AUGUSTA — Confirmation hearings for Gov. Janet Mills’ Cabinet begin this week, as lawmakers hear from the nominees to head the departments in Maine government, as well as those speaking to support or oppose them.

While most of the 14 nominees have been serving as the acting commissioners of the departments they will head, the hearings starting this week before various committees of jurisdiction are a key step before the Maine Senate can take its formal confirmation votes, likely in early February.

Few of Mills’ nominees have drawn criticism, although the hearings will provide an opportunity for lawmakers or others who may oppose the candidates to speak up, and Republicans will likely have at least a handful of challenging questions.

Michael Sauschuck, a former Portland police chief and assistant city manager, is the nominee most likely to face resistance, over positions he took on gun control issues during his tenure in Portland. Gun rights advocates voiced concerns about Sauschuck when Mills announced his nomination for public safety commissioner.

The hearings will start Tuesday with Bruce Van Note, Patrick Keliher and Heather Johnson, the respective nominees for commissioner of transportation, marine resources, and economic and community development. All appear before committees with jurisdiction over those departments at 1 p.m.

Kirsten Figueroa, the nominee to be the commissioner of the Department of Administrative and Financial Services, will appear at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday before the budget-writing Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee.

Mills, a Democrat and the state’s first female governor, selected eight women for the top spots in state departments, just over half of her Cabinet, but has said she chose candidates based not on gender but on their qualifications.

If all of the nominees are confirmed, Mills will lead the most gender-diverse administration in state history.

A 15th nominee, for the post of executive director of the Workers’ Compensation Board, is also subject to Senate approval.

Mills’ spokesman, Scott Ogden, said she was looking forward to the start of the confirmation process this week.

“Gov, Mills has selected experienced, well-respected, and highly qualified individuals for her Cabinet who will help lead Maine in a new, better direction,” Ogden said.

House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, said: “The depth of knowledge and breadth of experience is a testament to her commitment to shaping a government that truly moves Maine forward. I anticipate a thorough confirmation process and look forward to working with our new commissioners and their departments.”

Wednesday’s hearings will be for Maj. Gen. Douglas Farnham, nominated to continue serving as commissioner of the Department of Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management; Judith Camuso, for commissioner of the Department of Inland, Fisheries and Wildlife; Laura Fortman, for commissioner of the Department of Labor; and Jerry Reid, for commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection. All the hearings begin at 10 a.m.

On Thursday, 1 p.m. hearings are scheduled for Jeanne Lambrew of the Department of Health and Human Services; Anne Head, to continue serving as commissioner of the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation; and Pender Makin of the Department of Education.

Sauschuck, the public safety nominee, will appear at 10 a.m. Friday before the criminal justice committee. The panel will likely hear from several gun rights groups that were critical of his opposition to a 2015 law change that allowed adults over 21 to legally carry a concealed handgun without a permit. Previous state law required permits, usually issued by local or state police, for carrying a concealed weapon.

The criminal justice committee will also hold a hearing Friday on the nomination of Randall Liberty for commissioner of the Department of Corrections.

The final nominee to appear for a confirmation hearing will be Amanda Beal, who was nominated by Mills to be the commissioner of the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. That hearing has not yet been scheduled.

Scott Thistle can be contacted at 791-6330 or at:

[email protected]

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