Monthly Archives: April 2013

Government secrecy or personal privacy?: Concealed weapons permit data

As many of you certainly know, the legislature has wrestled this session on the issue of the extent to which the concealed weapons permits should be kept secret.

I have corresponded with many of you on this matter.  Some of you — including very close friends whose views I deeply value — expressed grave and, unfortunately, mutually irreconcilable concerns

I ended up supporting the Judiciary Committee’s minority report on LD 345 which sought generally to keep limited permit information public but also explicitly to protect those such as domestic abuse victims, crime witnesses, judges, jurors, and law enforcement officers whose safety might be threatened through any disclosure. (Note that domestic violence victims are already given general protection from public disclosure though the use of a different proxy legal address.)

The minority report sought to dampen any possibility of “wholesale” release of permit data by limiting public inquiry to single individual request per day. So a member of the public could walk into the local police station and ask if one individual at a specific address had been locally issued a concealed weapons permit and expect simply to receive an answer of either yes or no.

The minority report also allowed confidentiality to be extended to anyone with reason to believe that disclosure of their name and town would subject them to harassment.

But ultimately, after extensive floor debate, the minority report failed by a large margin.

The bill as passed essentially makes secret all individual concealed weapons permit information at some expense to public oversight and transparency.

Knowing that many of you care about this issue and that some of you necessarily will be disappointed with my position, I just wanted to be transparent with you on my own reasoning and voting.

School funding: Analysis and two questions for Maine legislators

Maine-School-Funding-graph

Above is a graph that shows the underlying conditions that make the case for additional funding for state aid to local schools beyond what the Governor proposes.

The bottom line represents state subsidy to local schools. Note that since 2008 the state has cut school support by over $80 million.

The second lowest dashed line represents 55% of schools’ essential programs and services, a statutory level of support which the state has never reached.

The difference between the two bottom lines therefore can be understood as the structural gap in school funding that the state chronically has shifted to local school districts. For the current year that structural gap is approximately $200 million.

The second line from the top in blue represents 100% of the cost of schools’ essential programs and services. This is the state’s own calculation of the minimum threshold of school spending necessary to ensure that all Maine students have adequate opportunity to meet Maine’s educational standards.

The blue figures floating midway between the lower and upper lines represent the difference between state aid to local schools and the 100% cost of essential programs and services. This difference is the local lift that schools must raise locally in order to adequately fund education. In 2009, schools were obligated to raise $904 million from local property taxes to reach this threshold. In 2013, they needed to raise $1,098 million – nearly $200 million more.

The top line is actual total school spending. In 2009, Maine schools spent a total of $2,047 million on education. In 2013, total spending has declined to an estimated $2,026 million – a $20 million curtailment in educational programming.

But what is truly alarming is that, for the first time since the state has been making this calculation, total school spending currently is poised to decline below the minimum threshold level for essential programs and services.

Given that the Governor’s budget proposes to increase the structural gap between state funding and 100% of essential programs services by $22 million in 2014 and $51 million in 2015, this leaves legislators with two questions:

1) Are we as a state committed to providing adequate opportunity for all Maine students to reach the state’s learning standards? …Or do we instead give up and concede that Maine can no longer to afford to adequately educate all students?

2) If we are committed to ensuring adequate opportunity for learning, will we at least hold the line and maintain responsibility for the state’s share of support for schools? …Or will we instead shirk that responsibility and presume to shift an additional $22 million annual obligation to local schools’ property tax payers at the same time that the Governor proposes to slash municipal revenue sharing?