AUGUSTA – Leaders of Maine’s newly seated Legislature have completed committee appointments, and while making choices was difficult, most members appear to be pleased with their new roles.
“It’s always difficult because people get elected and come down here to do as much good as they can,” said House Majority Leader Patrick Colwell, D-Gardiner.
To have the most impact, that means getting named to the budget-reviewing Appropriations or Taxation committees, but not all members can serve on those two high-profile panels, said Colwell. There are 17 joint standing committees in all.
Appropriations will have a particularly high profile this two-year term, given a state budget shortfall estimated in the $200 million range.
House Speaker Michael Saxl, D-Portland, achieved a geographical balance while maximizing new talent in making his appointments, said Colwell, D-Gardiner.
“I think mostly I’m hearing from people that they’re pretty happy with their assignments,” said Colwell.
The appointments are important because committees exert considerable influence over the final shape of legislation and whether it passes.
The process was complicated this year because of the 17-17 Democratic-Republican split in the Senate, where one independent also serves. The lone independent, Sen. Jill Goldthwait of Bar Harbor, was chosen early on to be co-chairman of the Appropriations Committee.
Democratic Rep. Randall Berry, a two-term committee veteran from Livermore, takes over as House chairman of the budget-reviewing panel.
The senior Republican senator on Appropriations, Peter Mills of Skowhegan, is aware of the tough job his new committee will have deciding how much money state programs will get amid the tightest budget conditions in years.
“The parade of worthy causes is going to be very closely scrutinized,” Mills said Thursday.
Mills’ Democratic Senate counterpart, Mary Cathcart of Orono, served last term on Appropriations and previously with Mills on the Labor Committee.
Another committee that figures prominently in state money matters, Taxation, will be co-chaired by Democrats Bonnie Green of Monmouth from the House and Kenneth Gagnon of Waterville from the Senate.
The Education Committee will be co-chaired by Sen. Betty Lou Mitchell, R-Etna, and committee veteran Rep. Shirley Richard, D-Madison.
Another panel that is expected to play a prominent role this session, Health and Human Resources, will be co-chaired by Sen. Susan Longley, D-Liberty, and Rep. Thomas Kane, D-Saco, who co-chaired the panel last session.
Democrats won all of the chairmanships from the House because their party has an 89-61-1 majority in the chamber, with one Republican member conditionally seated.
But awarding chairmanships from the divided Senate was trickier. Leaders from both parties first had to decide which parties would control which committees. Then they had to decide which committees would have two Democratic senators and which would have two Republicans.
Here is a list of the chairmanships for the 2001-02 session:
Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry
Sen. Richard Kneeland, R-Easton; Rep. Linda Rogars McKee, D-Wayne
Appropriations and Financial Affairs
Sen. Jill Goldthwait, I-Bar Harbor; Rep. Randall Berry, D-Livermore
Banking and Insurance
Sen. Lloyd LaFountain III, D-Biddeford; Rep. Christopher O’Neil, D-Saco
Business and Economic Development
Sen. Kevin Shorey, R-Calais; Rep. John Richardson, D-Brunswick
Sen. Michael McAlevey, R-Waterboro; Rep. Edward Povich, D-Ellsworth
Education and Cultural Affairs
Sen. Betty Lou Mitchell, R-Etna; Rep. Shirley Richard, D-Madison
Health and Human Services
Sen. Susan Longley, D-Liberty; Rep. Thomas Kane, D-Saco
Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
Sen. David Carpenter, R-Springvale; Rep. Matthew Dunlap, D-Old Town
Sen. Anne Rand, D-Portland; Rep. Charles LaVerdiere, D-Wilton
Sen. Betheda Edmonds, D-Freeport; Rep. Zachary Matthews, D-Winslow
Legal and Veterans Affairs
Sen. Neria Douglass, D-Auburn; Rep. John Tuttle Jr., D-Sanford
Sen. Kenneth Lemont, R-Kittery; Rep. David Lemoine, D-Old Orchard Beach
Sen. John Martin, D-Eagle Lake; Rep. Scott Cowger, D-Hallowell
State and Local Government
Sen. Peggy Pendleton, D-Scarborough; Rep. Martha Bagley, D-Machias
Sen. Kenneth Gagnon, D-Waterville; Rep. Bonnie Green, D-Monmouth
Sen. Christine Savage, R-Union; Rep. Charles Fisher, D-Brewer
Utilities and Energy
Sen. Norman Ferguson, R-Hanover; Rep. William Savage, D-Buxton