Justin Chenette, Democrathttp://www.justinchenette.comFacebook Twitter
Office Sought: Representative - District 15
Occupation: President of Chenette Media LLC, Director of Community Relations at the Saco Drive-In, Founder/President/CEO of the Saco Bay Center for Civic Engagement
Lyndon State College - B.S. Broadcast News, A.S. TV News, minors: professional multimedia communications, political science (Graduated 2012)
University of Southern Maine - Early Studies program (2009)
University College at Saco - Early Studies program (2008-2009)
Thornton Academy - High School diploma (2005-2009)
Why are you running for office? I first ran for office out of frustration for a system I deemed broken. From the outside, the dysfunction and lack of awareness for the concerns of young Mainers drove me to finally get involved. Now having served on the inside, I'm very concerned about what has become a political game driven by special interests and the lobbyist with the largest checkbook. My priority has been to find solutions to problems through strong bipartisan cooperation having formed the legislative youth caucus, comprised of young legislators on both sides of the aisle, working to pass legislation that positively impacts the ability for young Mainers to live, work, and play here in the state. My bill to enable teachers to grade community service projects as a high school graduation standard passed unanimously and became law with the Governor's signature. Another bill of mine to make our highways safer through speed limit changes based on data not politics became law. I pushed hard for 55% education funding, forged a compromise between both sides on the issue of campaign finance/PAC reform, and crafted a cost saving initiative within Mainecare through an expansion of community based care. While they ultimately failed or were not funded, it has laid the groundwork for future policy debates. I'm running for re-election to continue my fight of reforming state government to work better for us, redefining community leadership, and strengthening a long term commitment to make Maine's future bright.
In 2008, Gov. John Baldacci appointed me to the Maine State Board of Education as its first student member. Served a 16-month term and was a member of the Student Voices Committee. In 2012, I was elected to my first term in the Maine House of Representatives representing half the city of Saco. I was sworn in as the youngest legislator in the state and the youngest in the country at the age of 21. Currently serve on the state and local government committee, as vice chair of the legislative youth caucus, and as state director for the Young Elected Officials Network.
The federal health care law has offered to pay states to expand their Medicaid programs to provide health coverage to low income Mainers. Do you support Medicaid (or MaineCare) expansion?Yes
As requested by our local hospital, it makes economic sense to address the root issue of hospital debt, charity care through emergency room visits. This also drives up costs for the rest of us with insurance. An expansion of Medicaid would ensure that nearly 70,000 people including thousands of our service men and women don’t have to rely on care via emergency rooms. The individuals that would receive these benefits aren’t lazy, these are hardworking Mainers just trying to make it. We need to accept these Federal dollars that are already allocated to the state of Maine.
Reform of the state’s public assistance programs has been the focus of debates in the State House and on the campaign trail. Do you believe that the state’s welfare programs are too generous?No
What, if anything, would you change about welfare?We must protect the social safety net for our seniors and those who really need it while prosecuting fraud cases for those abusing the system. I voted for welfare reform and believe in reasonable restrictions on what you can buy with TANF funds, ensuring personal responsibility, and putting some of the onus on the businesses that sell to those using TANF funds to help stop abuse at multiple levels. The money is there for essentials, for food for families that really could use the help. As someone who grew up raised by a single mother on food stamps and subsidized housing, it angers me that anyone would seek to defraud our system. It is there as a hand up in hard times. With the drugs for the elderly program constantly on the chopping block and more and more of the financial burden for essential services being shifted to our communities, the real issue isn’t with assisting those in need and providing high quality education, but with the need to prioritize spending, cut wasteful spending, and reform how Augusta operates to save taxpayer money. If social services are being handed out to illegal immigrants, then we need to address that issue.
Do you support raising the state’s minimum wage from $7.50 an hour?Yes
By how much?The current minimum wage is not sustainable for anyone. Try living on $7.50 an hour. It is simply not a living wage. Gas, groceries, and goods have all gone up in price while wages have stayed relatively stagnant. Why is that? Why would anyone think that is reasonable for a successful economy? I would support raising the wage to a level consistent with our friends in other states. I do not wish to pick a randomly selected number to raise the wage to however. We must base it on data. More specifically, the minimum wage must be directly tied to inflation. That way the legislature won't have to arbitrarily increase wages every so many years.
Would you support legalization of marijuana?Yes
Please explain your position on legalization?I would feel more comfortable first decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana , aside from the already legal medical marijuana, before legalizing, taxing, and regulating it. There is no reason to be filling up our jails with Mainers, especially young people, that don’t have criminal backgrounds over small amounts of a substance that hasn't been proven to be harmful. I have voted and will continue to support efforts of sending the issue of legalization out to the voters to make a final determination.