The Associated Press | December 7, 2022
AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — The Maine House selected Democrat Rachel Talbot Ross to be its first Black speaker on Tuesday in a vote witnessed by her proud father, who made history himself 50 years ago by becoming the first Black person elected to the Legislature in the nation’s whitest state.
House members erupted in applause after picking Talbot Ross to lead the chamber.
“I want any child in our state to know today that this is possible,” Talbot Ross told her fellow lawmakers.
Her father, Gerald Talbot, and other family members looked on. Like him, Talbot Ross served as president of the Portland NAACP. She was elected to the House in 2016, 44 years after her father won a seat. Two years ago, Democrats chose her to be the House’s assistant majority leader, making her the first person of color to serve in leadership in the Legislature.
“I’m so very glad for this blessing,” she told her fellow legislators. “And yes, there can be very little doubt I am my father’s proud daughter.”
Further reflecting the Legislature’s growing diversity were two newly elected Somali American women in the House, while Jill Duson of Portland became the first Black woman in the Senate.
After the speakership issue was settled, lawmakers got down to business, including taking on Democratic Gov. Janet Mills’ proposed $474 million heating aid package.
Mills has called for $450 payments to an estimated 880,000 state residents, adding up to $900 total for an average family. Income limits were set at $100,000 for single adults, $150,000 for those filing as head of household, or $200,000 for couples filing jointly.
Mills asked lawmakers to swiftly to approve the aid to ensure that Mainers struggling with inflation and high energy costs aren’t left in the cold this winter. A two-thirds majority vote would be needed for the bill to take effect immediately and for checks to be mailed next month.
It was unusual for lawmakers to be urged to form consensus so quickly, ahead of committees being formed.
Lawmakers approved similar aid last year — for inflation relief — at the governor’s urging, using about half of the state’s $1.2 billion surplus at the time to send checks to about 850,000 taxpayers.