Sen. Eric Brakey wants to allow the unlicensed ownership of hedgehogs as pets. Rep. Mattie Daughtry is seeking legislation that would regulate rabbit production for local consumption. Rep. David McCrea will push for a bill that would allow hunters whose religious beliefs prohibit them from wearing hunter orange to instead wear red clothing.
As the 128th session of the Maine Legislature gets underway, these are just a few examples of some of the more unusual legislative requests that will be considered this year.
Brakey, a Republican from Auburn, said he was approached by constituents who say current Maine law makes it too pricey and cumbersome to keep a hedgehog as a pet. Hedgehogs, which are native to Europe, Asia and Africa, are mostly nocturnal and are distinctive because their spines are made of stiff hollow hairs.
“In order to legally own a hedgehog you must have an importation permit and a housing permit,” Brakey said, estimating the cost at roughly $50. “These are the same permits that you would have to go through in order to own a tiger as a pet. It’s a tax on pet owners that is not really necessary.”
Under Maine law, a hedgehog and a tiger are both considered exotic species. Brakey said his bill would put the hedgehog on the same footing as a chinchilla or a guinea pig, which don’t require permits from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Chinchillas, rodents that are slightly larger and more robust than a squirrel, are native to the Andes and crepuscular, meaning they are active during the twilight hours.
Mattie Daughtry, a Brunswick Democrat, has proposed legislation that would allow farms that slaughter fewer than 1,000 rabbits annually to sell them on their farms, at farmers’ markets, at community supported agriculture outlets, to consumers at their homes, to grocery stores and to locally owned restaurants, all without being inspected.
Under her proposal, rabbits can not be transported across state lines and all rabbits would have to be sold whole. The name of the rabbit producer and its address must be visible on a label as well as safe handling and cooking instructions.
Daughtry said her bill would make rabbits more accessible to Mainers and provide an economic boost to local farmers, who want to sell their product to local restaurants or at local farmers’ markets.
“We want to make it friendlier for (rabbit) farmers to sell their product at farmers’ markets. The art of slaughtering animals is getting lost and it is something we need to preserve,” said Daughtry, a supporter of locally grown foods.
McCrea, a Fort Fairfield Democrat, is serving his first term in the Legislature. An Amish community in Fort Fairfield and Easton asked him to sponsor legislation that would allow Amish hunters to wear red rather than hunter orange during hunting season.
He said the Amish people lead a simple life and try to avoid bringing attention to themselves. Their religious beliefs frown upon them wearing brightly colored clothing such as blaze orange, but their leaders told McCrea they could wear red.
State law requires deer hunters using firearms to wear at least two articles of hunter orange clothing, including a hat. Hunter orange clothing is not required while deer hunting during archery season.
“My heart is in it and it’s a no-cost issue,” McCrea said. “It’s an issue of religious freedom. I think we are running the risk of going to court.”
McCrea said a similar bill presented to the Legislature in 2015 failed to pass, but did not know why.
Other lawmakers whose legislative requests – in most cases the language of the full bill has yet to be developed – might get attention include:
• Rep. Kimberly J. Monaghan, D-Cape Elizabeth, will sponsor legislation to prohibit elephants in traveling animal acts.
• Sen. Thomas Saviello, R-Wilton, will propose an act to establish a mattress stewardship program.
• Rep. Matthew Dana II of the Passamaquoddy Tribe will introduce legislation to change the name of Columbus Day to Native American Appreciation Day.
• Rep. Susan Austin, R-Gray, wants to place a deposit and refund value on miniature liquor bottles.
• Rep. Richard M. Cebra, R-Naples, proposes legislation to “enhance safety on college and university campuses” by allowing firearms to be carried on the campuses of public colleges and universities.