Over the past few weeks, hundreds of bills have been floating around the State House — so many, in fact, that the Democratic leadership has waived the requirement to advertise public hearings (public notice will still occur online). Want to know what your elected officials are mulling over? Here is a subjective selection of bills that piqued our interest.
Visit mainelegislature.org for the most current updates.
• An Act to PROTECT CELLULAR TELEPHONE PRIVACY (LD1377; sponsored by Republican senator Robert Katz of Augusta; Judiciary Committee work session May 9) Prohibits government and law-enforcement officials from accessing text messages and cell phone call information without a warrant, except "in cases in which there is an imminent threat of death or serious physical injury or a threat to national security."
• An Act to PROTECT SOCIAL MEDIA PRIVACY in School and the Workplace (LD1194; sponsored by Republican representative Michael McClellan of Raymond; Judiciary Committee work session May 9) Prohibits public and private employers or education institutions from requiring or requesting that employees or students (current or prospective) provide usernames and passwords for personal social-media or email accounts.
• An Act to INCREASE CONSUMPTION OF MAINE FOODS in All State Institutions (LD1254; sponsored by Democratic representative Craig Hickman of Winthrop; divided report from Committee on State and Local Government) While current law does require state and school purchasers to buy meat, fish, some dairy products, and some types of fruits and vegetables directly from Maine food producers, this bill establishes a minimum percentage of Maine foodstuffs: at least 15 percent for the 10 years beginning January 1, 2014; at least 25 percent for the following 10 years; and at least 35 percent beginning in 2034.
• An Act to PROTECT THE PRIVACY OF CITIZENS FROM DOMESTIC UNMANNED AERIAL VEHICLE USE (LD236; Democratic senator John Patrick of Rumford; divided report from Judiciary Committee) This, a/k/a the Drone Bill, would regulate unmanned aerial vehicles, including their acquisition and operation by law-enforcement agencies in collecting, disclosing, and receiving information and the retention of information collected. "For the permitted operation of an unmanned aerial vehicle, the bill requires the consent of the subject person, a warrant or court order, an emergency situation that threatens life or serious bodily injury or an emergency enforcement situation that threatens national security or evinces conspiratorial criminal conduct requiring immediate operation of the vehicle before a warrant can be obtained," says the bill summary. Also requires law-enforcement agencies and the Attorney General to post relevant information on their publicly accessible websites.
• An Act to PROMOTE THE SAFE USE AND SALE OF FIREARMS (LD1240; sponsored by Democratic representative Mark Dion of Portland; tabled at a May 2 work session) Sponsored by the former Cumberland County sheriff, this is the most comprehensive gun-control bill being considered by the legislature. It would prohibit people who have been admitted to psychiatric hospitals on an emergency basis from buying firearms; increase the minimum age to obtain a concealed handgun permit from 18 to 21; include private sellers (including those at gun shows) in the definition of "firearm dealer;" and require all firearm dealers to conduct background checks (except for sales between family members).