With one final bang of the gavel, the first legislative session of the 130th Legislature officially adjourned after a newfangled session. The evening of July 19 concluded seven months of disjointed, albeit continuous hard work that led to a number of momentous legislative successes.

Some of the highlights include the state finally funding 55% of K-12 public education, which in turn greatly reduces the burden on property taxpayers across the state. We invested $150 million for the expansion of broadband services, including targeted investments in underserved areas in the state. We also allocated $50 million for weatherization improvements, directed $10 million to ensure school meals remain free for all students and increased municipal revenue sharing.

I am particularly thrilled that we approved a $40 million investment in Maine’s career and technical education centers. This will have a direct impact on our community, with Waldo County Technical Center serving as our local center. The last statewide investment was $5 million in 1998.

Career Technical Education schools actively bolster our workforce and economy by providing a career path and workforce training for many Mainers. Programs offered at WCTC and other CTEs, such as welding technology, nursing assistants, graphic design and outdoor leadership, allow our young neighbors to prepare for today’s workforce needs without accumulating burdensome student debt.

This $40 million investment is long overdue. CTEs across the state contribute significantly to getting new workers in the economic pipeline, and as our state continues to face a workforce shortage, their role cannot be understated or undervalued. In order for these critical programs to exist and thrive, they must operate within safe, updated buildings that foster learning and reflect today’s workforce needs.

Personally, I was proud to sponsor a number of bills, four of which have become law. As a retired teacher of 31 years and a member of the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee, I continue to do what I can to look out for our educators, students and schools. One of the new laws I sponsored protects teachers from a decrease in retirement benefits arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, and another protects teachers’ privacy while delivering remote instruction.

In a separate vein, I also sponsored a bill to help reduce the number of robocalls most of us receive on a daily basis. After hearing from a number of constituents who are fed up with telemarketers and spam calls, I submitted a bill requiring telephone utilities to provide details of services designed to reduce the volume of robocalls at the point of sale. I personally received an instant reduction in robocalls to my home at no cost after calling my own phone provider and asking if they had the technology to reduce or eliminate unwanted calls. I encourage others to do the same.

The first session is behind us, but I am already beginning to think about the second session commencing in January. I appreciate hearing from you, and ask that you continue to reach out to me with your concerns and questions. It is an honor to serve you and the beautiful communities that are Belfast, Northport and Waldo.

State Rep. Jan Dodge, D-Belfast, represents House District 97, including Belfast, Northport and Waldo.

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