(from Maine Townsman, December 1998)
All things being equal, the make-up of the 119th Maine Legislature will not be a remarkable departure from the 118th Maine Legislature.
The Democrats are still the majority party in both House and Senate, and the margin of majority was whittled away only slightly in the House and just strengthened a tad in the Senate. With 52% of House members being Democrats and 47% being Republicans, the partisan make-up of the House captures the statewide enrollment of voters registered under a party almost perfectly. The partisan make-up of the Senate is a few percentage points more Democrat than the statewide enrollment, but with a full membership of only 35 senators, a perfect statistical match in the Senate would be unlikely.
The turnover rate in neither chamber was especially high.
All 31 senators choosing to run for reelection were returned to office. Of the four open Senate seats, two were filled by legislators with considerable previous experience. Senator Carol Kontos (Senate District 26, Cumberland County) moved into the Senate from the House. Senator Georgette Berube (District 21, Androscoggin County) resumed her place in that Senate seat which she had left two years ago because of the term limit law.
The incumbents had a little tougher sledding in the House. Thirteen state representatives who wanted to serve another term were turned out of office by the voters on November 3. In all, there will be 45 representatives serving in the 119th who were not members of the 118th Legislature, but at least three of the "freshmen" bring legislative experience with them from service in earlier biennia. A 30% turnover rate in the House is not unusual by any means. There was a 40% turnover (60 seats) in 1996, and in 1994, the turnover rate was a record 47% (71 seats). In fact, a change in membership of only 45 House members extends the trend of declining turnover since the adoption of the 1993 term-limit law, which churned up the turnover rate considerably.
One way to measure the effect of the term limit law is to compare the aggregate legislative experience before and after its enactment. A decade ago, the 187 members of the 114th Legislature were beginning their session with an aggregate of 968 years of legislative experience, for an average of 5.2 years of experience per legislator. The 119th Legislature is going to convene with an aggregate membership experience of 718 years of legislative service, for an average of 3.86 years of experience per legislator.
Women constitute slightly over 51% of Maines total population. The gender make-up of the Legislature doesnt track that statistic very closely, however.
Of the 186 voting members of the 119th Legislature, just 50 (27%) are women. Maines Senate tracks the states gender demographics more closely, however, with a 46% female membership. Only 34 women hold the position of state representative, which constitutes just 23% of the House.