Adopted children to get document access

Posted Dec. 30, 2008, at 7:33 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Beginning Thursday, adult adoptees who were born in Maine can obtain their original birth certificates, and Maine will join the majority of states that have made it a crime to engage in human trafficking.

Those are among a thin scattering of new state laws that take effect on Jan. 1, 2009. Most newly enacted state laws kick in 90 days after the close of the legislative session, which would have been last July. But some, such as the adoption and trafficking bills, have specific effective dates.

The adoption-records law restores rights that were taken away in 1953 when Maine began requiring adoptees to get court orders in order to access their original birth certificates.

Maine’s new law, which is similar to one in New Hampshire, also allows biological parents to state that they do not wish to be contacted by a birth child.

The grass-roots support group Original Birth Certificates for Maine, which pushed through Maine’s new access law, said it restores basic human and civil rights. Maine is the second state in New England and one of about eight in the country to pass such a law, the group said.

To familiarize adoptees with procedures under the new law, the group plans a meeting Jan. 17 in Falmouth.

Another new law puts Maine among the states that outlaw human trafficking, the forced transfer of people for prostitution, factory work and other forms of forced labor. The new law allows victims to sue for damages and collect compensation through criminal restitution laws.

When the measure was presented to a legislative committee, its proponents said that Maine, while a small and rural state, is not immune to human trafficking issues. A task force uncovered massage parlors, spas and other operations in several Maine communities where illegal migrants worked.

Supporters of the law also said the victims of human trafficking also are victimized by deportation laws. Maine’s law was designed to protect victims of trafficking from being sent back to their native country before they have a chance to testify in court against perpetrators.

New Year’s Day also marks the date Maine and nine other Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states have agreed to issue their regulations to put into effect a “cap and trade” program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. The effort is known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

As of Jan. 1, state employees who use their personal vehicles for state business will get a 2 cent-per-mile increase in mileage payments to 44 cents.

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