Proposed New Laws on State Legislature Sites
So I was chatting online with my dad this morning and he reminded me of how much we depended on free legal resources when I used to work with him. I used to help him run a wholesale liquor distributorship and retail spirits, wine, and beer shop in Bar Harbor, Maine. My dad still manages the business. I had forgotten how nerve-wracking this time of year is legally for our business. This is the month where new proposed bills, “LD”s, pop up in the Maine State Legislature for consideration. Every day into the spring Dad goes onto the maine.gov website and scrolls through all of the proposed LDs, looking for ones that could potentially affect the liquor business. (If you go to http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/bills/default_ps.asp?PID=1456&snum=125 and in the LD number box type 0 – like 1000, you’ll get all the current bills or you can just search by text.) And there’s always something.
When we find a scary-sounding bill, we have time to speak with other owners and our own representatives about our views on the subject. We often had to gather support either for or against a bill and troop to Augusta to speak at the committee public hearing (the date and time also published online) and weigh in on whether the bill should go forward. I really think having the proposed bills so easily find-able online makes the entire legislative process more accessible to the state’s citizens.
Although you can search for specific bills by their LD numbers and follow their status through committee and votes, my dad prefers to browse through all of the hundreds of proposed bills himself – just in case something slips in that might affect us but doesn’t necessarily have some boozy keyword involved. This is actually pretty entertaining in the dead of winter because otherwise you would never learn about some of the crazy things that this small state cares about. For instance, so far in the current session there’s:
– LD 11, An Act To Regulate the Keeping of Wolf Hybrids;
– LD 41, An Act To Amend the Laws Governing the Maine Potato Board;
– LD 59, An Act To Designate the Whoopie Pie as the State Dessert;
– LD 90, An Act Regarding Graphic Images Displayed with the Intention of Interfering with Civil Rights; and LD 91, An Act Relating to Disorderly Conduct in the Vicinity of a Funeral (responses to Snyder v. Phelps maybe?); and
– LD 126, An Act To Allow a Person with One Arm To Possess Certain Kinds of Prohibited Knives.
And that’s not even counting all the hunting-, fishing-, and trapping-related proposed laws like An Act Regarding the Moose Lottery, An Act To Amend the Fees for Infant Lifetime Hunting Licenses, An Act To Allow the Use of Crossbows during the Archery Season, An Act To Enhance Hunting for Maine Residents over 70 Years of Age, An Act To Repeal the Sunset on the Law Relating to the Landing of Dragged Crabs, An Act To Allow the Owner of Waterfront Property To Fish That Body of Water without a Fishing License, An Act To Allow Storage of Lobster Traps on Docks, An Act To Allow Trapping in Northern Maine without the Written Consent of the Landowner, and An Act To Institute a Snaring Program for Coyotes. (And that’s just a sampling!)
The website was good for keeping on top of other legislative business too. I remember one year, just a few weeks before Memorial Day, some new state senator decided to read through all the existing liquor laws and thought that he had stumbled upon one that required all stores that sold alcohol of any kind to be closed on Sundays. The Sunday that comes smack in the middle of the Memorial Day weekend and the kickoff to summer is naturally a huge business day for most of tourist-driven Maine. Apparently law enforcement was supposed to get ready to check that we were all properly closed on Sunday. This was reported on the public website so luckily we storekeepers had the chance to correct the legislature – the senator was actually reading the law incorrectly and the Sunday sales ban had been repealed – before the holiday weekend.
Anyway, that’s a just a taste of one of the free online legislative sources from Maine that I’m aware of. If you’re ever bored and have time to kill, I highly recommend checking out other states. It’s kind of fun trying to imagine the scenario that led to someone proposing bills like “An Act Regarding Assault on a Firefighter” and “An Act Concerning Cremated Remains”!