YARMOUTH — As a way to encourage residents to take more active roles in state government, Rep. Melissa Walsh Innes, D-Yarmouth, is inviting constituents to submit ideas for her to present in the next legislative session in January.
Through her “There Ought to be a Law” contest, Innes hopes to engage the public in state government.
Innes said the idea came from a similar contest initiated by legislators in California. She said it is an innovative way to get residents more involved in government.
“People are always encouraged to submit ideas to their legislators, but I’m unsure if they know they can,” Innes said. “This contest is a way for me to reach out get people thinking about changes they want to see.”
Innes said she will select a winning idea and introduce it as part of her legislative bill package. Entries will be judged based on the idea, how well the issue is described, and how well thought-out and organized the solution addresses the problem.
Constituents should communicate their ideas to Innes in a letter or e-mail. They should include the problem that is in need of a legislative solution and a recommended solution. If there has been similar legislation introduced in Maine or elsewhere, the bill number, author or outcome should be included in the proposal.
Participants should also include any studies, reports or personal experiences relating to the proposal as well as any financial impact the proposal would have, including costs, savings or revenue.
Innes also wants participants to include the names of those who may support or oppose the bill, including community members, the governor, legislators or interest groups.
Innes said the winner will be invited to Augusta to participate in the public process by testifying in support of the bill, but will not be required to appear.
“This is a great opportunity for people to take part in the process and see how civil engagement can work,” she said. “It makes a difference when it is their voice in Augusta speaking at a public hearing on a cause they believe in.”
She is also encouraging teachers to have students submit proposals.
Innes said she will help people if they have questions, and said the Maine Law Library is a great source of information on previous laws and legislative references.
“I hope this contest stirs people into thinking about how they can make a difference,” she said. “It helps when the public becomes involved in the process. It is empowering and helps them understand the work involved in making a difference.”
Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or firstname.lastname@example.org
To participate in state Rep. Melissa Walsh Innes’ “There Ought to be a Law” contest, send suggestions with your name, home address, e-mail address and phone number by Oct. 15 to There Ought To Be a Law Contest, c/o Rep. Melissa Innes, 400 East Elm St., Yarmouth, ME 04096, or e-mail information to email@example.com.