived refreshed and ready to work on behalf of our constituents who sent us to Augusta. For me, being in the State House always serves as a good reminder of the gravity of the work we do, and the ability we have to make positive changes in people’s lives. Now that the Legislature has formally begun its session, I wanted to take a look forward and share with you what the coming months will look like.

Firstly, there are some key differences with the structure of the second session compared to the first. Most notably is its length, which is typically about two months shorter than the first session, and has come to be referred to as the “short session” because of that. The focus of our work will also be narrower. As opposed to the first session where legislators can submit bills on any topic ranging from small to large issues, the second session is reserved for budgetary matters, legislation of an “emergency” nature, and bills that were introduced in the previous year but still require additional work.

Legislative committees also began meeting during the week of Jan. 5, and the work quickly got moving at full speed. As the Senate chair of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee, I’m responsible for setting the agenda and schedule for the committee, along with my co-chair, Rep. Ralph Tucker, of Brunswick. We’ll be working on a wide range of issues once again this session, from out-of-state waste that comes into Maine, to advancing the Maine Won’t Wait climate action plan, to water quality standards and much more. There will be no shortage of important work taking place in our committee. I also serve as a member of the Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee, where we will continue the critical work to ensure that every Mainer, no matter where they live or how much money they make, can access the prescription medications and health care that they need.

Like last year, committees will start the year by conducting their work remotely over Zoom. During the first session, this new virtual format actually turned out to benefit everyday Mainers the most. As opposed to previous years when someone would have to plan their day around a drive to Augusta, whether it be 20 minutes or three hours, in order to share their thoughts on a proposal, now anyone can testify during a public hearing from the comfort of their own home. We saw evidence that people were taking advantage of this new ability last session, with record numbers of people participating in public hearings. The legislative process is at its best when we get as much input as possible from around the state. All committee meetings are also live streamed and archived at www.legislature.maine.gov.

As the session goes on, I will continue working to keep all of my constituents up to date on the happenings in Augusta. In addition to monthly columns, I send email updates that you can sign up for by visiting www.Mainesenate.org. You can also visit my Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/stacy.brenner.maine. And as always, if you have a question, comment or just want to make your voice heard, you can send me an email at [email protected] or call my office at 287-1515.

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