6 New Laws to Celebrate

As I wrote in an op-ed in the Press Herald on Sunday, the Constitution makes it clear that the bills – now totaling 71 – languishing on Governor LePage’s desk are now law. That includes six new laws we worked hard to pass that protect civil liberties in Maine. Here’s a look at them:

LD 113 (reforms out-of-touch drug laws): Decades of the failed “war on drugs” and increased arrests have done nothing to fix Maine’s drug addiction problem. With the passage of LD 113, people won’t automatically face a felony and up to five years in prison for certain low-level possession charges. Now, we can better use our scarce resources on proven treatment and recovery programs instead of locking people up without addressing the complex root causes of addiction. This is an important step in the right direction for Maine at a time when similar criminal justice reforms are gaining momentum nationwide.

LD 1013 (restricts the shackling of pregnant prisoners): Until passage of LD 1013, Maine was the only state in New England that allowed the shackling of pregnant prisoners. This practice posed a serious threat to the health of women and their pregnancies and constituted cruel and unusual punishment. Now, Maine is no longer an outlier on the issue and women will no longer be subjected to the increased health risks that come from being shackled before, during and immediately following labor and delivery.

LD 369 (protects New Mainers’ access to General Assistance): As the Constitution reminds us, the government must provide equal protection under the law for all people. Thanks to LD 369, thousands of Mainers will still be able to pay the rent and buy food for their families, regardless of where they were born. This critical law allows some immigrants, including asylum seekers who are in Maine lawfully but not allowed to work, to receive General Assistance for up to two years.

LD 319 (expands access to reproductive health care): Access to reproductive health services shouldn’t just be for the wealthy. This new law provides access to critical disease prevention and health services for low income, underinsured and uninsured women and men. Now, more than 13,000 low income Mainers will be able to get annual exams, testing and treatment for STDs, birth control and preventative screenings. Reproductive health care is a necessity, not a luxury, and should be available to everyone regardless of income.

LD 25 (limits drone spying by law enforcement): LD 25 protects Mainers’ privacy by requiring warrants before law enforcement conducts drone surveillance and placing limits on the data that the government can retain from such operations. More robust protections will be needed in the years to come, particularly as drone technology continues to evolve, but these new restrictions go a long way toward ensuring our privacy remains protected – both on the ground and from high up above.

LD 921: With social media nearly ubiquitous, some employers have begun demanding passwords from current or potential employees. This is not the right to privacy we expect or deserve, and thanks to LD 921 it is now prohibited in most workplaces. Digital privacy is an evolving area of law and the ACLU has actively pushed for additional protections like this one to ensure that workers are not coerced into giving up their right to privacy as a condition of employment.

LDs 25 and 921 join laws enacted in 2013 requiring warrants before the police can track cell phones, obtain text message content, or place cameras on private property. All of these reforms are part of our efforts to protect the privacy of Mainersby bringing the law up to speed with advancing technology.

No one agrees with all 71 of Maine’s new laws. But one thing they all have in common is that – in order to even reach the governor’s desk – they all had bipartisan support in both houses of the Legislature. For more on that, check out thischannel 8 interview with our policy counsel, Oami Amarasingham.

 

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