While the COVID-19 outbreak has made everything a little harder than it used to be, those of us who represent you in Augusta have not stopped working or forgotten your needs. The kind of work that goes on every day at the State House may not make the evening news or the local paper, but it is still important — and we are as dedicated as ever to getting your work done.

Though it keeps me busier day by day, it is a good sign that my staff and I have received more calls and emails recently than I can ever remember getting because it means that more people are engaged with the processes of the Legislature and state government.

Senate Republicans have submitted their bills for the new session and are anxious to get to work in our committees hearing from the public and discussing these new pieces of legislation. We have been anxious to return to work on a normal schedule, but this is a decision that only the president of the Senate and speaker of the House are empowered to make.

As a safety measure, committees will be meeting virtually via Zoom with opportunities for the people to weigh in. As the session moves along, you can follow what is happening and even participate during public hearings. To do so, keep an eye on the Legislature at legislature.maine.gov. We have even added a YouTube channel so that the public can watch all that is happening live, or go back and watch the events from previous days.

Other than my own bills, I have happily co-sponsored many other written by my colleagues. Among these is a bill sponsored by Sen. Matt Pouliot that would require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to extend any emergency declaration. This bill should be up for a hearing in the next few weeks.

Much of my work this session, though not exclusively, will involve my position as the lead Republican on two committees. I will be returning to my place on the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee while I also take a seat as the lead Republican on the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee. Adding a second committee assignment means more work, but it also creates more opportunities to shape legislation to benefit farmers, sportsmen, and many others who are affected by these areas of government.

If you are having issues, whether it is about unemployment compensation, new challenges faced by small businesses, or anything that involves state government, please let me know. You can call my office at 287-1505 or email: [email protected]

Sen. Russell Black of Wilton, a Republican, represents District 17.

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