Politics & Other Mistakes: Some people have real problems

6 mins read

Mainers are facing grievous financial burdens. Stores and factories are shutting down. Businesses that stay open are laying people off. Unemployment is rising as fast as the foreclosure rate on homes. And housing prices are sinking like the value of retirement accounts.

But those suffering from the recession can take heart. Their state legislators are working hard to address their concerns. It’s only a matter of time before we’ll all be able to …

Hang laundry out to dry on clotheslines.

Al Diamon

Democratic state Rep. Jon Hinck is sponsoring a bill to void local ordinances and condominium rules against displaying wet undies in the backyard in full view of passersby and the satellite cameras of Google Earth. It’s been dubbed the “Right to Dry” law.

Let’s give Hinck the benefit of the doubt. He lives in Portland’s upscale West End and might be unaware that much of the state is coping with more significant issues than removing the dampness from their boxers and thongs.

Such as: a structural deficit in state finances of about $850 million, and a governor’s budget calling for significant reductions in spending and services to close that gap.

I’m sure most other legislators have been informed about that. Which, no doubt, is why Democratic state Rep. Leila Percy of Phippsburg has introduced “An Act to Establish the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women.”

Maine used to have such a commission. It got rid of it back in 1991, one of several state boards that were abolished to …

uh, save money.

No doubt, Percy’s commissioners would hasten the end of institutionalized sexism by debating whether allowing clotheslines in backyards is demeaning to women. It’s less certain they’d provide much comfort to female members of society primarily concerned with stretching the household budget to cover groceries, the mortgage, the light bill and buying new socks for the kids, so the neighbors will stop gossiping about all the holes in the pairs hung on the line.

I’m sure the folks who’ve had to cancel their cable TV, their summer vacations and their plans to replace their old beaters with a slightly newer lemons will be about as receptive to the Environmental Priorities Coalition’s plan to have the Legislature borrow $87.5 million to buy more public land as they will be to the Judicial Compensation Commission’s proposal to raise the annual pay of every judge in the state by more than $10,000.

Mainers who couldn’t get a bank loan if they put up one of their kids for collateral (“I’m sorry, we can’t accept a child with socks that look like that”) will be delighted to know that Republican state Rep. Jayne Crosby Giles of Belfast wants the taxpayers to go in hock for an additional $20 million to rescue small- and medium-sized businesses that, as she told the Kennebec Journal, “need help restoring their balance sheets.”

The federal government used that same argument to bail out banks. How’d it work out?

Without question, people who’ve lost their economic liberty will be pleased to learn that Democratic state Sen. Dennis Damon of Trenton is trying to save their civil liberty. Damon wants to repeal the requirement that applicants for drivers’ licenses prove they’re in this country legally. That would make Maine licenses invalid as identification for boarding planes.

Who cares? Most Mainers can’t afford to fly.

What is South Portland Democratic state Rep. Jane Eberle’s biggest concern?

Heating bills? Nope.

Bankruptcies? Guess again.

Maine’s recent rating by U.S. News & World Report as the fourth worst state to start a business in?

‘Fraid not.

Rep. Eberle wants ugly political signs banned from public property. She told the Current newspaper, “It has a huge impact on our waste stream.”

Worthless legislation has a similar effect.

Democratic state Rep. Anne Haskell of Portland would require all middle schools to offer a mental-health awareness curriculum. Republican state Rep. Sawin Millet of Waterford thinks yet another referendum on casino gambling is a swell idea. Democratic state Rep. Peggy Pendleton of Scarborough seeks to stop minors from buying energy drinks. Democratic state Rep. Cynthia Dill of Cape Elizabeth wants to borrow $2 million so the University of Maine System can go digital.

Tell ‘em to buy a converter box like everybody else.

Finally, there’s Democrat John Piotti of Unity, majority leader of the Maine House. Surely, someone in his exalted position is aware of what’s in the forefront of public consciousness. In an op-ed in the Bangor Daily News, Piotti wrote, “[T]he issue we heard the most concern from constituents about [was] preventing cuts to critical-access hospitals.”

Maybe you call those people demanding public money for hospitals “constituents.”

I call them lobbyists.

All these carefree legislators, unbothered by the economic distress surrounding them, have only one small worry.

If Hinck’s clothesline bill passes, they could get hung out to dry.

Put me through the wringer by e-mailing aldiamon@herniahill.net.

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