Maine’s ‘citizen legislature’ is mostly business owners or retired, not working class

As the second session of the one hundred and thirtieth Maine Legislature involves a detailed and voters gear up for statewide elections in November, new particulars on the day jobs and earnings streams of state lawmakers make clear who is, or maybe extra importantly who is not, represented within the halls of energy in Augusta.
During the legislative session, which runs from January to May or later, lawmakers spend effectively over 40 hours every week in committee conferences, hearings, caucus classes and extra.Throughout the 12 months, there are myriad different commitments, from campaigning to researching payments. For that point, they’re paid lower than $25,000 for a two-year time period.
Legislators are required to reveal all their sources of earnings, whether or not from an employer, self employment, business pursuits, retirement pensions, investments or different means. Their newest monetary disclosures had been revealed in March.
Of the 186 elected members of the one hundred and thirtieth Legislature, 93, or half, of them are stated they’re self-employed or run a business. 
Sixty-six lawmakers are owners or half owners of 1 or extra personal companies, which means they doubtless make their very own schedules and have sufficient flexibility — and enough earnings — to take part in Maine’s low-paying state legislature. Of these companies, 18 lawmakers get earnings from their very own actual property or property administration corporations. Other companies embrace agriculture companies (8), breweries and distilleries (4), well being sector (3), forest business companies (3), building companies (2), manufacturing companies (2), espresso outlets (2), a daycare, an promoting agency, a used automobile dealership, an orchard, a golf course and a comfort retailer.
Additionally, 38 lawmakers say they work for themselves, which means they doubtless have related flexibility. Ten Maine lawmakers are attorneys, traditionally the commonest occupation in state legislatures throughout the nation. There are additionally business or political consultants (13), industrial fishermen and girls (3), realtors (2), freelance writers (2), a dietician, a house inspector, a canine breeder and a chef. 
Lawmakers typically report a number of sources of earnings, placing them in a couple of class. For instance, 10 lawmakers personal a business and are additionally engaged in another type of self-employment.
One quarter of policymakers are retired
Students rally on the Maine State House for local weather justice in 2019. | Beacon
Maine’s getting older workforce is effectively represented, the disclosures present. More than 1 / 4 of Maine’s elected representatives have left the workforce. Fifty-one lawmakers say they’re both retired or semi-retired. 
Twenty-six-year-old Rep. Sophie Warren, a Democrat representing Scarborough, identified the big variety of retirees within the Maine House throughout a speech she gave in opposition to a $1.2 billion bipartisan price range signed by Gov. Janet Mills on April 20. She stated the price range did little to deal with local weather change and steered her colleagues had been out of contact with the priorities of younger individuals. 
“The largest career of my colleagues on this House is retired,” Warren stated on the House flooring on April 19. “If local weather change is a urgent challenge for yourselves, on your youngsters, on your grandchildren, this price range does not replicate that view, nor that urgency. No critical investments in the direction of public transportation infrastructure, no civil emergency preparedness to take care of hurricanes or rainstorms, no consumer-owned utility, no inexperienced banks, simply quite a lot of customary stuff.”
She added, “When I got here to Augusta two years in the past, I used to be informed by these in my group to battle local weather change, and I heard them loud and clear. I don’t see something that I can deliver residence to my constituents and inform them that we’re combating on local weather change successfully in Augusta as a result of we’re not.”
Polling means that Warren is right about younger individuals. A nationwide survey of individuals aged 17-39 in January 2022 reveals {that a} transition to scrub and renewable vitality is a prime precedence for them, together with publicly-funded well being care via Medicare for All, taxes on firms and the rich, and canceling pupil mortgage debt.
The polling additionally reveals that younger persons are pessimistic about their futures and their elected representatives in authorities. Across all ages, races and occasion identifications, younger individuals imagine that political leaders in Washington, D.C. care extra concerning the rich than them. They are solely barely much less pessimistic about their state and native representatives.
Low-wage employees underrepresented underneath the dome
Activists show for tax equity on the State House in 2019. | Beacon
Working-class Mainers — which means people who subsist by promoting their labor to an employer who units their hours and controls the tempo or the content material of their work underneath extra or much less shut supervision — are vastly underrepresented within the legislature. 
Maine has practically 190,000 employees who earn a residing within the low-wage retail, hospitality, childcare and well being care help industries — practically a 3rd of the state’s whole workforce — however solely 12 lawmakers work in these sectors. They embrace three nurses, two retail clerks, one restaurant server and one substance abuse outreach employee. Of the 43 lawmakers who’re paid a wage or wage from an employer, two are college lecturers, one is a substitute instructor, one is a faculty bus driver, one is a social employee, one is an assistant college counselor, and 6 are part-time adjunct college.
In comparability, 27 elected officers get passive earnings by renting the flats or trip houses that they personal, 26 get earnings via investments, 10 have administration roles in corporations, 14 have management positions in nonprofits or greater training, 4 obtain inheritance, and 4 do not work and depend on their associate’s earnings or different help.
Waterville resident Isreal Mosley, an impartial candidate operating for House District 65, stated many Maine lawmakers don’t perceive simply how onerous it is to outlive within the trendy low-wage economic system — filled with precarious gig work or no-benefit, part-time jobs with unreliable work hours — as a result of they don’t stay in it. 
A working example, 44 Maine lawmakers stay partly off of pensions, a bygone type of retirement safety that Generation X and Millennial employees can have far much less entry to than the Baby Boomer era.
“If you’ve individuals for whom all the pieces went proper, they don’t have a lot funding in altering something. They see it as the best way that issues are speculated to be carried out, as a result of it labored for them,” he stated. “But that’s not everybody’s expertise. And I feel over time, it’s grow to be a lot much less individuals’s expertise. It’s extra like everybody’s working two jobs to attempt to make ends meet. If you’ve received two individuals in your family, perhaps you bought three jobs between the each of you.”
Mosley stated lawmakers didn’t rise to fulfill these challenges this 12 months. Aside from funding within the state price range to spice up wages for direct care employees to 125% of the state’s minimal wage, and a key legislative victory for labor unions securing prevailing wages and fairness requirements for big renewable vitality initiatives, little else occurred this session that may instantly enhance the financial circumstances of working Mainers. Legislation that will have expanded additional time protections to hundreds of salaried employees, after failing to go in 2020, was watered down this session to a mandate on the Maine Department of Labor to teach employers on the state’s current, outdated additional time regulation.
Mosley has lengthy wished to run for political workplace however stated he was solely in a position to realistically contemplate it after discovering work with the Maine Children’s Alliance, a nonprofit that enables him a versatile work schedule. He stated the state legislature’s lengthy hours and low pay means many individuals can’t afford the job. 
“I’m allowed to make money working from home. I’m allowed to set my very own schedule,” he stated. “I labored the in a single day shift at a lodge for seven years. There was no means that I used to be going to run then. I used to be by no means going to have the ability to make the type of time dedication round work, particularly whenever you throw in household commitments.”
Who’s allowed to interact in ‘public service’?
Lawmakers, activists and lobbyists within the rotunda of the Maine State House. | Beacon
Maine is considered one of 16 states that has a part-time legislature purportedly designed to be made up of residents, not skilled politicians. Maine lawmakers are paid $14,074 for the primary 12 months of the two-year session and $9,982 for the second. In distinction, 10 states, together with Massachusetts, California and New York, have full-time legislatures with well-paid members. California lawmakers are paid $100,113 per 12 months and have help workers.
The low pay in Maine has been a problem for Sen. Chloe Maxmin (D-Lincoln), who is leaving the legislature after two phrases to pursue a regulation diploma. She stated along with it being tough to enter politics, the people who find themselves the least steady economically are additionally least in a position to keep within the legislature and construct energy.
“I name this my part-time, part-time, full-time job as a result of we’re in session a part of the 12 months, we’re paid half time, however the workload is full time,” she stated. “The classes are, a minimum of for me, simply tremendous intense, as a result of I’m working whereas I’m right here, I’m working after I’m right here, I’m working on the weekends. It simply creates a state of affairs the place there’s very excessive burnout.”
Efforts by lawmakers to lift their very own pay are sometimes seen as useless on arrival in Augusta as a result of it doesn’t look good politically. But a state fee determined that low pay could also be making a barrier to entry for working-class Mainers. Their report, revealed in 2020, suggests this barrier underlies the class privilege of the people who find themselves afforded the chance to interact in “public service.”
“Each of the present and former legislators who testified earlier than the fee indicated that they seen their work within the legislature as a public service. They did not search the workplace for the wage and advantages, nor count on to be compensated at a stage akin to what they could earn in personal life,” the Maine State Compensation Commission stated in its report, recommending state lawmakers’ base pay be raised to $32,000 per two-year time period. 
The fee warned that “if legislative compensation is too low, the monetary sacrifice of serving could also be so nice that it prevents some Mainers from serving, compromising the state’s imaginative and prescient of a broad-based citizen legislature.”
The fee discovered that the barrier to entry is solely rising, owing to the truth that lawmaker compensation has not stored tempo with inflation over the past thirty years. “For instance, legislators within the 114th Legislature in 1990 acquired $16,500, for the two-year time period which, adjusted for inflation, could be roughly $31,807 in 2019 {dollars},” the report reads.
To progressives, this is a structural obstacle that have to be addressed so as to construct a multi-racial, working-class motion that may tackle the monied pursuits that dominate all ranges of American authorities. 
“We’re actually excluding vital voices by creating or having a system that is so unique and so depending on impartial wealth,” Maxmin stated.
Top photograph: Official photograph of the Maine House of Representatives.

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