Our local citizens were very successful in driving local government to make the move from landfilling trash to sending it to ecomaine’s waste-to-energy plant. While that was happening, the state of Maine has also been busy with a variety of environmental and recycling rules that will have a direct impact on us all.

The moves in Brunswick were the direct result of citizen involvement in the process at all levels, and the same process works at the state level. The Natural Resources Council of Maine has published a very nice document on their web called the “Take Action Toolkit,” in which they outline the ways we can best make a direct difference in how the legislature votes.

Each bill proposed in a two-year legislative cycle is assigned a number, by which it can be tracked through the process as it is reviewed by an appropriate legislative committee, and is given a public hearing at which anyone can offer comments. After the hearing, the bill is approved for further action, or disapproved and discarded.

The Natural Resources Council of Maine has a link on their page to a legislative bill tracking page and then links to pages for finding and contacting legislators and viewing the activities of the various committees. One of their better contributions is a link to a page of tips on contacting your legislators, and an NRCM contact who can help, if required. The gist of their message there is the same as the manner in which we successfully swayed the Town Council locally.

Our representatives do not want a pile of spam or junk mail, any more than we want to see the eight or 10 solicitations we get at home every day, but, like us, they can be convinced by a calmly presented and reasoned argument in favor of one decision or the other on a particular bill. If it were me getting them, a pile of identical “sign here” form letters that took no effort on the part of the signer, would be discarded out of hand. A single, short, well-done note from a constituent would carry much more weight. I would read that and consider carefully what was said. That note would have come from someone who actually cared, and was willing to make an effort to support his or her position.

The NRCM suggests six items to include in your note, and they apply to local or state representatives. To quote their website:

  • Introduce yourself. Let them know where you live and what you do;
  • Mention the bill’s LD number and the title of the bill;
  • Describe why this bill is important to you. Personal stories resonate well;
  • Encourage your legislator to vote a certain way (either for or against);
  • Again, mention the bill’s LD number and how you would like them to vote;
  • Thank your legislator for their time and hard work serving your community.

This is a terrific list! Keep your comments calm, make your position clear, but not hysterical, and be polite. Together, we can make a big difference.

The Recycle Bin is a weekly column on what to recycle, what not to recycle, and why, in Brunswick. The public is encouraged to submit questions by email to [email protected] Harry Hopcroft is a member of the Brunswick Recycling and Sustainability Committee. This column is a product of his own research.

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