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Maine Legislative Committee Wins Leadership Award - Dog Bites Man?

A joint committee of Maine state legislators is being honored for its across-the-aisle cooperation. Photo courtesy Maine legislature
A joint committee of Maine state legislators is being honored for its across-the-aisle cooperation. Photo courtesy Maine legislature
December 14, 2012

PORTLAND, Maine – Here's something you don't hear about everyday: state legislators being honored for their across-the-aisle cooperation.

Last May, the Maine Legislature’s Joint Education and Cultural Affairs Committee wrapped up several years of study, debate and compromise to pass a bill that changes high school diploma requirements – and begins a move to a proficiency based education model. The committee members’ willingness and ability to work together impressed the group Educate Maine so much that it is honoring the committee with the group’s annual education leadership award.

Sen. Brian Langley of Hancock County suggests Educate Maine may have seen something the news media doesn't.

"There are a lot of committees that are high-functioning, work well together, but never draw the attention of the news."

Another committee member, Senate President Justin Alfond, says the U.S. Congress might learn something from the way the Maine legislators put their constituents first and – in the case of the joint committee – made sure that students were at the center of every conversation.

Sen. Alfond says he considers it a rare honor that the joint committee is receiving the Weston L. Bonney Education Leadership Award for its passage of the education bill known as LD 1422.

"I've never seen a committee get an award like this, so I think it is very unusual. But I think it speaks volumes to the common ground that the committee had around LD 1422."

Michael Dubyak, head of the Portland-based payment solutions company, Wex, Inc., also chairs Educate Maine. He says it makes sense to honor the legislators.

"We just feel it's great to recognize them for working in a bi-partisan fashion on something that I think, and we think at Educate Maine, is extremely important for the prosperity of this state."

Sen. Langley says the debate never got "mean and nasty."

"I remember one senator afterward saying to me, 'This is what I came to Augusta for, was to have this kind of debate: healthy, vigorous, passionate.'"

Sen. Alfond points out that education issues in Maine don't necessarily break down along Republican and Democratic party lines. Given the state's rural nature, he says, alliances are often impacted by regional affinities.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - ME