AUGUSTA –– A legislative panel Thursday unanimously endorsed adjusting Maine law to ensure that roller derby participants can continue to run into one another, but not before learning that a similar fix may be required so ice hockey players can continue to do the same.
The legal analyst for the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee told lawmakers that the provision that made contact illegal in roller derby is identical to rules governing ice skating safety.
Sen. Amy Volk, R-Scarborough, said she supports amending the roller derby bill to ensure that ice hockey players are covered by Maine statute. But other committee members were wary of tinkering with the bill before evaluating whether the ice hockey section of law is designed to address liability concerns.
“I’m glad that we legalized roller derby today,” said Rep. Diane Russell, D-Portland, the sponsor of the bill. “But it looks like we may need another bill to legalize ice hockey as well.”
Russell’s bill was submitted at the request of women in the Maine Roller Derby league. While the league has existed for some time, a little-known and little-enforced provision in the law technically outlaws contact. It says: “A skater attempting to overtake other skaters shall do so in a manner that avoids collision with objects and other skaters in that skater’s field of vision.”
The same language appears under a section of the law governing ice skating.
Both prohibitions were adopted by the Legislature in 1991 in an apparent attempt to limit the liability of rink owners and shift it to skaters.
Volk said that adding the ice hockey change made sense and that she may propose it when the bill comes up for a floor vote.
Rep. Erin Herbig, D-Belfast, said she and other committee members were reluctant to deviate from the bill’s original intent.
“I think you have to be very careful about casting a wide net when you’re changing sections of the law that deal with safety and liability,” she said.
There are several roller derby leagues in Portland, Bangor, Rockland and Aroostook County. Participants became aware of the technicality after exploring the creation of a youth program.
The bill, L.D. 1559, still requires approval by the Legislature and Gov. Paul LePage before becoming law. If lawmakers move to fix the ice hockey provision, it will likely require an additional amendment or the submission of an after-deadline bill and clearance from a committee of legislative leaders.
Staff Writer Steve Mistler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at: