HALLOWELL — State Rep. Sharon Treat entered the Maine Legislature in a time of divided government and is leaving it in another.

Treat, 58, a Hallowell Democrat and attorney, is winding up what will likely be her last year in the Maine Legislature, representing her home city, Farmingdale and West Gardiner.

She has served 22 of the last 24 years — 14 in the House of Representatives and eight in the Senate — and is one of only four current state representatives to have served seven House terms.

Treat has been well-known for specializing in issues affecting insurance, health care, trade and the environment.

“I’ve tried to be a legislator that was there to help work through some of the more complicated issues at the Legislature,” she said in an interview.

In Augusta, her career has had many highs and lows. After a stint as an environmental lobbyist, she was elected first to the House in 1990, when Republican John McKernan was governor and Democrats controlled the Legislature, an atmosphere that led to the last state shutdown in 1991.

By 2002, Treat was Senate majority leader. In 2010, she narrowly kept her House seat amid a Republican wave that saw Democrats lose their legislative majorities. Gov. Paul LePage also took office then, and his veto pen has kept Democrats from accomplishing much since they took back legislative majorities in 2012.

The two years Republicans controlled the Legislature were frustrating ones for Treat, who saw some legislative accomplishments undone by the new majorities.

Republicans repealed a number of state drug disclosure laws in 2011, most of which Treat sponsored. Laws stricken from the books included provisions that required drug companies to report pricing information, amounts spent on drug marketing and results of clinical trials.

Treat has been a longtime foe of the pharmaceutical industry, sponsoring Maine’s Rx Plus prescription drug program in 2003, aimed at lowering drug costs for Maine. She said she thought the prescription drug industry was the main force the disclosure repeals, saying “it certainly didn’t benefit anybody in this state.”

“These are things that actually helped people,” Treat said. “They were about reducing drug prices and making medicine available to people.”

Also, in 2003, Treat also sponsored the bill that created Dirigo Health, a Democrat-led health-care overhaul which was once seen as a large step toward universal coverage in Maine.

But Republicans phased it out by 2013. They also deregulated Maine’s health insurance market by passing a 2011 bill that Treat said then was “rushed.”

She saw a similarly tense atmosphere in 1995, when independent Gov. Angus King, now a U.S. senator, took office and Republicans controlled the Senate while Democrats controlled the House.

Treat chaired the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee with Republican Sen. Peter Mills, who now heads the Maine Turnpike Authority. Mills said it was a good experience, with the committee passing many bills along to the Legislature unanimously, a feat in a time of divided government.

“I think we both approached management of the committee with a level of maturity that you don’t often see,” he said.

But Mills said Treat was too liberal on certain issues for his taste. He said she is “distinctly partisan” on health care and insurance, which helped raise tensions with Republicans leading up to 2011.

Still, Mills said he always heard her out on issues she raised because she “had an interesting perspective” on them, even if he disagreed.

“She’d think of something she’d want to accomplish and she’d think of a way to draft it that appealed to people who may not have supported it,” he said.

Treat also cited a number of victories during her tenure, including a bill that expanded access to the nascent Internet in libraries and schools in the 1990s and establishing a peer-support program for laid-off workers.

“I think there’s a role for government and for the kinds of things that I’ve worked on,” she said.

Since 2004, Treat also has been executive director of the National Legislative Association on Prescription Drug Prices, a group led by state legislators that works on drug affordability and accessibility.

She said she’ll now do some consulting work for them and other groups. This year, Republican Darrick Banda of Manchester and Democrat Charlotte Warren of Hallowell are running for Treat’s seat, which was redistricted in 2013 to swap Farmingdale for Manchester.

Rep. Henry Beck, D-Waterville, is a third-term legislator and a member of the Legislature’s Insurance Committee, which Treat co-chairs, said she’s been an influence on him, calling her someone who “very much does put policy before the worst kind of politics.”

“I’ve learned so much for her about not just policy, but the importance of the committee process,” he said. “Her expertise will be missed.”

Michael Shepherd — 370-7652

[email protected]

Twitter: @mikeshepherdme


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