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Four Rookie Maine Legislators Look Back At Their First Session
07/28/2013   Reported By: Irwin Gratz

They have gone back to their former lives for now: as an environmental consultant, library director, retired state trooper and retired educator. They each spent the first half of this year learning a new trade: legislator. As part of his ongoing series with Maine's rookie legislators, MPBN's Irwin Gratz reconnected this month with state Sen. Jim Boyle, and state Reps. Carol McElwee, Tim Marks, and Christine Powers to hear their impressions of this year's legislative session, find out what they've learned, and see how it might affect their future political plans.

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Rookie 1

One thing came through loud-and-clear, as I asked Boyle, Marks, McElwee and Powers whether their first legislative session matched their expectations:

"It's a lot more work," Sen. Jim Boyle says.

"This was way more than a full-time job," says Rep. Tim Marks.

"I didn't think that it would be quite as overwhelming at times," Rep. Carol McElwee says.

"It was what I expected - and it was more difficult, and it was more engaging," says Rep. Christine Powers (right), a Democratic state Rep. and director of the Naples Public Library. "It was challenging and exciting and frustrating. And it was a lot of work."

Rookie 3Democratic state Sen. Jim Boyle (left) is the environmental consultant. While he was surprised by the work, "It's also very rewarding, you know." he says. "I've had some very personal experiences of people needing help from their elected representative and I've been pleased to be able to help. So, that part of it feels really good."

Rookie 2Former educator Carol McElwee (right) is now a Republican state Rep. from Caribou. She says she learned a lot about her state. "Living in the county, I think, sometimes, we can be a little bit isolated," she says. "And so my perspective on the state of Maine has definitely widened - which is wonderful."

And she's still learning about state government. "I have two booklets, just from Health and Human Services, of acronyms. So I have some studying to do, also, this summer.""

Retired State Police Trooper Tim Marks, a Democratic state Rep. from Pittston, brought with him to Augusta an idea for legislation. He thought it could help out motorists facing a traffic ticket, and help cities, towns and the state hold down costs.

Tim Marks"My idea was to give somebody who was given a ticket, a traffic ticket, for a civil infraction for, like say, speeding or something, a 10 percent discount if they paid it immediately and didn't request a trial," Marks (left) says. "Because, in my experience, the people who requested trials, they not only bogged the system down, but it cost the state and the police departments money in overtime."

And, often people who go the court route wound up paying less than those who simply paid their fine. And that struck Marks as slightly unfair. How did his proposal do?

"I presented it in the committee and it got pretty good review. Citizens really seemed to love it," he says. "The committee was a little torn on the cost, the money. It got a financial death blow because no one was sure if it was going to save the state money or cost the state money."

Rep. Powers also came to Augusta on a mission: to improve the roads in her home district and elsewhere. Powers succeeded in getting a seat on the Legislature's Transportation Committee, but she ran into a problem all too common in state government today.

"Well, I was hoping we could find a way for more funding sources for transportation," she says. "You know, we had a lot of conversations about it, about the gas tax, about fees. We talked about fees a lot with a lot of our bills that we heard in Transportation, some of them that haven't been raised since the '70s. So, we're almost subsidizing some of the services."

Of course money was at issue in the biggest challenge of the legislative session, the state budget. More on that when our conversations with these four rookie legislators continue.

Photos of Sen. Boyle and Reps. McElwee and Powers:  Irwin Gratz

Photo of Rep. Marks:  Courtesy Maine House of Representatives

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