Tuesday, January 28, 2020 6:36 AM
(Photo: Dan Kirchoff)
Andy O’Brien is communications director at Maine AFL-CIO. He is a former managing editor of The Free Press and a former state legislator. His Eye on Augusta column appears weekly in The Free Press.
Committee to Consider Banning E-Cigarettes & Vaping Devices
The Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee will consider a measure that would ban nicotine vaping devices on February 5. LD 2052, sponsored by Sen. Rebecca Millett (D-Cumberland County), would only allow e-cigarettes and nicotine liquid to be sold in Maine if the federal Food and Drug Administration rules that using them is an effective way to quit smoking and if it develops regulations for the manufacture, testing, sale and use of the devices. Millett’s proposal would allow registered medical marijuana dispensaries to continue to sell vaping devices for marijuana, but adult-use marijuana stores would only be able to sell them if the state adopts rules governing the sale of the products.
Across the country states are considering banning or tightly restricted the sale of e-cigarettes and nicotine liquid in reaction to a surge of vaping among teens. One federal survey found that more than 5 million middle- and high-school teens said they vaped e-cigarette products in 2019, up from 3.6 million the year before. The new bans are also a reaction to an outbreak of lung disease linked to vaping that killed over 50 people and sickened 2,561 people last year.
However, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the disease is likely linked to vitamin E acetate, an additive in some marijuana vaping products — not in nicotine vapes. CDC studies found that 82 percent of hospitalized patients reported using THC-containing products and just 14 percent reported using only nicotine-containing e-cigarettes. The CDC and Food and Drug Administration recommend that people do not use THC-containing e-cigarettes or products from sources such as friends, family or online dealers.
Banning Glyphosate Pesticides Near School Grounds
The Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee will once again take up a bill that would ban the use of pesticides near school grounds on February 4. LD 1888, sponsored by Rep. Lori Gramlich (D-Old Orchard Beach), would ban the application of herbicides, including glyphosate, within 75 feet of school grounds, public playgrounds and child care centers.
A recent study published by researchers at the University of Washington and University California, Berkeley, found that glyphosate, commonly known by the brand name Roundup, increases the risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma by 41 percent in people who have been exposed to it. In 2015 the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer also classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has insisted that there is “no evidence glyphosate is toxic to the nervous or immune systems” and is not a developmental or reproductive toxin.
Free Deer Permits to Older People with Disabilities
Every year, without fail, legislators submit bills that would give special hunting privileges to seniors, veterans, children and people with disabilities. On February 5, the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee will hold a public hearing on LD 1905, sponsored by Rep. Tim Theriault (R-China), which would allow people over 65 with permanent disabilities to crossbow hunt antlerless deer without a permit.
On the same day, the committee will consider LD 1920, sponsored by Rep. Catherine Nadeau (D-Winslow), which would provide free hunting, trapping and fishing licenses to people who have lost the use of their lower extremities. The measure would also allow the department to defer a moose permit for one season when a moose permit holder or immediate family member has a serious medical illness.
Letting Retired Police Be School Resource Officers
In the wake of an epidemic of mass school shootings, many school districts have hired police officers to patrol the halls. On February 3, the Criminal Justice Committee will hear LD 1971, sponsored by Sen. Jim Dill (D-Penobscot County), which would allow districts to hire not only law enforcement officers, but also retired police officers. But while some school officials believe that school resource officers (SROs) can help prevent tragedies, criminal justice reform groups like the Justice Policy Institute argue that SROs do little to prevent attacks, while students in schools with SROs are more likely to be arrested than disciplined by school officials.
Civil Asset Forfeiture
In recent years, states have begun reforming their civil asset forfeiture laws, which allow police to confiscate money, cars or real estate they link to drug crimes. Critics argue that this practice gives police a perverse incentive to make arrests in order to shore up their budgets. Under current law, the Maine Department of Public Safety, which oversees the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, must keep an inventory of property seized and forfeited and keep it in a centralized database. However, a 2018 Maine Beacon investigation revealed that the department was not keeping records of property seized in asset forfeitures and for years had actually been keeping the money, rather than depositing it in the state’s general fund as it is required to do by law.
On February 3, Sen. Susan Deschambault (D-York County) will present LD 1983, which would require law enforcement agencies to keep records of civil forfeitures and make them available to the public to inspect. The measure would also repeal the law requiring the Department of Public Safety to maintain a centralized record of property seized.
Banning “Stash Cans”
If you go to shopping websites like Amazon and look up “stash cans” you can find all sorts of items — from water bottles and soda cans to hair brushes, deodorant and shaving cream containers — that have secret compartments where people can hide their drugs. Sen. David Woodsome (D-York County) will present LD 1991, which would classify stash cans as drug paraphernalia and prohibit their sale in Maine. The measure will be heard by the Criminal Justice Committee on February 3.
Giving Pay Raises to Corrections Officers
State agencies have been struggling to recruit and retain employees at a time of very low unemployment. On February 5, Rep. Bill Pluecker (U-Warren) will present LD 1941, which would require corrections officers to be paid the same as state law enforcement officers. The measure will be heard by the Criminal Justice Committee.
Tax Credit for Caregivers
The Taxation Committee will take up a bill that would put a little more money into the pockets of people who care for family members on February 6. LD 1919, sponsored by Rep. Kristen Cloutier (D-Lewiston), would provide a refundable tax credit of up to $2,000 to people who provide 150 hours per year of personal care assistance services to adult family members. Under the proposal, the family member would need to require assistance with at least one daily living activity and be either a spouse, domestic partner, parent or relative of the caregiver.
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