Well, we’re already almost a week into 2024. By now, you probably thought you were safe from columnists’ annual predictions. Nope, we’re not quite done yet.

If you thought 2023 was a mess, don’t expect improvement this year; a lot of the problems will even be the same. The best we can expect is that they won’t get any worse. 

In Augusta, there will be a lot of discussion about major changes to the state’s gun laws, and none of them are likely to come to fruition. The two parties are just too far apart on the issue for that. They’ll begin the session with grandiose promises to reexamine every facet of the state’s gun laws. In the end, they’re going to make minor tweaks to our current yellow-flag law. Those tweaks will likely even fall short of upgrading it to match other states’ red-flag laws.  

This inaction will lead to a more pronounced rift between Democratic leadership and grassroots liberal activists, at least on this issue. After the Legislature fails to enact any sweeping changes, there will probably be another referendum on it. The question here would be about approach: Will Democrats have a single, sweeping initiative, or more focused separate ballot questions? The wiser approach would probably to be the latter, but if the Legislature has already failed to act on those proposals, they probably won’t go that route. The debate over gun control may consume a lot of legislative time, column inches and staff work this session, but in the end, it’s unlikely to be the main event.  

On the flip side, if Democrats do somehow manage to unify behind sweeping changes to the state’s gun control laws, Republicans would probably immediately begin collecting signatures for a people’s veto. Regardless of what happens with gun control proposals this session, the issue has become so emotionally charged that the Legislature is unlikely to have the final say on the topic. 

In other areas, there may be room for the Legislature to be a little more productive.


There seems to be a bipartisan consensus that there need to be major changes made to the Department of Health and Human Services, for instance. The real question there is whether the Mills administration will be willing to work with legislators from both parties to reform the department or simply stand in their way. Hopefully, the administration can engage positively with the Legislature, working with them to find real problems with real issues rather than merely engaging in partisan name-calling. Compromise isn’t always possible – nor does it always lead to the best outcome on every issue – but it should be when it comes to fixing the Department of Health and Human Services. Indeed, it should be be when it comes to most of the big issues in Augusta this session; gun control is likely to prove the rare exception, even though it will get the most airtime. 

At the national level, the opposite seems to be the case: Virtually every major issue has been caught up in partisan politics.

It seems very likely that, in terms of how much they get done, this is going to down as one of the least productive Congresses in history, and it’s hard to see that changing anytime soon. Since it can barely manage to function at all, we won’t see any compromises on major issues; instead, it will continue to do nothing. Unfortunately, that will stymie aid to both Israel and Ukraine, at least for the foreseeable future. Eventually, Congress will probably pass aid to Israel, but aid to Ukraine will be tougher, and that may lead the Biden administration to start using seized Russian assets instead – something I think it should have been doing since the day the war began. 

Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem as if either of these conflicts are going to go away any time soon; they’ll probably both drag on well into 2025. Right now, the best we can hope for is that neither conflict expands any further. The major powers all want to stay on the sidelines of those wars; there’s simply too much for them to lose if they don’t.

Hopefully the Maine State Legislature can address a few real problems. Hopefully in D.C. a government shutdown can be avoided. Neither of these outcomes are very big leaps. Sadly, that’s probably the best we can hope for this year.

Jim Fossel, a conservative activist from Gardiner, worked for Sen. Susan Collins. He can be contacted at:
Twitter: @jimfossel

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