23 March 2010

Maine Bill May Close Vital Records


Anyone living in Maine or doing research in Maine should know that the Maine legislature will be deciding a bill that could close access to vital records.

A bill recently passed out of the Health and Human Services Committee of the Maine legislature which would close vital records and divorce records in Maine for 100 years after the event. The bill is LD 1781 An Act To Allow Electronic Filing of Vital Records and Closing of Records To Guard against Fraud and Make Other Changes to the Vital Records Laws.

A public hearing was held on the bill on March 3rd, but the genealogy community in Maine was not aware of the bill or of the public hearing, so no one was at the hearing to protest. Since then, APG and NEAPG members Pam Eagleson and Helen Shaw have been working to amend the bill so that genealogists are included in the bill as persons with "a direct and legitimate interest in the matter recorded."

While input on problems with the bill was sought by the legal analyst preparing an amendment to the bill, that input was not included in the amendment which was made available on March 18. That amendment made the bill even worse.

At this time, the only option is to have bill LD 1781 amended on the House floor or killed there. Anyone living in Maine or doing research in Maine should contact the Maine legislators or members of the Maine Health and Human Services Committee. Let them know in your own words that, as a family researcher, you want to maintain open records in Maine.

The full text and status of this bill are online at http://www.legislature.maine.gov/legis/bills/display_ps.asp?LD=1781&snum=124

It appears the House agendas are posted a day in advance. If you want to follow this agenda, the link is: http://www.maine.gov/legis/house/hcalfr.htm