Rep. Charlotte Warren, D-Hallowell, is appealing the Maine Legislative Council’s rejection of her bill to address concerns about the use of the secretive Maine Information and Analysis Center in the state’s battle against drug abuse and trafficking.
At Gov. Paul LePage’s closed-door drug summit in August, his administration announced that MIAC, one of some 80 so-called “fusion centers” in the country, will be used to counter the state’s drug problems by analyzing drug activity and trends and sharing the information with other law enforcement agencies.
Fusion centers were created to combat terrorism after 9/11. Maine’s fusion center, which is overseen by Maine State Police, appears to have no legislative oversight and details about its staffing and budget are not available.
“We all want to stop drug addiction and at the same time, be mindful of privacy rights of the Maine people,” Warren said. “I had never heard of MIAC, or the ‘fusion center’ as it’s called. In doing some research, I found little or no information on the group’s authority and oversight.”
Nationally, fusion centers have come under fire for the misuse of funding, privacy violations and targeting groups critical of their mission.
“The board charged with overseeing the center hasn’t met in years because when they have, there is little information given to them,” Warren said. “The people of the State of Maine have the right to know how their government is working for them.”
“My hope is that the oversight board can simply do its job and that find all to be in working order,” Warren said.
During even-numbered years, the Legislature generally limits bill submissions to those that address emergencies and other pressing situations. The Legislative Council, which is made up of each party’s leaders in the Maine House and Senate, decides which bills fit the criteria.
Of the nearly 400 bills submitted for the 2016 legislative session, 33 received the green light from the Council. The Council will consider all appeals on Nov. 19.
Warren is serving her first term in the Maine House and is a member of the Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety and the Judiciary Committees.