When Shelbe Lane graduates with honors from the University of Maine in May, she’ll be equipped with a bachelor’s degree in business management, a minor in legal studies and experience as the intern to chief legal counsel in the Governor’s Office.
All of which should serve her well this fall when she enters the University of Maine School of Law in Portland.
Lane’s philosophy helps explain how she accomplished so much in three years at UMaine: “If you see something you want to accomplish you should go after it,” she says.
The scope of her academic accomplishments could soon extend far beyond campus and impact public service in Maine for decades; she participated in drafting proposed ethics reform legislation for Maine politicians and officials.
After Lane completed her draft of the legislation in the fall, she submitted it for review and consideration to Michael Cianchette, chief legal counsel in the Governor’s Office. It then went to the desk of Gov. Paul LePage, the official sponsor.
The result is LD 1001, “An Act To Improve Laws Governing Financial Disclosure by Legislators and Certain Public Employees and Public Access to Information Disclosed.”
Sen. Emily Cain of Penobscot is presenting the bill, which is co-sponsored by Rep. Michael Beaulieu of Auburn and Sen. John Tuttle of York. Lane says she will testify for LD 1001 on March 27 before the Committee of Veteran and Legal Affairs.
The Patten native helped pen the proposed legislation for her Honors College thesis. “I picked an area that interests me and where I think real change could be made,” she says.
Lane decided to tackle writing ethics reform legislation after The State Integrity Investigation — an assessment of “transparency, accountability and anti-corruption mechanisms” — ranked Maine 46th of 50 states with regard to integrity in politics in its March 2011 report.
The investigation, a collaborative effort by the Center for Public Integrity, Global Integrity and Public Radio International, assigned Maine an F on its Corruption Risk Report Card.
“The fact we’re 46th out of 50 doesn’t mean we’re corrupt,” Lane says. “It means we don’t have the statutes in place to deal with things.”
Maine, she says, lags behind many other states and the federal government with regard to asset disclosure and conflict-of-interest regulations.
LD 1001 seeks to rectify that. If the legislation becomes law, legislators and some executive branch employees would have to include a description of annual income of $2,000 or more on disclosure forms and would have to report ownership interests of 5 percent or more in businesses. They also would be required to file disclosure statements electronically and post the statements on a publicly accessible website. In addition, they would have to report any involvement by them or an immediate family member as a responsible officer of a political party or committee.
“It’s not about being nosy; it’s about avoiding conflict of interest in the voting process,” Lane says of her honors thesis, whose working title was State-Level Government Transparency and the Maine Legislative Process.
“Citizens have an apprehension and concern about politicians and I hope maybe this will ease some concerns,” she says.
Lane, who turns 21 in April, credits UMaine’s Honors College with encouraging her to be analytical and search for solutions as well as providing her with unique cultural opportunities and interesting, varied courses.
Civic service is a priority for Lane, who in the summer of 2012 participated in Maine NEW Leadership — a free, six-day, nonpartisan university training program that seeks to empower and engage college women. It promotes public speaking, coalition building, networking, advocacy and running for public office.
The program strives to provide attendees with “a greater awareness of their leadership potential, skills, and opportunities in civic life and public office” and to prepare them to “emerge as political leaders.”
Lane says the program and its presenters inspired her. She wants to enact positive change in ways other than running for elected office, including perhaps someday working in an attorney general’s office.
Mary Cathcart, co-director of Maine NEW Leadership and a senior policy associate at the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center at the University of Maine, knows about public service. The former four-term state senator and three-time representative believes in the importance of women motivating and supporting each other.
In 1988, Cathcart attended a Winning With Women speech given by Shirley Chisholm, a teacher, activist and congressperson who ran for president in 1972. When Chisholm asked those in the audience to rise if they planned to run for office, Cathcart’s friends encouraged her to stand. Not long after, Cathcart launched her distinguished career in public service.
“Women do make a difference,” Cathcart says, adding that women are buoyed when they can identify with successful role models. Cathcart says Lane is a bright young woman from a small town “who is growing up to be a very strong leader.”
Lane says she strives to be courageous, create opportunities and do her best. In the fall of 2011, she became the first Governor’s Office intern in Gov. LePage’s administration.
Honors College members are encouraged in their junior tutorials to study abroad or take part in an alternate learning experience. As Lane was carrying a 21-credit course load, studying abroad wasn’t feasible.
So she pursued the opportunity for an experience in the Governor’s Office and she landed an internship with Cianchette, Gov. LePage’s chief legal counsel.
Lane recounts a number of highlights, including Pardons Board hearings. She relished the internship so much she extended it for a month and wrote a handbook guide for future interns.
In order to graduate in three years with 120 credits, the commuter has taken as many as 21 credits a semester and enrolled in summer classes. She also earned 10 college credits when she was a student at Katahdin Middle/High School, where she was valedictorian of the Class of 2010.
Throughout her college career, Lane has also worked six to 10 hours a week at her father’s logging business in Patten, where she has been employed since she was 13.
During the 1.5-hour drive to Patten, which is home to about 1,000 people, Lane says she listens to music and frequently composes papers in her head.
A calendar and sticky notes help her keep everything on track.
“If it needs to get done, then it is written down on a list somewhere,” she says. “Sometimes, when things get crazy, that includes a note reminding me to take a little time off. I am a planner, I have an end goal and I like to challenge myself.”
Entering her final semester, Lane’s grade-point average was 3.89.
She says her friends and supporters also occasionally remind her to relax, which for her means cooking, reading magazines, gardening and watching movies with her fiancé.
After law school, Lane is considering specializing in employment law or mediation.
Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777