AUGUSTA – Maine’s Legislature reconvened at the Augusta Civic Center Wednesday for the first time since the last session ended in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s great to be here today, and clearly the staff who works for the legislature has put an enormous amount of work and thought into how we’re gonna do this safely,” Democratic Rep. Joe Perry said.
“I think it’s important that the people of the state of Maine see that we’re going back to work for them,” Republican Sen. Minority Leader Jeff Timberlake said.
The newly elected state senators and representatives were sworn into Maine’s 130th Legislature by Acting Chief Justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court Andrew Mead.
Gov. Janet Mills was supposed to do this; however, she is in quarantine due to exposure to COVID-19.
“In my administration, you will always find an open door, an open mind and an open heart,” Mills said. “The door looks a little more like a Zoom length right now, but it’s still open to you.”
The senate re-elected Democratic Sen.Troy Jackson of Allagash as senate president.
“It’s a tremendous responsibility, and I take it very seriously,” Jackson said. “Obviously being elected senate president the second time is an unbelievable honor that I just never expected.”
The House of Representatives elected Democratic Rep. Ryan Fecteau of Biddeford to become speaker of the house, the first openly gay Mainer to hold that post.
“I’ve had the opportunity to chair a committee for two years when we had divided government with a Republican senator,” Fecteau said. “I served as a floor leader for two years, so I feel like I have the experience.”
In the afternoon, the Senate and House convened together, where they re-elected Attorney General Aaron Frey and Treasurer Henry Beck.
Former State Sen. Shenna Bellows was also elected to become the Maine Secretary of State for the 2021-2022 political year. She succeeds Matthew Dunlap, who was no longer eligible for the job due to term limits.
“It’s exciting that elect the first woman to be secretary of state, and she is extremely well-versed in what she has to do, and she’s also very energetic, and she will do a great job,” Democratic Sen. Joe Baldacci said. “I’m very confident.”
Much of the conversations from both the House and Senate surrounded working together, especially when it comes to dealing with COVID-19.
“It’s about doing what you can to help people,” Jackson said. “We certainly have slipped into a period here in Maine and certainly nationally of letting the partisanship get in the way.”
“The pandemic obviously continues to affect Maine families across the state and businesses as well,” Fecteau said. “I think our priority, regardless of party affiliation, is to make sure that Maine families have the opportunity to get by.”
Maine’s 130th Legislature will continue to meet at the Civic Center and remotely as the pandemic continues.