Concealed carry, Rand Paul and Maine’s tax freedom day

Good morning from Augusta, where both sides of the gun control debate are locked and loaded for what’s likely to be a packed hearing on the future of Maine’s concealed carry laws. 

The bill, LD 652 by Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, would give any Mainer who’s legally allowed to own a handgun the right to carry the weapon concealed either on their person or in their vehicle. It would repeal the state’s permitting process, which require that the person pass a background check, take a handgun safety course and be of ‘good moral character.’

The proposal is supported by various gun-rights groups, but opposed by law enforcement, including the top cop in Maine’s largest city. Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck is scheduled to hold a joint press conference at 9 a.m. today in Portland with the Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence, where both will outline their opposition to the bill. 

Opponents say the bill will drastically erode Maine’s limited ability to keep handguns away from people who shouldn’t have them. That’s because the concealed carry permitting process is one of the only times a background or character check is conducted in relation to gun ownership. Maine law requires licensed firearm dealers to determine whether a customer is barred from owning a gun. But guns are often purchased privately, or at gun shows, or even online, where no such background check is conducted (more on that in a moment)

The supporters’ retort is simple — the plan does nothing to change who can and cannot own a gun in Maine, they say. It simply says that if you are allowed to have a handgun, you’re now allowed to put on a jacket while you carry it. 

Rep. Mark Dion, D-Portland, a former Cumberland County sheriff and Portland Police officer, will present a bill  — LD 415 — for public hearing that would make it illegal to sell a gun to a “prohibited person.” In practice, this creates a need for anyone who wants to sell a gun to either run th

eir own background check, or have a licensed firearm dealer run one for them. 

Hearings on both bills are scheduled for 1 p.m. Can’t make it to the State House? You can listen in online, here. — Mario Moretto.

‘Tax Freedom Day’ comes early in Maine

According to the Tax Foundation, a conservative tax policy think tank in Washington, D.C., Mainers clear their state and federal tax hurdle earlier than any other state in New England, and 10 days earlier than the national average.

The group calculates “National Tax Freedom Day” each year. This year, April 24 represents that day that the nation has collective worked enough hours to pay its entire tax bill for the year.

“In 2015, Americans will pay $3.28 trillion in federal taxes and $1.57 trillion in state and local taxes, for a total tax bill of $4.85 trillion, or 31 percent of national income. This year, Tax Freedom Day falls on April 24, or 114 days into the year,” the group writes on its website.

Maine’s Tax Freedom Day is just six days from today, on April 14, making the Pine Tree State the 11th fastest state in the country to earn its full annual tax bill — 104 days into the year. Five days later, the states top tax crusaders — Gov. Paul LePage and U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin — will speak at a Tax Day Rally hosted by Maine Taxpayers United in Lewiston.

Louisiana, the first state to earn enough to pay off its taxes, celebrated Tax Freedom Day on April 2. — Mario Moretto.

Rand Paul and the Domino’s Pizza effect

On Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky  — an outspoken libertarian who advocates for decreased taxes, less U.S. involvement overseas, limits on U.S. citizen surveillance programs and the gold standard — became the latest Republican to throw his hat in the ring for the party’s 2016 presidential nomination. I figured now would be a good time to look back on Paul’s only stop in Maine, when he was a keynote speaker at last year’s Maine GOP Convention.

During an interview at McLaughlin’s Seafood and Takeout, Paul said Maine’s huge bloc of independent voters should be attracted to his brand of the Republican Party. The comment came as Paul was launching a campaign to grow the party’s appeal among minority voters, women and other demographics that have typically eschewed the GOP.

The Kentucky senator said the Maine GOP must do “what Domino’s did,” when the pizza company changed its recipe to win over new customers.

“They said, ‘You know, our crust sucks, and we’ve heard what you’re saying, and we’re going to try to do better,’” he said. “The Republican Party needs to understand the brand isn’t so great, and we need to do better. Some of that is issues, and some of it is just showing up.”<

You can read the full Paul story here. — Mario Moretto.

Reading list

 Rock photography in Portland

James Pappaconstantine - 10.jpg

I’d be remiss not to plug the awesome work of our BDN visuals team, who have posted some killer photography recently over on Collage, our staff photojournalism blog.

As a lover of photography and of loud guitars, I was especially fond of Troy Bennett’s interview with James Pappaconstantine, a Portland photographer who’s shot some of rock ‘n’ roll’s greatest acts as they’ve appeared in Maine’s largest city. Awesome stuff.

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.