Friends Committee on Maine Public Policy (FCMPP) was launched in the 1980’s by Ed Snyder following his retirement from Friends Committee on National Legislation in Washington. He envisioned a statewide network of Quaker activists who could coordinate their advocacy efforts on timely topics under consideration in the Maine Legislature. At the beginning it was decided to focus on two policy areas where broad agreement among Friends could be anticipated without having to seek specific approval from all the local meetings: 1) tribal/state relations (i.e. Wabanaki concerns) and 2) civil liberty/criminal justice concerns (e.g. death penalty).
FCMPP used to meet in person on a regular basis to share reports, decide on issue priorities, and sustain ongoing personal connections. The passing of some in the founding cohort and the onset of Covid required meeting on zoom and a reduced capacity to handle a wide range of issues.
In recent years the focus has increasingly centered on Wabanaki concerns. There is a long history of Quaker efforts to assist the Maine tribes—e.g. the separate American Friends Service Committee program on Maine Indians. Two developments enhanced FCMPP attention to tribal matters: the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Indigenous children taken from their families and the Task Force on needed amendments to the Land Claims Settlement Act of 1980 which cut off Maine tribes from benefits of Federal legislation affecting all tribes in the other forty-nine states.
A core group of FCMPP members has been intensely engaged in relevant support efforts, at times in close coordination with a counterpart Episcopal support group. FCMPP members have attended legislative hearings and given testimony—both spoken and written—on specific bills and placed op-eds and Letters to the Editor in local newspapers. They have travelled to all five Wabanaki settlements to meet in person with the tribal leaders in the effort to be informed allies. Several members regularly take part in a weekly zoom session led by the Wabanaki Alliance (the tribal chiefs, leaders, and staff) to coordinate advocacy and outreach endeavors including joint lobby visits with legislators. FCMPP leaders along with leaders from several other church groups have set up in-person meetings with Democratic and Republican leaders in both the House and Senate.
The major pending bill is based upon the Task Force recommendations to amend the 1980 law in order to restore a fuller measure of tribal sovereignty as well as economic benefits from Federal legislation. Several smaller relevant bills have been supported and seem likely to pass but the sovereignty bill will require a 2/3 vote on both chambers to overcome an expected veto from the Governor.
We will hand out today a Guide to Citizen Lobbying and giving testimony before legislative committees prepared by FCMPP for fellow Quakers as they may be led to express their views on current issues.
In February members of FCMPP met in a sorting session led by Peter Woodrow to assess future endeavors of the group. We recognize that our work evolved to focus primarily on tribal/state concerns. We are open to further evolution to take up other concerns. We welcome queries and expressions of interest from other Friends in Maine. What do you think a state-based Quaker advocacy group in Maine should be dealing with now?
Queries/Responses may be sent to: Jim Matlack firstname.lastname@example.org and Shirley Hager Shirley.email@example.com