January 15, 2013

Augusta legislators cosponsor ban on school superintendent residency requirements

Other local legislators' bills include end to early Sunday morning liquor sales, allowing Livermore Falls to join Franklin County, $4 million to aid intellectually disabled and autistic residents, and requiring pawnbrokers to photograph customers and goods

By Susan M. Cover scover@mainetoday.com
State House Bureau

AUGUSTA -- Three Augusta-area legislators have signed on to a new bill that would prohibit cities and towns from requiring superintendents to live in their own school district.

Corey Wilson

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Roger Katz

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The issue came up locally in recent months when the Augusta Board of Education launched a search to replace Cornelia Brown, who left as superintendent of the district in December to work for the Maine School Management Association. The city charter requires superintendents to live in the city.

After an initial search produced no qualified candidates, the school board began to consider whether to ask voters to repeal the charter amendment.

"In Augusta's case, if tomorrow the city identified a real superstar for superintendent who lives in Hallowell and doesn't want to sell their home, the school board could not hire them," said Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta. "Why would we want to limit our options on hiring the best person?"

Reps. Corey Wilson and Matt Pouliot, also Republicans from Augusta, have signed on as well. Wilson said his support for the bill should not be interpreted as a criticism of James Anastasio, a Gardiner resident who is serving as interim superintendent.

However, he does want the school board to have a full array of options.

"I just thought it would be a good idea to have a bigger pool of candidates to choose from," Wilson said.

The bill, L.D. 6, is sponsored by Rep. Alan Casavant, D-Biddeford, and Sen. David Dutremble, D-Biddeford, where voters in November rejected a ballot measure to remove the residency requirement for its superintendents. The bill is headed to the Legislature's Education and Cultural Affairs Committee, which will hold a public hearing on the measure in the coming weeks.

Other bills with local ties released Tuesday included:

* L.D. 15, which would remove the prohibition against selling liquor between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. on Sundays. It's sponsored by Rep. Paul Gilbert, D-Jay, and Sen. John Patrick, D-Rumford. Rep. Lance Harvell, R-Farmington, a co-sponsor who works at a mill, said his co-workers often complain that they can't buy alcohol on their way home from work after finishing a Saturday night shift. The bill will be considered by the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee.

* L.D. 27, which would allow the town of Livermore Falls to withdraw from Androscoggin County and join Franklin County. Bill sponsor Rep. Gary Knight, R-Livermore Falls, said the legislation would enable local voters to decide whether they favor the move. The bill is headed to the State and Local Government Committee. Knight said a public hearing is not likely to be held for a couple of months because he needs time to gather data in support of the bill.

* L.D. 29 and L.D. 30, which are sponsored by Sen. Pat Flood, R-Winthrop. L.D. 29 calls for the state to spend $2 million to reduce the waiting list for services for adults with intellectual disabilities or autistic disorder. The other bill seeks a $2 million appropriation to help pay for home and community services for the same group of people. The bills will be considered by the Appropriations Committee.

* L.D. 36, which would require pawnbrokers to take a digital photograph of all property received and of the person who brings it into the pawn shop. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Terry Hayes, D-Buckfield, and Rep. David Cotta, R-China. Hayes said a constituent who had property stolen and sold at a pawn shop asked her to submit the bill to make it easier for police to prove who brought in items for sale. The bill will be heard by the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee.

Susan Cover -- 621-5643

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Patrick Flood

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David Cotta

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