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Alert: Maine proposes to restrict access to vital records

 
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ChipG
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Joined: 30 Jan 2005
Posts: 109

PostPosted: 08 Mar 2010 18:03    Post subject: Alert: Maine proposes to restrict access to vital records Reply with quote

There's a proposal in the Maine State Legislature to limit all access to any vital records -- birth, marriage, death -- for 100 years from the event.

The supposed goal has to do with identity theft, but apparently there's no evidence that this is really a problem in relation to these records.

On the other hand, these restrictions would seriously limit our ability to research our families, apart from direct relatives (parents, children).

For more information, check out this link at the Maine Genealogy Network: Bill Would Restrict Access to Vital Records in Maine, and scroll down the comments to the link for lists of Maine state representatives and senators to contact on this issue.
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jbott



Joined: 28 Oct 2005
Posts: 39
Location: San Diego, CA

PostPosted: 10 Apr 2010 07:53    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sadly, the bill was signed into law on April 2, 2010.

www.firstamendmentcenter.org/news.aspx?id=22811

There is no info on what one has to do to get a "researcher card."

I could not find any info on when it goes into effect.

I assume that means the the online record lookups will be taken offline. So, now is the time to use them to the maximum (they are still online as of today 4/10/10)

This is a really big blow for us genealogists.
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jbott



Joined: 28 Oct 2005
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Location: San Diego, CA

PostPosted: 10 Apr 2010 09:41    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here is the full text of the new law.

HP1271, LD 1781, item 1, 124th Maine State Legislature
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

http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/bills/display_ps.asp?snum=124&paper=HP1271&PID=1456

After reading the text it is still not clear if access is only restricted to the actual vital record or to ANY information on the vital record. Also, the section below seems like they can disclose information to anyone they deem worthy, "when satisfied that the applicant therefor has a direct and legitimate interest..." "Direct and legitimate interest" is not defined.

"2706. Disclosure of vital records
Custodians of certificates and records of birth, marriage and death may permit inspection of records, or issue certified copies of certificates or records, or any parts thereof, when satisfied that the applicant therefor has a direct and legitimate interest in the matter recorded, the decision of the state registrar or the clerk of a municipality being subject to review by the Superior Court, under the limitations of this section."

The section below sounds like they can publish specific information, but not all information, to the general public. It still leaves it unclear, "except as specified in department rules." What rules, exactly, do they mean?

"2706 4. Unlawful disclosure of data. It is unlawful for any employee of the State or of any municipality in the State to disclose data contained in such records, except as authorized in this section and except that a clerk of a municipality may cause to be printed in the annual town report the births reported within the year covered by the report, by number of births and location by city or town where birth occurred, deaths reported within the year covered by the said report, by date of death, name, age and location by city or town where death occurred, and marriages reported within the year covered by the report by names of parties and date of marriage. All other details of birth, marriage, divorce or death may not be available to the general public, except as specified in department rules."

Since they can report date, name, age, and location, then perhaps the online marriage and death databases will remain online. Hopefully, anyway.

"2706 5. Records disclosed. Vital records of a person must be made available at any reasonable time upon that person's request or to the request of that person's spouse, registered domestic partner,
descendants, parents or guardians or that person's duly designated attorney or agent or attorney for an agent designated by that person or by a court having jurisdiction over that person..."

I wonder how they are going to determine who is a descendant? I guess they would have to take your word on it or whatever proof you may submit. I don't think they are going to research your proof.

I see nothing preventing anyone (Maine residents) other than Maine government employees from publishing vital record information. I note that the Maine Genealogy group publishes some of this information. For instance they seem to have a copy of the Maine marriages database on their website here:

http://www.mainegenealogy.net/marriage_search.asp

I don't know if this is an actual copy of the database on their own server, or if it is a behind-the-scenes link to the government database.

Also see the amendment to the law regarding access by genealogists.

http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/bills/bills_124th/billtexts/HP127103.asp

"2706 Sec 12 8. Genealogical research. Custodians of certificates and records of birth, marriage and death may permit inspection of records by and issue noncertified copies to researchers engaged in genealogical research who hold researcher identification cards, as specified by rule adopted by the department. The department shall adopt rules to implement this subsection. Rules adopted by the department pursuant to this subsection are routine technical rules as defined by Title 5, chapter 375, subchapter 2-A."

It it still not clear what a "researcher identification card" is. Does one have to be a certified professional genealogy researcher, or can anyone doing genealogy research apply to the state of Maine for such a card. I am guessing it is the latter, "researcher identification cards as specified by rule adopted by the department. The department shall adopt rules to implement this subsection." But it is only a guess. I suppose they could adopt a rule stating that you have to be a certified professional genealogist.

A Google search for "maine researcher card" turns up nothing.

Oh, and I don't see any mention of when the new law becomes effective, perhaps on the date when it was signed?

Regards,
James

Disclaimer: I am not an attorney so opinions expressed in this message are just my personal opinions and observations and not a legal analysis or opinion.
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ChipG
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PostPosted: 11 Apr 2010 12:50    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the update James.
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jbott



Joined: 28 Oct 2005
Posts: 39
Location: San Diego, CA

PostPosted: 11 Apr 2010 14:12    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have been informed that Maine already has a "Researcher Indentification Card." It is required to get into the vital records achives in Agusta, ME. You just have to fill out a simple form and pay a fee to get it. There are no qualifications.

I do wonder if someone can get this card without appearing in Agusta in person, and if it will be accepted for online or mail orders for vital records. This is very important for those of us not living near Agusta.

James
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