Hoping to make a difference from his home in Auburn

Steve Collins, Sun Journal, Lewiston, Maine
·3 min read

Apr. 23—AUBURN — Mark Chasse is not a paid lobbyist, not an activist for any cause or organization. He's just a guy who wants his voice heard, hoping to make a difference.

At public hearings Wednesday alone, the retired systems analyst from Auburn weighed in on seven pieces of legislation.

Chasse told lawmakers in Augusta that one bill he is tracking includes "provisions that are not enforceable without limiting constitutional rights." (An Act To Amend the Child Endangerment Laws To Include Certain Unauthorized Access to a Loaded Firearm)

He opposed a bill because, he said, it would limit "parental rights to participate in their child's education. Parents ought to be able to provide oversight in their child's education." (An Act To Protect Teachers' Privacy While Delivering Remote Instruction)

He urged legislators to shoot down a pro-environment bill since in his view it would hurt the economy, especially farms. (An Act Requiring Climate Impact Notes on Proposed Legislation and Agency Rules)

He favored the addition of "a layer of ballot tracking safety to the vote chain of custody and verification process" in An Act To Provide Absentee Ballot Tracking for Maine Voters.

He didn't like another voting-related proposal because "it appears to allow a third-party designee to handle the ballot." (An Act To Expand the Application Period for Absentee Ballot Requests and Allow Early Processing of Absentee Ballots)

He suggested the Legislature kill An Act To Amend the Laws Governing Elections since, he said, "it appears to allow 16-year-olds to vote and work at the polls."

Finally, he gave a thumbs-up to yet another voting bill for proposing an extra "layer of oversight and accountability to the vote integrity verification process." (An Act To Establish the Board of Canvassers for Certifying Election Results)

Chasse said he knows his testimony doesn't matter too much, but sees each tidbit he contributes "like a dot on a page" of blank paper.

When you get enough dots, Chasse said, it can "make up a picture."

That's why he's keen to offer his ideas on many of the bills that come before the Legislature.

This month, so far, he's weighed in on 33 of them. It sounds like a lot, but lawmakers are eyeing more than 1,500 bills, so even Chasse's efforts pale by comparison to so enormous a pile.

How legislators wade through them all, Chasse said, is a mystery.

"To me, it's daunting," Chasse said. "It's kind of crazy, kind of head-spinning."

Chasse said he's rarely been involved in politics directly, but he's always had an interest. Last year, he helped out on Republican state Rep. Laurel Libby's successful campaign.

He described himself as libertarian-leaning and pragmatic in his approach, seeking ways to have things be more streamlined and sensible.

Chasse said he has time now to read the bills and listen to hearings— he sometimes follows two hearings simultaneously when both strike him as important — so he wants to offer his two cents on some of them.

Submitting testimony on bills is easy these days. There is an online form that anyone can access to offer their ideas at public hearings on pending legislation. The hearings themselves are online live, with legislators this year typically connecting via Zoom.

Chasse said he recognizes that it's too hard for people who have "families and kids and jobs" to pay much attention to what the Legislature is doing in Augusta. The bills most people notice are the ones they have to pay, not the ones a committee is debating, he said.

Chasse said his impression of the legislators in general is probably better than what most people think.

They have a difficult position, he said, "and overall I think they do a good job."