Former Maine sheriff proposes law to seize firearms from violent offenders

It’s Monday from Augusta, where even though the Senate and House of Representatives aren’t in session, there is a slew of committee work happening. One of the major areas of focus today will be Maine’s medical marijuana program, which is the subject of a dozen bills that are in public hearings today before the Health and Human Services Committee. 

Maine has allowed medical marijuana since 2002, three years after 62 percent of Maine voters supported the measure in a statewide referendum. Voters approved Question 5 in 2002, which established the Maine Medical Marijuana Act, a body of law that has been the subject of countless attempts at legislation ever since. 

The bills range from attempts to expand the number of ailments that qualify for medical marijuana treatments to allowing the use of marijuana in hospitals to increasing the number of patients one person can grow for. 

It’s going to be a long day of testimony for the lawmakers on the Health and Human Services Committee. 

Across the rest of the State House complex, the list of bills under consideration today is long and varied. The Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee starts the day with a trio of bills that would increase oversight of amusement park rides and this afternoon will hear testimony on four bills related to the prevention of domestic violence, including attempts to expand the use of electronic monitoring of offenders to keep them away from victims. 

Rep. Mark Dion, D-Portland, a former sheriff and long-time member of the Criminal Justice Committee, is trying something that’s been tried and failed in past years: a bill that would force anyone who “has been proved” to pose a danger to another person to turn over his or her firearms. The bill would require the guns to be either turned over to a law enforcement agency or sold by a federally licensed firearms dealer. 

The Judiciary Committee will hold work sessions, which means they might be voting on recommendations, on eight bills related to the property foreclosure process. Those are spread throughout the day beginning at 9:30 a.m. 

The State and Local Government Committee has an interesting study in contrasts today: In the morning they will consider two bills related to the maintenance of ancient burial grounds. In the afternoon they’ll make recommendations on a trio of bills that would either extend or eliminate term limits for legislators. The votes on those three term limits bills will be interesting to watch and will be an example of a committee making a stand, either way, for bills that will likely be the subject of robust debate up on the House and Senate floors. 

And last, but definitely not least, is the introduction of 10 bills to the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee that all have to do with casinos, harness racing and gaming. That hearing begins at 9 a.m. and is likely to take most of the day. 

With such an abundance of controversial and high-stakes hearings all happening on the same day, parking will be at a premium around the State House. But unless you work there, you don’t have to worry about it. You can read about all those bills and others (if you’re into the disposal of solid waste, there are bills up for consideration on that, too), as well as stream live audio of all the action, by clicking here. — Christopher Cousins 

Rally for Knight’s Pond

A bipartisan group of lawmakers will gather in Cumberland this morning at Knight’s Pond and Blueberry Hill, which is one of dozens of conservation initiatives that could be in trouble due to Gov. Paul LePage’s refusal to issue voter-approved bonds from 2010 and 2012 to replenish the Land for Maine’s Future program.

The word around the State House is that LePage is using the bonds as a bargaining chip in his efforts to increase timber harvesting on public lands, which would create revenue LePage is said to be eyeing for energy programs.

According to a news release from Senate Democrats, there are 30 conservation projects across 15 Maine counties that are in jeopardy if LePage doesn’t release the $11.5 million in bonds.

Among the state and local lawmakers expected at a news conference this morning in Cumberland are Sen. Cathy Breen, D-Falmouth, and Rep. Michael Timmons, R-Cumberland.

“Local taxpayers have put $300,000 into preserving this precious site,” said Breen in a release. “Now is the time for Gov. LePage to follow through on Maine voters’ commitment to conservation and issue the Land for Maine’s Future bonds, securing the state’s commitment to preserving this site.” — Christopher Cousins

Reading list

Must have been a gem of a man, judging by his daughter

The Orono community and people across Maine are morning the death of 74-year-old Ted Curtis Jr. on Friday. Curtis was a lawyer, lawmaker and Vietnam veteran who served in both houses of the Legislature, on the Orono School Board and on numerous other boards and committees. He was a well-loved guy, evidenced by the fact that a touching and detailed remembrance story by Judy Harrison was the second-most-read story on the BDN’s website over the weekend.

I never knew Ted, but he left behind a lot that has changed Maine for the better, not the least of which were the 18-year-old voting age limit and the state’s bottle bill. At the top of his list of triumphs for me, though, is his daughter, the BDN’s own Abigail Curtis, who in addition to being our dedicated, compassionate and award-winning Waldo County reporter, is a ray of warm light upon everyone she’s near.

Abby, my friend, I hope you don’t mind me using something you posted on Facebook over the weekend, which I still can’t read without tears:

We will miss him and love him every day, and while it seems impossible to go through this world without my father’s cheer, energy, joy, singing, bread-baking, care-taking and all the million other things he was and he did, I know that we will somehow find a way to muddle through. If you loved my dad (and I know that so many people do), I think he would like it if you would sing a goofy song, hold your honey’s hand, plan your next set of travels and smile at the world real big in his honor.

I’m trying, but it’s hard. — Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.