State of Maine: New year brings glimmer of hope for better days

Did you notice? No one was talking about New Year’s resolutions this year. Almost a year into the pandemic we don’t have enough bandwidth to do anything more than try to keep our heads above water. Resolutions are cheesy anyway, and soon broken. Good riddance.

There just might be something in the air that feels, dare we say it, hopeful. Sunrise is three minutes later than on the Dec. 21 solstice, but sunset is 14 minutes later, giving us a net gain of 11 minutes of daylight.

Speaking of daylight, we are in no way done with COVID, but vaccines? Daylight. The disease is rampant all over the country and it will be a while before we can begin to relax precautions, but there is a glimmer of hope that we are headed toward better days. In the meantime, we know how to do this, right?

Compliance is pretty good when we’re out in public. Even those who still don’t buy into masking up will grudgingly do it to get into a store. At home? Let a thousand firepits bloom. Maine being Maine, a 30-degree night, as long as there’s no breeze, will do quite nicely for an hour of laughter and a hot toddy with friends. And oh, how good it is!

Some of those who caved to the lure of family holidays are now paying the price. No judgment here. It is a terrible choice. You’ve been so careful for so long. Do you deprive yourself of yet more family time and traditions, or get a test and take the chance? FaceTime with a 2-year-old is no substitute for scooping that luscious bundle up in your arms and burying your nose in her curls.

So, on we go, with vaccines beginning to come to a hospital near you. Get those mighty health-care workers and other frontline personnel vaccinated and then start in on the rest of us. Just remember, if you’ve gotten yourself this far, don’t let your guard down now. You need to get both doses of the vaccine and then wait for the “all clear” deadline to be sure you’re protected.

This will take more time than we want. We’ll get through the winter OK, but when the good weather comes again we will be wanting life as we used to know it, and wanting it badly. We don’t yet know what, under the best of circumstances, we’ll get for a summer season, but who wants to be among the last people to die of COVID? We can’t just get most of the way down the field. We have to get into the end zone.

That means the new Legislature will be working under the very unusual conditions imposed by the pandemic. Social distancing, public access and transparency do not mix well. Legislative leadership will do its best to preserve the basic tenets of democracy, but it won’t be easy.

A total of 1,689 bills were submitted by the Dec. 18 deadline. Anything that comes in later requires a special process to be admitted. All we have so far are titles, and the caution from the Revisor’s Office that they are “preliminary…working titles.”

Titles are not much to go on. Unlike in federal legislation, the content of bills in Maine must be germane to the title. Rep. Nicole Grohoski’s bill to “Remove the Advanced Cardiac Life Support Certification Requirement for Dental Therapists” is pretty specific. You won’t find anything about moose hunting in there. Likewise, Rep. Genevieve McDonald’s bill to “Define Intentional Balloon Releases as Litter.” We know what it’s about.

On the other hand, Rep. Lynne Williams submitted “An Act Regarding the Teaching of Civics in High Schools.” That could mean more civics education, or less. It could alter what is meant by “civics.” We will know more when the bill language is drafted and released.

Broad bill titles are not necessarily bad. As a bill is worked, information often comes to light that persuades a sponsor to amend the contents, and a broad title provides the latitude to do that without having to go through the extra measure of changing the title.

In the case of a really broad title, such as “An Act to Assist Maine Residents Negatively Affected by Climate Change” or “An Act to Protect Maine Waters,” one wonders whether the sponsor has a specific plan or only a general idea of what he or she wants to accomplish. Or no idea at all. Time will tell.

For now, titles can make for delicious speculation. We will learn more about nuisance beavers and a special Maine song just for the 21st century once bill drafters land in Augusta this week and get to work. Then we can start taking wagers on what will pass. Happy New Year.

Jill Goldthwait worked for 25 years as a registered nurse at Mount Desert Island Hospital. She has served as a Bar Harbor town councilor and as an independent state senator from Hancock County.

Jill Goldthwait

Jill Goldthwait

Jill Goldthwait worked for 25 years as a registered nurse at Mount Desert Island Hospital. She has served as a Bar Harbor town councilor and as an independent state senator from Hancock County.

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