AUGUSTA (AP) – With minimal debate Tuesday, the Maine Senate joined the House in approving a resolution urging Congress to make sure federal anti-terrorism legislation does not compromise civil liberties.

The Senate vote of 18-15 to finalize passage followed last Friday’s approval by the House.

In contrast to the emotional and sometimes-heated House debate, Tuesday’s Senate debate was brief and low-key.

The resolution focuses on the Patriot Act, which was passed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and expanded the government’s wiretap and other surveillance authority.

Democratic Sen. Beth Edmonds of Freeport said that as a librarian, she’s concerned about protecting the privacy of patrons to choose any printed material or video, adding that “suppression of ideas undermines a democratic society.”

Sen. Richard Bennett, R-Norway, said he also finds some aspects of the Patriot Act troubling. But Bennett said he could not support a resolution “that says domestic terrorists should be treated differently from international terrorists.”

Senate Republicans say Democrats should focus their attention on state legislative business rather than nonbinding resolutions.

“The continued debate on these joint resolutions on federal issues is a waste of time and taxpayer money,” Sen. Richard Nass, R-Acton, said in a prepared statement. “We have more pressing state issues that need our attention before this legislature adjourns.”

Senate kills bill to allow limited Sunday hunt

Eds: LD 388

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) – A bill that would have allowed limited Sunday hunting in a corner of Maine is dead for this legislative session.

The Senate voted Tuesday to kill the bill, which had received House approval in an amended form earlier this session.

There was no debate before senators voted against the bill following a series of procedural motions aimed at keeping it alive.

As amended, it sought to allow Sunday hunting of four small-game species in four districts in the northwestern corner of the state in 2005 and 2006. Only shotguns could be used.

Opponents contend that non-hunting Mainers should have a day of the week during hunting season when they can feel comfortable going in the woods.

House OKs free-trade bill as labor leaders condemn pacts

Eds: LD 1815

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) – A bill supported by critics of international free-trade agreements won initial approval in the Maine House on Tuesday as a national movement to highlight concerns about job losses picked up steam.

The House gave initial approval to a bill that would create a commission of lawmakers and representatives of labor, business, environmental and health interests to assess the impact of trade agreements and make recommendations for further legislation.

Supporters of the bill sponsored by House Speaker Patrick Colwell, D-Gardiner, say dozens of state laws that are considered unnecessary barriers to trade could be eliminated as a result of trade agreements.

Opponents of Colwell’s bill say the state can’t afford to set up another study commission as it faces serious budget shortfalls.

The bill was passed as organized labor leaders, lawmakers and Maine Fair Trade Campaign activists held a news conference in the State House to condemn pacts like the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, and the proposed Free Trade of the Americas agreement.

The Maine Fair Trade Campaign says that since 2000, Maine has lost more than 11,000 jobs due to outsourcing and imports.

Sen. Peggy Rotondo, D-Lewiston, said that with NAFTA in force, Maine risks being sued for millions of dollars if it passes legislation to ban the gasoline additive MTBE.

A case involving the Canadian makers of MTBE and California, which banned the additive after it seeped into the state’s water supple, is being heard by NAFTA trade tribunals, Rotondo said.

Action in Maine’s capital coincides with this week’s bus tour through Rust Belt states to talk about job issues.

AP-ES-03-23-04 1451EST

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