Ken Fredette needs to join the bipartisan effort to curb the opiate epidemic

It was like music to my ears. I was driving around the other afternoon and heard the news about the $4.8 million comprehensive plan being developed by a bipartisan group of legislative leaders. I think I heard about it on both WKIT and on Maine public radio.

The legislators announced earlier in the week that they were meeting in advance of the session that starts in January, and they intended to include the funding for 10 Maine Drug Enforcement Agency agents as part of their plan. It was like the opening notes of an overture.

As the momentum built to Wednesday’s press conference, the LePage administration brought its instrumentation into the harmony by front-funding the agent positions. Granted, the governor had a clunker note or two about Narcan “not saving lives” at the beginning of the week, but by Wednesday he was surprisingly harmonic.

House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, R- Newport. Photo by Scott Thistle

House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, R- Newport. (Photo by Scott Thistle)

Even Sen. Susan Collins was in the news this week for her testimony calling for a comprehensive plan on the federal level, and Sen. Angus King is asking for a greater military effort on the southern U.S. border to address heroin trafficking.

It was like an imaginary scenario I put forth a couple weeks ago but didn’t expect to see. On behalf of everyone in Maine who has dealt with this epidemic firsthand, I was so happy and hopeful.

But later when I was checking out the news online, House Minority Leader Ken Fredette’s reaction was like the noise of an overbearing untuned instrument. The sour quality of his notes was so disappointing. Fredette’s main complaint seems to be that he didn’t have enough input even though he was invited to be a part of the process.

How much input does he need to have into a plan that the rest of the symphony agrees needs to be comprehensive, with significant and immediate action on all fronts?

Why couldn’t his input have been that, as a House leader, he was proud to be a part of such a bipartisan effort and that he’d do whatever he could to move the process forward in a timely fashion?

Why so loud and off key?

Whatever his justification, it’s too bad he’s choosing to conduct himself this way, and not just because coming together to address the addiction epidemic in Maine is such a critical priority issue. It’s also too bad because we’ve all been waiting for a little harmony and progress from our leaders in Augusta for quite a while. The divisiveness has been stymieing progress, and voters of all stripes were expressing any number of frustrations about a number of issues after the last legislative session.

The overture put forth by the other legislative leaders and joined by Gov. Paul LePage was like the sound of hope. It was a good portend for the session about to come. It was shockingly and surprisingly harmonic in a very welcomed way, and Fredette would do well to get in key.

Correction: A previous version of this post referred to Ken Fredette as House speaker. He is the House minority leader.

Patricia Callahan

About Patricia Callahan

Trish is a writer who lives in Augusta. She has worked professionally in education and social services.