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On day committee considers Maine teacher pay, teachers union launches attack on gun rights

Left, a screenshot of the Maine Education Association pushing Gov. Janet Mills to support a bill that many say would violate the Constitutional rights of Mainers. The push came on a day that the Legislature’s budget committee was considering Maine teacher pay raises under Gov. Mills’ proposed budget.

AUGUSTA – The Maine Education Association (MEA) claims to be an organization dedicated to advocating for the more than 24,000 teachers who are members of their union and “inspiring them to be leaders in the educational process.” But a recent push by the union went well outside their stated mission.

On Friday, the same day the Maine Legislature’s Appropriations Committee was holding a work session to consider pay raises for teachers in Maine’s two-year state budget, the union took to social media to launch an attack on the gun rights of Mainers.

Apparently trying to rejuvenate support for a bill that would allow the confiscation of guns from Mainers who have been accused of no crime through a secret court process, the MEA launched social media posts and an online petition calling for Governor Janet Mills to support L.D. 1312, a ‘red flag’ gun control bill.

That bill has looked increasingly unlikely to pass as lawmakers work to negotiate a compromise bill that focuses in on fixing Maine laws around possession of guns by people in specific and acute mental health crisis instead.

So-called “red flag” laws have been a centerpiece of the national gun control and confiscation push in recent years, but opponents showed up in Maine in huge numbers to make the case that L.D. 1312 violated due process and other constitutional protections of Mainers.

Sheriff Scott Nichols of Franklin County testified in opposition to the bill, saying he had Aroostook County Sheriff Shawn Gillen and Kennebec County Sheriff Ken Mason with him.

Sheriff Nichols told the committee that their opinion is that the proposal asks law enforcement to confiscate guns without an underlying crime but based on a “potential crime” that might happen in the future.

Sheriff Nichols also said the red flag bill would violate multiple constitutional rights, naming the Second, Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

Those concerns, and even Governor Janet Mills’ reticence to support the bill, however, have not apparently stopped the MEA from continuing to push for the gun confiscation scheme.

The sponsor of the bill being pushed by the MEA didn’t speak to the apparent constitutional concerns at the bill’s public hearing. Senator Rebecca Millett, the sponsor of the red flag proposal, responded to questions and concerns that the bill was unconstitutional by telling the committee, “I’m not a constitutional lawyer.”

In their post, the MEA calls on followers to sign the petition to tell Governor Mills to support the bill and claims the bill “protects people’s rights” while giving law enforcement tools they need to remove firearms from dangerous situations.

The comments on the MEA’s Facebook post are decidedly negative to the MEA wading into an issue that has little to do with education and inspiring teachers.

One commenter, Benjamin Martin, posted, “Maybe the MEA, (looking at you John Kosinski), should focus on EDUCATING KIDS!! And keep their nose out of Maine politics… Especially, guns. You have no idea what you’re talking about. Shame on MEA.”

Others commented how the issue was not really part of the MEA’s core mission, or how they should go read the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

“An association that boasts education should know that this law totally ignores due process and violates a citizens constitutional rights,” said one comment.

Another comment said, “Red flag laws bypass the 2nd, 4th and 5th Amendments of the bill of rights….maybe Maine Education Association out to teach the constitution and bill of rights….or at least read and understand them.”

As of the writing of this article, there were more than 40 comments on the post and not a single comment was in support of the MEA’s push to pass the ‘red flag’ law.

Teacher pay raises were a centerpiece of Governor Janet Mills’ first two year budget from the moment she rolled out her proposal.

Some have raised concerns that because the state would provide funds to cover the pay raises in the first year but then incrementally reduce that funding in coming years that the cost would eventually be passed along to local property tax payers. One common refrain from Republicans involved in the complex budget process was that spending must be “sustainable.”

It is unclear how the MEA’s decision to push a virtually crippled gun control proposal by targeting and naming Governor Janet Mills while she negotiates for teacher pay raises will play out.

Attacking political allies while fighting on issues that are controversial and outside their purview is a peculiar strategy for success in winning more pay for Maine’s teachers. Only time will tell if the gambit pays off for the MEA.

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