The Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine will focus a lot of attention this legislative session on bills to protect hunting, keep wildlife issues off the ballot, and change the way signatures are gathered for ballot initiatives.
SAM’s Executive Director, David Trahan, told me he hopes to pull all sportsmen together in support of the three bills, something that didn’t happen when the same bills were debated at the last legislative session.
Representative Steve Wood is sponsoring two of the Constitutional amendments. One would prohibit citizen ballot initiatives on wildlife issues. The other would establish and protect the right to hunt.
The third Constitutional amendment is sponsored by Representative Ellie Espling. It would require, to qualify an initiative for the ballot, that 10% of those who voted in the last statewide election sign the petitions in each Congressional district. This would, essentially, require more statewide support for an initiative. Right now, it is possible to collect enough signatures in the two most southern counties to qualify for the ballot.
Dave also told me that Representative Louis Luchini is sponsoring a bill to significantly reform the process of collecting signatures for ballot initiatives, including requiring signatures to be verified by notaries that are not paid by the campaigns, providing an online reporting system for suspected fraudulent signature gathering practices, and substantially increasing the penalties for abuses of the process.
Dave said SAM is also backing a bill to ban gun owner registries, based on a Rhode Island law. The bill will prohibit government agencies from keeping lists or registries of privately owned guns and owners of those guns, unless the guns or owners are connected to violent acts.
Finally, Dave told me SAM will work to re-establish a minimum age for hunting, probably 8 years old. This bill, sponsored by Senator Paul Davis, is a response to concerns that even 1-year-olds can hunt and enter moose and other lotteries. Dave explained that this bill would allow kids 5 and older to apply for permits, but they couldn’t win one until they were 8 years old. The legislature eliminated the age limit for hunting just last year.