April 8, 2013

State House Notebook: Zeroing in on who's done more nothing

House Democrats compare this Legislature to the previous one, when Republicans ran the show.

By Steve Mistler smistler@pressherald.com
State House Bureau

and Michael Shepherd mshepherd@mainetoday.com
State House Bureau

(Continued from page 1)


Since David Trahan took over as executive director of the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine in early 2012, he said he's grown membership by about 2,700.

But most of them -- 1,700, he said -- have joined in the past two months. That's no wonder.

In that span, Maine has had its most spirited gun-rights debate in recent memory. Trahan's group wrote L.D. 345, a bill sponsored by Rep. Corey Wilson, R-Augusta, that would make data on concealed-weapons permits confidential.

But Trahan, a former Republican legislator, didn't just author the bill; he spearheaded public momentum behind it after a public-information request by the Bangor Daily News for the names, addresses and dates of birth of every permit holder in Maine.

Trahan said gun advocacy typically takes up 10 percent of his time. This year, it's been 90 percent.

He's gotten results: There's already an emergency law on the books to make the data confidential, and Wilson's bill seems primed for passage. Many Democrats support it, and a version of it left committee on Wednesday.

Couple that debate with the gun-control narrative nationwide after mass shootings, and it's no surprise Trahan's group has gained.

The focus of his organization has turned.

"When I took over, I was expecting to talk about brook trout and deer," he said. "I've never seen anything like this."


Monday will mark the beginning of a busy and controversial week for the Legislature's Criminal Justice Committee. 

The panel is taking up more than 20 gun-related bills. Some of the measures are gun-control bills and include proposals that would limit the size of magazines, close the so-called gun show loophole and repeal a 2011 bill that allowed concealed handgun permit holders to leave their guns in their vehicles when parking on private property, including at work. 

There are also bills to loosen gun regulations, including a proposal by Rep. Aaron Libby, R-Waterboro, that would effectively nullify any gun control regulation enacted by the federal government. Libby's bill is identical to several measures taken up in other state houses where lawmakers are anticipating that Congress, or President Obama, will enact additional gun control measures. 


It wasn't mentioned during the floor debates over a bill that would have prohibited people under age 18 from using an indoor tanning booth, but the Affordable Care Act, dubbed Obamacare, assesses a 10 percent tax on tanning services. 

The provision was enacted in 2010 and is one of several so-called "sin taxes" that Congress inserted in the federal health care law to help pay for it. 

One other fact that wasn't mentioned during the debate: Only four states have laws that prohibit tanning by minors, but 29 states have introduced measures this year adding restrictions to teen tanning, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.  

The regulatory groundswell comes amid fresh research from the American Cancer Society, which reported that tanning booths produce 10 to 15 times more ultraviolet radiation than natural sunlight, thus increasing the likelihood of developing melanoma by at least 75 percent.

In Maine, the Legislature passed the expanded tanning restrictions on minors, but Gov. LePage vetoed the bill. He said parents can make the right decisions on whether their teenagers should be tanning, and that the bill was "government run amok."

State House Bureau Reporter Steve Mistler can be contacted at 620-7016 or:


Twitter: @stevemistler

State House Bureau Reporter Michael Shepherd can be contacted at 620-7015 or:


Twitter: @mikeshepherdme


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