The Right View: Collins may not be exciting, but she gets the job done

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With the Democrats’ ongoing and entertaining confusion over Gov. Paul LePage’s victory, the continuing drama surrounding the state Senate District 25 seat, and U.S. Sen. Angus King’s schizophrenia over whom he will caucus with in the new year, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins hasn’t received much attention lately.

After sailing to a 69 percent share of the vote in her bid for re-election last month, perhaps the senator’s true and steady work ethic may not seem that exciting (God forbid we actually have a politician who isn’t embroiled in controversy). But I’d like to take a moment to remind readers what an honorable woman we have working for us in Washington, and the pressing issues upon which she is poised to take leadership roles.

When it comes to job growth and advocating for small businesses, no one is positioned to better serve our state than this hard-working champion of Maine. I was pleased to be able to speak with the senator, and hear her plans for the state going forward.

First, Collins is the incoming chairwoman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging. This is of critical importance to our state, which has the oldest median age in the country. Collins will bring specialized insight and experience to face the issue of how we can continue to support our state’s older individuals, while our youth are being exported out of the state. This, of course, means addressing jobs.

“Creating and sustaining jobs is our first priority,” the senator said. “We clearly do not have enough young people coming to or staying in Maine. I am working on ways to involve employers and workforce development boards to ensure that technically skilled job demands can be met.

“I also would like to see community colleges be able to prepare students to be able to get right to work after a year or two of technical training. On the university side, I’d like to see more linkage between the excellent research that is done in our university systems, and entrepreneurs who may be able to use the products that result from that research.”

In addition, Collins cited the 95 percent job placement rate for graduates from Maine Maritime Academy, but noted that many are not being placed in jobs in Maine. Instead, they are working 12-hour shifts for 21 days at a time on offshore oil rigs, supply rigs, cargo ships and the like all over the world. Collins had nothing but praise for these hard workers, while saying, “We should be developing Maine’s seaports to keep those excellent maritime and engineering jobs right here.”

Her other concern is the federal regulatory burden being placed on businesses, with one local example being the proposal by the FDA to regulate spent grains, a byproduct of the brewing process of beer, which would heavily impact jobs that are actually growing in Maine.

“The spent grain byproduct is used by farmers for livestock feed. There is no evidence that the spent grains harm people or animals without the costly regulations the FDA is proposing,” Collins said. “No business will question normal health and safety regulations, but the excessive burden created by regulatory agencies is stifling business growth and expansion in Maine.”

Collins will also head the Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee beginning in January. The senator has been a strong advocate for U.S. Department of Transportation grant programs, resulting in more than $90 million for projects in Maine, including $14 million to the Revitalize Maine’s Ports program.

Collins has never missed a roll-call vote (that’s more than 5,600 consecutive votes), and this year ELLE Magazine named her one of the “10 most powerful women in D.C.” The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has recognized Collins with its “Spirit of Enterprise” award for her efforts to create an environment in Washington for the private sector to create and grow good jobs. In addition, she has been named “Guardian of Small Business” by the National Federation of Independent Businesses, and in 2010, the New England Council presented Collins with its “New Englander of the Year” award.

Her list of accomplishments goes on, including, along with Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana, proposing the Forty Hours is Full-Time Act in 2013 to change the definition of “full-time employee” in Obamacare from 30 to 40 hours per week; introducing the the Small Business Tax Certainty and Growth Act of 2013 , which relieves the tax burden on small businesses, freeing up the capital they need to grow jobs; and in 2011 laying out her Seven-Point Plan for Maine Jobs, which I encourage all readers to examine.

While all of the other ugliness of Maine politics is swirling about, it’s nice to step back and take a moment and appreciate all of the work that Susan Collins is doing for us. So thank you, senator. You show that class and hard work can go hand in hand.

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Julie McDonald-Smith lives in North Yarmouth. She is a registered nurse, former Capitol Hill staffer, and former chairwoman of the Cape Elizabeth Republican Committee. Her column appears every other week.

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