Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Concealed guns: The Judiciary Committee will be the center of attention Tuesday as lawmakers take up a bill from Rep. Corey Wilson, R-Augusta, to shield the information of concealed handgun permit holders.
This story has been written to death, so no need for background here. Expect a strong showing from gun rights activists, who have been put on red-alert by the Maine Republican Party, the National Rifle Association and the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine.
Also expect this question from supporters of making the information private for the first time since 1981: Why aren't welfare recipients subject to the state's open records law? After all, they're receiving taxpayer dollars?
Apparently Wilson asked a similar question during Monday's town hall forum sponsored by WGAN.
Here's why welfare recipients are not subject to state, or federal, public records laws, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, which administers the federal law (FOIA):
"... The courts have most vigorously protected the personal, intimate details of an individual's life -- consistently protecting personal information that, if disclosed, is likely to cause the individual involved personal distress or embarrassment. Courts regularly uphold the nondisclosure of information concerning marital status, legitimacy of children, welfare payments, family fights and reputation, medical condition, date of birth, religious affiliation, citizenship data, genealogical history establishing membership in a Native American Tribe, social security numbers, . . . even 'favorable information,' such as details of an employee's outstanding performance evaluation, can be protected on the basis that it 'may well embarrass an individual or incite jealousy' among co-workers."
There are several other law court decisions on this issue. Some additional research shows that making public General Assistance recipients is also equal to revealing an individual's income and assets since both thresholds determine who receives public assistance.
DGA screening: The Democratic Governors Association has already weighed in on the 2014 Maine gubernatorial race, when chairman Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin fired a shot across the bow of presumed independent candidate Eliot Cutler last week.
But it appears that the DGA is more heavily involved in the Maine governors race than previously thought. According to a letter from Shumlin to Democratic supporters, the DGA has been interviewing prospective Democratic candidates.
"We know that many of you are worried about splitting the vote now that Cutler has again entered the race. But there’s a key difference this year: the Maine Democratic Party and the Democratic Governors Association have together been meeting with potential candidates and laying the groundwork for what will be the strongest and most well-financed gubernatorial campaign this state has ever seen."
Here's the full letter:
'D' for dim: More good news for Maine and the transparency of state government.
The Sunlight Foundation has given the Legislature's website a 'D.'
This will come as little surprise to anyone who frequently navigates the site. As Sunlight's report card noted, it's not that public information can't be found, it's that it's very difficult for the uninitiated to find it.
Here's how other New England states fared:
— Connecticut - A
— New Hampshire - A
— Massachusetts - F
— Rhode Island - F
— Vermont - B
Good timing: Guess what this week is? It's Sunshine Week, "a national initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information."
Non-political item: The hot item at South by Southwest? Google glasses, eyeware that allows the wearer to search the Web, check email and take pictures and video without the hassle of picking up a smart phone.
Not everyone is thrilled by this emerging technology.
The 5 Point Cafe, a seedy bar in Seattle, has banned Google glasses, promising "(expletive) kickings" for patrons wearing the tech-specs.
The bar later acknowledged the ban was a publicity stunt, but the owners genuinely seem put off by Google goggles. Yesterday the bar posted a photo on its Facebook page showing actress Sarah Jessica Parker alongside a man wearing the glasses.
From the post:
"Look at this photo. C'mon, really? If nothing else, we're saving you from looking like a complete idiot in public. You'll be thankful in a few years when your kids grow up and don't have to see photos of you wearing these ridiculous things. But then if you wear these things your chance of having children will go way down. Eh, so maybe they'll be good for population control..."Tweet
Steve Mistler covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald. He spends a lot of time in the hallways of the State House.