For Immediate Release
AUGUSTA - State Rep. Andre Cushing is preparing legislation that would permit Maine's law enforcement community to contribute in support of one of their own who needs financial help due to a medical emergency or an unusual hardship.
His action was prompted by a situation involving the Penobscot County Law Enforcement Association (LEA), where the Fraternal Order of Police raised money for a deputy's wife who was suffering from cancer.
As word spread by e-mail of the fundraising effort, donations flowed in from other police departments and friends of law enforcement. However, when the effort moved outside the Penobscot County LEA, it ran afoul of state law. All contributions had to be returned to the donors.
A Bangor Daily News story on March 13, the date of the funeral for the deputy's wife, quoted a special assistant in the Maine Attorney General's Office, who said that when the person in charge of the fundraising drive e-mailed law enforcement members outside of the department, it was a violation of the police solicitation law.
"The Attorney General's Office said basically that when we raise money in-house for a cause like this, it's fine, but we cannot extend the effort beyond our own department," said Troy Morton, chief deputy at the Penobscot County Sheriff's Office. "We're only allowed to solicit outside money for the Special Olympics. What is surprising is that we received contributions from some of the highest-ranking law enforcement people in the state."
Rep. Cushing (R-Hampden), assistant leader of the House Republicans, said he was troubled by the situation. "I believe this law needs to be changed to give the law enforcement community the right to take care of each other," he said. "My bill would not allow them to solicit money for police dogs or flak jackets and things like that, but only for cases of extreme personal hardship and serious medical problems. It seems only fair that they should have that right."
The prospective bill would first have to be approved to proceed by the bipartisan Legislative Council, which is comprised of the 10 members of leadership. If approved, it would most likely be assigned to the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee for a public hearing and work session before moving to the full Legislature for consideration. ###
Maine House Republicans
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