The rough language of a compromise measure that is expected to supplant a so-called “red flag” proposal by linking gun seizures to assessments of mental health conditions under existing Maine protective custody laws was released on Tuesday.
The measure is being led by one Democratic senator and one Republican senator alongside the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and is tracking similarly to a 2018 bill that was at least tacitly approved by gun-rights groups until it was vetoed by former Gov. Paul LePage in its focus on mental health.
The compromise measure, which hasn’t been formally introduced, would link gun seizures to a long-standing protective custody law. Democrats and gun-control groups had hoped to have Maine join more than a dozen other states to pass red flag laws, which allow courts to order a person deemed dangerous by a judge to temporarily surrender guns.
They have been a popular policy response to the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, but they’re opposed by gun-rights groups including the National Rifle Association. In Maine, the sportsman’s alliance and other groups helped lead energetic initial opposition to a red flag law proposed by Sen. Rebecca Millett, D-Cape Elizabeth.
That bill is still alive after being endorsed by Democrats on a legislative committee earlier this month, but there have been holdouts on the Senate side as Sen. Michael Carpenter, D-Houlton, has led side negotiations on the issue with Sen. Lisa Keim, R-Dixfield, the sportsman’s alliance and the administration of Gov. Janet Mills.
On Tuesday, Senate Republicans office released a rough draft of a proposed compromise deal. It would beef up the state’s protective custody laws by adding a provision to existing protective custody laws to allow medical professionals to determine whether a person with a mental health condition has a weapon that increases the risk of harm to themselves or others.
If that determination is made, the person would surrender weapons to police until a hearing that would be held within 14 days. At that hearing, a judge could extend those terms for a year. The person would get weapons back when a court deems them to no longer present a major threat.
The bill is unlikely to make everyone happy, but it’s probably the only measure of its kind that can pass in the current environment. While many legislative Democrats — particularly those from southern Maine — came into the 2019 session wanting gun control, it was always unlikely. Mills largely kiboshed the idea in January by telling reporters “ the people have already spoken on background checks” after measures similar to a defeated 2016 referendum on that issue were introduced by members of her own party.
Many Democrats still want a true red flag bill and some of the Republicans who organized against that idea may be loathe to endorse any step in that direction, but none of that is likely to stop this proposal from getting through the Legislature rather easily.
Today in A-town
It might finally be the day for a House vote on “death with dignity” legislation. Amid busy schedules, the House of Representatives has delayed votes over the past week on a bill from Rep. Patty Hymanson, D-York, to preempt a planned 2020 referendum to make Maine the eighth state to let doctors provide life-ending medication to terminally ill patients. Today might be the day that what supporters call a “death with dignity” measure comes up for a vote. We’re expecting a tight vote in the Democratic-led chamber, which killed a similar bill two years ago.
The House could also vote on bills initially approved in the Senate that would have Maine join a compact that could eventually undo the Electoral College in its current form by awarding presidential electors based on the national popular vote, provide 55 percent of local K-12 education costs and prohibit Internet service providers from using or selling personal data.
The House and Senate are scheduled to be in at 10 a.m. Mills is also scheduled to a sign a first-in-the-nation paid leave bill at 2 p.m. that would apply to 85 percent of Maine workers. Several committees will also be working in the afternoon, with a 1 p.m. hearing set on a bill from Assistant House Minority Leader Trey Stewart, R-Presque Isle, to expand the definition of hazing in Maine law and make it a misdemeanor while providing immunity to those who report it.
Meanwhile, Mills is scheduled to sign a bill that would mandate paid leave in 85 percent of Maine’s workforce at 2 p.m. The bill, sponsored by Millett, was a compromise between Democrats, Republicans and business interests aimed at staving off a universal paid sick leave initiative proposed for a 2020 referendum by the progressive Maine People’s Alliance.
— The Democrat who took over as district attorney in four coastal counties has a new approach to nonviolent crime. Elected in November, Natasha Irving has emphasized restorative justice, chosen to prosecute fewer nonviolent crimes and elevated the focus on deferred dispositions. For “non-violent and non-dangerous offenders,” she wrote, jail should be a last resort because of the cost to taxpayers, and because jail “is one of the greatest infringements on personal liberty imposed by the state of Maine.” The approach has drawn praise from addiction and mental health care advocates, but some police continue to apply a wait-and-see attitude. “Our philosophy is, if they’re drunk and operating a motor vehicle, we’re going to hold them accountable and arrest them when appropriate. Where it goes from there is kind of out of our hands,” said Robert Savary, deputy chief of the Bath Police Department.
— Maine is moving closer to legalized sports betting. A legislative panel agreed to a deal Friday on a system for taxing and regulating the industry, though a split lingers on tying licenses for online and mobile betting sites to Maine-based facilities. The Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee voted to tax online and mobile revenue at 16 percent while taxing Maine-based facilities such as casinos and off-track betting parlors at 10 percent. However, the committee split narrowly on whether to force online or mobile sports betting sites to get licenses only by allying with in-state locations, a provision backed in different ways by off-track parlors and the parent company of Hollywood Casino in Bangor, but opposed by DraftKings.
— One of the year’s most contentious State House debates is over — for now. The Associated Press reports that Mills on Friday signed a bill that will remove all nonmedical exemptions from Maine’s school vaccination requirements as of 2021. The bill drew fierce opposition at each stage of the legislative process and opponents have already suggested that a people’s veto signature drive could come.
— A bald eagle believed to be Maine’s oldest has died. The bird was euthanized Saturday afternoon. Avian Haven, a wild bird rehabilitation center in Freedom, said in a Sunday Facebook post that the eagle was found on the ground Friday afternoon with a broken left leg. An examination found the leg to be “beyond repair” and showing signs of a “progressive and likely painful” arthritis in the knee and ankle.
Sock it to me
Seeing Cleveland Indians pitcher Oliver Perez standing Monday on the Fenway Park mound wearing only socks on his feet reminded me that — 40 years ago this week — I received my college diploma while wearing only socks. And a cap and gown, of course.
At the time, I was a staunch believer in lucky clothes. I had a lucky shirt, which I wore to exams and when I defended my honors thesis. I had a bit of explaining to do, as the luck-drenched shirt was also stained with automotive paint, grease and undercoating. It had been a uniform top I wore while working at a car dealership during my last two years of high school. It was blue and had “Al” stenciled across the pocket. But it brought me great luck, so I kept it for as long as I could and wore it whenever I felt I needed a dose of positive serendipity.
It was under the gown the day I graduated. On my feet were a pair of bright orange wool socks. I hadn’t had them quite as long as my lucky shirt, but they had done right by me often during my times of need. So to bring me luck as I prepared to head off into the world, I wore them as I strode across the stage to shake hands with the college president and collect my sheepskin. I had no lucky shoes, so I didn’t wear any.
Needless to say, I did not parlay my bachelor of arts in English into a career in fashion design. Here is your soundtrack. — Robert Long
Today’s Daily Brief was written by Michael Shepherd and Robert Long. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, click here to receive Maine’s leading newsletter on state politics via email on weekday mornings. Click here to subscribe to the BDN.
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