The New Legislature Begins

By State Senator Bill Diamond

The Maine Legislature officially began its 125th Session on Dec. 1. While some things, like committee assignments, have yet to be determined, things are coming together at the State House. Maine’s Legislature operates on a two-year cycle. The first year is the “long session,” and it will run until June of next year. The “short session,” which will take place in 2012, generally ends in late-March or early April.

During the long session, the legislature drafts a two-year budget for the state, and legislators may propose any legislation they feel is appropriate and necessary. This session tends to start off more slowly as all the new legislators get used to the way things work and then gets progressively busier as all the bills and the budget start to come up for votes.

The short session, on the other hand, is only for “emergency legislation” and the preparation of a supplemental budget. The supplemental budget is really just a series of adjustments to the two-year budget to reflect changes that have occurred since the budget was prepared. The state’s income may be higher or lower, and programs may have cost more or less than was predicted when the budget was prepared, and, since the Maine Constitution requires a balanced budget, the necessary changes have to be made. The number of other bills being heard during the short session is much lower, because they must all be approved by the leadership of both parties of both the House and the Senate.

So, from now until Jan. 7, any legislator can put in a bill on any topic. This date, Jan. 7, is called “cloture.” After that date, a legislator will need special permission from leadership to put in a bill through a process similar to that used for the short session, so getting a bill in cloture is difficult.

With all the new faces at the legislature this year, there will undoubtedly be many new ideas put forward, some good and some bad. I would like to take this opportunity to reach out to you to take advantage of the freedom I have to submit bills until Jan. 7, but putting in a bill is serious business and requires forethought. While some ideas are worthy of a new law, many others can be solved in another way. Is the issue involved something that can be handled another way, perhaps through a change in a rule or a regulation, for example? As a state senator, I can only deal directly with state issues and legislation, so it is also important to understand if an issue is local, state or federal.

With all that in mind, I’d like to encourage you to contact me with any ideas you have for ways we can do things better here in Maine. These are challenging times, and we need to do all we can to improve our economy, and sometimes legislation is the way to go. You can always get in touch with me at the State House by calling 287-1515 or visiting my website, HYPERLINK to send me an e-mail. I’ll be glad to hear from you.

Senator Bill Diamond is a resident of Windham, and serves the communities of Casco, Frye Island, Raymond, Standish, Windham and Hollis as Senator of District 12.

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