For GOC and the Legislature, the work will go on

Senate Republican Leader Jeff Timberlake delivers this week’s Republican Radio Address

By Senator Jeff Timberlake

AUGUSTA – If case you haven’t heard, we have an election coming up. Elections are a time when the people of Maine and across this great nation make their voices heard. That voice takes the form of a vote.

Hello, this is Senator Jeff Timberlake of Androscoggin County, and it is my pleasure to join you for this week’s Republican Radio Address. This will be my last address before the election on Tuesday.

When we elect a new Legislature every two years, it’s always a fresh start. Lawmakers change. New problems arise to be solved through legislation. And yet there’s a continuity of government that takes place through the nonpartisan staff at the State House, some of whom have been there for 30 or 40 years.

Sen. Jeff Timberlake – Androscoggin

One of the offices that represents that continuity is our Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability, or OPEGA. For two decades, this has been the Legislative Branch’s agency charged with being the Government Oversight Committee’s (GOC) watchdog in our oversight of the Executive Branch. GOC, of which I am a member, is the committee currently investigating the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

One of the defining issues for GOC this year has been the investigation of four children who died last summer. In all, 34 children who had some sort of protective custody history with DHHS’s Office of Child and Family Services died in 2021, including five homicides where their parents were charged with murder. Two of those cases have since been resolved with either guilty verdicts or pleas. Three more remain.

And that is what I want to talk about today. The GOC is still in the midst of this yearlong investigation and the committee took a historic step a couple of weeks ago to sue DHHS for records we need as a part of the investigation. But here we have an election before the job is finished, and for me and I’m sure all of the other lawmakers who serve on GOC, we want to make sure this investigation gets completed. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have voted to sue.

Some of the committee members will be leaving the Legislature due to term limits. One of the major proponents of this investigation and my colleague, Democratic Senator Bill Diamond of Cumberland, will also be leaving for the same reason. While Sen. Diamond isn’t currently on GOC, he has been in the past and at the forefront of investigating DHHS’s involvement with child deaths longer than I have, which for me is when I first began my service in the Legislature in 2010.

And that’s the point. Although some of the people may change with each election cycle, the institution carries on. OPEGA will continue their review, and the new members of GOC will be seated in January. This new committee should and will continue our work.

So yes, with each election comes a fresh start; yet the work of each preceding Legislature carries forward to the next through our staff. That’s how government continues and I look forward to the next GOC concluding what we started.

On a final note, Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8, and the importance of having the ability to vote is sometimes lost in the rancor of the campaigning for it.

The right to vote is one of our most sacred and coveted rights enjoyed by Americans, and one that is sought by many across the globe who don’t have the freedoms we enjoy here. The right to vote is also foundational to how our democracy functions; and some would argue that it is a moral responsibility and obligation to the very society in which we live.

More importantly, it is your chance to make your voice heard. I encourage you to vote this Election Day because doing so is symbolic of how our government – from top to bottom – is answerable to each and every one of us.

It’s been that way since 1789.

Again, I am Senator Jeff Timberlake of Androscoggin County and I hope you have a great weekend – and don’t forget to vote.

Senator Jeff Timberlake is the Senate Republican Leader and is in his second term representing District 22. He is a member of the Government Oversight Committee.

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