By Ramona du Houx
ON the last day of the Maine Legislature, lawmakers were able to overrode Gov. Paul LePage’s veto of a bill that would help ensure the safety of Maine social workers by prohibiting the publication of their home addresses. The vote was 105-43 in the House and 30-3 in the Senate.
“This is a matter of safety,” said Rep. Adam Goode, D-Bangor, the sponsor of the bill. “We need to ensure that our social workers are protected from retaliation if they are dealing with a disgruntled employee or client. There is no reason for a person’s private information to be listed publicly on a state website.”
Goode submitted the legislation after a Vermont social worker was shot and killed by a woman who was upset about losing custody of her child.
A similar incident occurred in Maine in 1988 when a disgruntled administrator of a home for people with mental illness obtained the names and addresses of state licensing officials. After he was fired, the individual shot and critically injured then-Department of Health and Human Services licensing administrator Louis Dorogi in the kitchen of his Topsham home.
“This bill was a bipartisan effort by the Judiciary Committee,” said Rep. Barry Hobbins, D-Saco, House chair of the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee. “We worked hard to come to a consensus that would ensure that social workers were protected while honoring the public’s right to know.”
Goode’s bill, LD 1499, improves the safety and privacy of social workers who hold a license from the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation. The change ensures that the home address of a social worker is confidential and not open to the public. The social work profession is predominantly female.
“There are times on the job when we face unhappy clients,” said Rep. Jay McCreight, D-Harpswell, a retired social worker and member of the Judiciary Committee. “This concern for safety poses challenges to the personal lives of social workers if their home addresses are made available over the internet.”
The Judiciary Committee also sent a letter to the “Right to Know” Advisory Committee asking them to look at making home addresses private for other professions as well.
The legislation becomes law 90 days after the adjournment of the legislative session.
Goode is House chair of the Legislature’s Taxation Committee and a social worker. He is serving his fourth term in the Maine House and represents part of Bangor.
Hobbins House chair of the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee and is in his eighth non-consecutive term in the House. He has also served five terms in the Senate.
McCreight is in her first term in the Maine House and represents Harpswell, West Bath and part of Brunswick. She serves on both the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee and Marine Resources Committee.