It’s true – citizens have been so active this session that the Maine Legislature is revising its process for submitting and disseminating testimony. The Maine Legislature will no longer accept testimony from the public submitted through email and has instead developed an automated system that will be available to the public via the Maine Legislature’s website on Monday, April 22nd.
The sheer volume of testimony submitted this session has been so overwhelming to committee clerks that the state has been forced to develop a streamlined process for submitting and disseminating testimony. According to the Legislative Information Office, the system has been developed because committee clerks have been unable to process in a timely manner all of the testimony submitted by the public for numerous bills that have been considered this session.
Currently, committee clerks are required to print off or forward (based on committee preference) all testimony submitted by the public to every member of a committee. In some cases, committee clerks had to print off or forward several hundred pieces of testimony from the public before the start of a public hearing.
This is a herculean task, particularly when you consider how many contentious bills have been considered this session. For example, LD 798, a bill that would remove certain exemptions from immunization requirements, saw more than 1,660 pieces of testimony submitted by members of the public. For a single committee clerk, it would take all day and then some to print off 1,660 individual testimonies.
The new automated system will disseminate testimony to all members of a committee once an individual submits their testimony. The form that will be made available on April 22 will ask members of the public to include their name and address, select the committee to which they’re sending the testimony and check a box signifying the LD (legislative document) number of the bill. For people who do not wish to disclose their address, they may put the word “citizen” in this box, according to the Legislative Information Office.
The following is a copy of the notice distributed to the public yesterday:
“Beginning April 22, 2019 the Maine Legislature will no longer accept testimony through e-mail.
For your convenience, a new submission form will be available 24/7 through the Maine Legislature’s website.
This system will automate the distribution of electronic testimony to the committee members, analyst and clerk.
Testimony will continue to be included in the public record for committee meetings.
If you are planning to attend the hearing and provide paper copies, please do not submit your testimony electronically.
Testimony submitted on-line the day of the public hearing will be posted to the internet. Do not include personal information that you do not want made public.
Materials subject to copyright protections will be removed before posting to the web site, but they will be included in the record and the email forwarded to committee members.
Testimony emailed directly to the committee clerk will not be included in the public record, forwarded to the committee members or posted to the web page.
Links to the new submission form will be available on both the home page and committee pages beginning Monday, April 22, 2019
For questions or assistance, please contact the Legislative Information Office at 287-1692.
While some may be upset that email testimony can no longer be submitted, the proposed change shows how effective grassroots efforts have been this session in supporting and opposing various pieces of legislation. Now is not the time to give up, but rather to double down on efforts to empower Mainers to participate in the legislative process.