Government for you

By Sen. Erin Herbig | Nov 28, 2019
Courtesy of: Maine Senate Majority Office Sen. Herbig visits with Josh Miville and Brian Leary at Chase Toys in Unity Oct. 8.

In late November 1863, Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address, expressing hope “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Over the past few days, I’ve been thinking about those words a lot.

All legislators in Maine serve two-year terms. After an election, the Legislature convenes from January to June. That legislative session is packed with hearings, meetings, committees, negotiations, debates and votes that impact the daily lives of people in all corners of the state. In addition to our work on legislation, my staff and I read and respond to hundreds of calls and emails each week. That open communication is a crucial part of government by and for the people.

I enjoy the energy and excitement of those six months, when I spend most of my time in the State House or in my car on Route 3 between Belfast and Augusta. Those are the days when I get to work with my fellow lawmakers on the challenges we face, including access to reliable, high-speed internet, property tax relief, local training for local jobs, services for our veterans, and quality, affordable health care.

As much as I enjoy the legislative session, though, the best part of my job starts when the session ends. During the summer and fall, I’m more likely to be driving down routes 7, 52, 131, 137, 139, 141, 173, 202 and 220, visiting businesses and talking with people across Waldo County. Over the past two years, I’ve visited over 150 businesses on my Waldo County Works business tour — including general stores, farms, hardware stores, auction houses, diners, energy providers, builders, manufacturers, restaurants, retailers and dealerships. It is those conversations that shape my work in the Senate on your behalf.

Ever since I first ran for office, people told me we’ve got to improve internet access and expand career and technical education. So, I made those two of my top priorities, advocating for funding each year. This summer, I worked hard on a bond that included $15 million for internet and $4 million for career and technical education. I thought we would win this time, yet when the votes were counted in the Senate, we were one short. I was crushed — mainly because I never want to let any of you down, but also because I know the longer we wait to make these critical investments, the further our economy falls behind.

Visiting businesses and talking with people this fall confirmed what I already knew: Internet access and career and technical education are still major issues across Waldo County. So, I submitted two bills for major General Fund investments in expanded reliable, high-speed internet and career and technical education, bills the Legislature will consider in January. I hope we win this time, but rest assured, I won’t stop until we get this done.

I never thought I’d be a senator. But probably like you, I just kept hearing about young people moving away from Waldo County because of barriers to success, and I believed that by working together, we could change that. That’s why, when the legislative session ends, I hit the road to hear about your hard work, your challenges and your Waldo County solutions. Sometimes we face setbacks, or the road is uneven, but you continue to motivate me, because that’s what this is all about. It’s for the hope that government of, by and for the people shall never perish from the earth.

Sen. Herbig is serving her first term in the Maine Senate, representing the 26 municipalities of Waldo County. She lives in Belfast.

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