Roundup: Procedural drama stalls concealed-carry bill in the House

If Maine had universal concealed-carry law, you might not see the heat packed by Elizabeth Jutras in this 2010 photo. | BDN file photo by Gabor Degre.

If Maine had universal concealed-carry law, you might not see the heat packed by Elizabeth Jutras in this 2010 photo. | BDN file photo by Gabor Degre.

UPDATE: The House on Thursday morning passed the bill described below. See the full story here


Late last night, House Republican Leader Ken Fredette put the kibosh on floor discussion of a concealed-carry bill that’s been worked over and over in committee for more than a year.

The bill is a dramatic update of the state’s concealed-carry law. Among other things, it prohibits municipalities without full-time police forces from issuing the permits and tightens restrictions on out-of-state residents looking to obtain concealed-carry permits in Maine. It also increases the fee for permits while extending the permit’s validity from four years to six. There are many other provisions too, so if you’re interested, click here to see the bill (head straight for the summary. It’s pretty straight-forward).

The bill was halted thanks to an unexpected procedural hiccup. It was a tale of two amendments.

One, by Democrat Mike Shaw would change the rules about required handgun safety courses for permit applicants. Under the current law, if a permit lapses, the holder is required to take the course again. Shaw’s amendment would make the gun safety certification good for life, much like the state’s hunters’ safety course.

The second amendment, by Republican Aaron Libby, would make concealed carry legal, automatically, for any Mainer not otherwise prohibited from owning a firearm. Under Libby’s amendment, a Mainer would still need to apply for a permit in order to exercise concealed-carry rights in other states that recognize Maine’s permit system.

Here’s where it gets a little wonky, so bear with me: Because Libby’s amendment sought to strike a portion of law affected by Shaw’s, it was ruled to be in conflict with the bill. House Speaker Mark Eves told lawmakers that if Libby’s amendment were adopted, it would make the full bill “unengrossable.” Essentially, that means the bill could not become law.

Republicans vehemently disagreed with Eves’ assessment, and attempted to table the concealed carry bill until the conflict could be resolved.

Democrats — most of whom were uninterested in establishing universal concealed carry to begin with — rejected the move to table the bill and voted 76-59 to kill Libby’s amendment, and steamrolled an initial voted on the bill, 82-53. They also tried to expedite the bill’s second vote, as is common in the House, but Fredette objected, effectively halting the bill and sending all the representatives home.

What this means is: The bill still sits in the House, and proponents of universal concealed-carry have more time to find a way to get their proposal on the floor for a clean vote, unencumbered by procedural questions. It’s not a done deal, by any extent, but Fredette bought the Republicans some time.

Bellows wins support of national group who gives Democratic Senate candidates support

On Tuesday, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee endorsed Shenna Bellows’ bid to oust Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins. This should come as no shock — It’s the DSCC’s job to endorse and help Democratic candidates win their campaigns.

The only thing that makes it interesting is that the DSCC sat out Maine’s last Senate race entirely.

Then-state Sen. Cynthia Dill was the Democrats’ choice that year, running in a tough three-way election that featured the immensely popular Angus King, who widely — and correctly — was presumed to caucus with the Democrats if he won. The DSCC was happy enough with King running away with the seat that it kept its money for more competitive races.

The fact the national group is giving Bellows the nod means they don’t necessarily see her race against Collins, also hugely popular, as completely futile. That’s good news for Bellows — the DSCC spent nearly $145 million supporting Democratic candidates in the last election cycle.

Mario Moretto

About Mario Moretto

Mario Moretto has been a Maine journalist, in print and online publications, since 2009. He joined the Bangor Daily News in 2012, first as a general assignment reporter in his native Hancock County and, now, in the State House. Mario left the BDN in 2015.