Sen. David Trahan (R-Lincoln County) had a career year in the legislature during the recently completed session.
When he resigns his Senate seat to take the executive director’s position at the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, he’ll do so at the top of his legislative game, with a real sense of accomplishment. The list of his legislative achievements this session is impressive.
After a tough three-year battle, Trahan delivered a free saltwater angler registry in response to a federal mandate that the names and contact information for saltwater anglers be provided to the feds for the purpose of conducting surveys. His bill brought together individuals and interest groups that bitterly fought each other last session as the legislature debated the creation of a saltwater fishing license.
Trahan took on a bill to create a tax break for private investment in fish hatcheries after it failed in the previous two sessions, and he got it enacted. With the help of three dozen hunting advocates, he put together a very significant plan to rebuild Maine’s deer herd, and worked with Senate President Kevin Raye (R-Washington County) to get it enacted.
While the saltwater and deer bills got plenty of publicity, much of Trahan’s work was done quietly on the fringes of the legislative process and out of the public eye. One bill he’s particularly proud of authorizes the secretary of state to add a flag insignia to the driver’s licenses of Maine veterans, so they, as veterans, can use the license as a common means of identification.
And oh yeah, with the partnership of his Taxation Committee co-chair, Rep. Gary Knight (D-Livermore Falls), Trahan authored the biggest tax cut in Maine history and created a process to produce a significant tax reform proposal later this year.
He also had an impact on many other bills, from vernal pools to voter registration, as an independent-minded Republican senator.
While he’s well known as a leader of sportsmen, Trahan has also been recognized for his leadership on environmental issues. He was profiled in a recent newsletter of the League of Conservation Voters, our state’s most politically active environmental organization, and was one of a handful of Republicans who got the league’s endorsement in the last election.
Throughout his 10 years in the legislature, Trahan has been actively involved in many critical issues, from education to taxes. He was a leader in the multi-year effort to create the government oversight agency called OPEGA, breaking through a lot of roadblocks for an agency that is just coming into its own with its recent examination of the Maine Turnpike Authority.
He was a leader of the 2010 campaign that repealed the legislature’s controversial tax reform law that included an extension of the sales tax, demonstrating his expertise in grassroots political organizing.
Of course Trahan didn’t get everything he wanted out of this year’s legislative session. His biggest disappointment was the last-minute loss of a Constitutional amendment that would have given the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife a small percentage of the sales tax. Currently the department gets no public support from the state’s general fund.
And on every successful issue and bill, he had help from many lobbyists and legislators, including those who served with him on the Taxation and Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee. He would be the first to tell you that.
After serving myself for 18 years as executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, and working both during that time and in the last legislative session with Sen. Trahan, I can offer this bit of advice to him. I took on the SAM job after a long period as a Republican activist and political consultant. I turned first for advice to Democratic representative and leader Paul Jacques of Waterville. He helped me succeed as a nonpartisan lobbyist for sportsmen. I still count it as one of my major accomplishments when Jacques finally joined SAM two years after I took the job.
Trahan must immediately take off his Republican hat. While he has worked with Democrats in the legislature on many issues, he has aggravated quite a few with his fierce advocacy for his positions on the issues. He’ll need to identify a few Democrats to help him as Paul Jacques helped me.
Finally, it amuses me that some think Trahan will be a more laid-back accommodating sportsman lobbyist that I was. I don’t know any legislator who works harder or gives less ground that Sen. David Trahan.
He will be a very strong advocate for the sportsmen of Maine. And that’s just what SAM’s members will expect from him.
George Smith is a writer and TV talk show host. He can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon 04352, or [email protected] Read more of Smith’s writings at www.georgesmithmaine.com.