We desperately need a new governor and Legislature that can work together, respect each other, be willing to compromise, and put our needs first.

This year’s session was the worst I’ve ever experienced in my 45 years hanging out at the State House. Legislators don’t even know each other. They are unwilling to compromise — and that’s a requirement of almost any achievement.

Of course, Gov. Paul LePage’s anger and insults poisoned the entire legislative process. And I am encouraged to think that all of today’s candidates for governor will try to get along with everyone in Augusta.

LePage, rather than work with the Legislature to get things done, preferred to hurl insults at them and sit back in his office and veto bills. His 643 vetoes, an astonishing number, topped the 469 vetoes of all governors all the way back to 1917.

I like to tell a story about the good old days in Augusta. When the Senate would adjourn they’d go into the Senate president’s office, where he had a bar. They’d have a drink and then go to dinner together. That’s how they got to know each other. And when you become friends, you can disagree without being disagreeable, and you can compromise and work together to get things done.

Quite a few years ago they banned alcohol at the Capitol, and I joke that they should bring it back. What they really must do is step outside the Legislature and spend time with each other so they can become friends and work together. And this should start well before the session begins.

I’m told there will be at least 50 new legislators next year, another signal that term limits are a disaster. Very few legislators these days have the historical knowledge of issues, which is always important when considering legislative bills. A lot of issues at the Legislature are not new.

Legislators in both the Republican and Democratic caucuses must also press those who are running for leadership positions to make sure they are committed to working with people in the other party. That is essential to a successful session.

Of course, the governor plays a big role in the legislative process. Successful governors spend a lot of time with legislators both in and outside leadership to build friendships and create solutions for all of our issues.

Gov. LePage’s refusal to allow his commissioners to work with legislative committees was a disaster. Like it or not, the Legislature plays an important role in the funding and management of each state department, and they can’t do a good job without the cooperation of each department’s leaders.

Success in Augusta also requires patience. I would submit lots of bills each session, and be ready to compromise and get what I could from each bill. For example, it took me eight years to get the sportsman’s license plate authorized and issued. I just never gave up — and I’m very pleased today that it’s one of the most popular license plates, with funds going to the Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife.

Even as a private citizen over the last 11 years, I’ve had some success at submitting bills. But it does require you to spend a lot time at the Legislature. At the very least, you should get to know your state representative and senator and keep in regular contact with both. Most are very happy to hear from their constituents.

I hope our new governor, whoever it is, will pull lots of people in to provide help in organizing our new administration. When Angus King was first elected governor, he pulled a bunch of us together in various working groups to search widely for department commissioners. I was in a group working on conservation and wildlife departments. We forwarded our recommendations to Angus who interviewed our candidates and made his choices, each of which was very good. It was a very successful process.

I also like the way Angus’s office door was always open. OK, you had to get by Kay Rand and Sue Bell, but they were awesome staff, very friendly, and eager to work with everyone. I think Angus is an unusual politician because he really likes people. He spends a lot of time doing things with people and for people without getting any publicity, which he does not want.

I’m hoping the next governor and many of our legislators will really like people including each other. It’s time to put the ugly divisive past behind us and move forward, together, as friends who care about our state and all of its people and who put those people first.

George Smith can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon, ME 04352, or [email protected]. Read more of Smith’s writings at www.georgesmithmaine.com.

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