Helen Shaw sent Jay the following update on LD 1781 An Act To Allow Electronic Filing of Vital Records and Closing of Records To Guard against Fraud and Make Other Changes to the Vital Records Laws.
LD 1781 is now known as Public Law 601 and will go into effect on Monday, July 12th. This law made editorial changes for department names, references to other laws, and updated several aspects of various laws affecting the use of, and access to, vital records in Maine.
The work group formed to write the rules to implement Public Law 601 met for the first time on June 10th. Helen Shaw, CGsm and Pam Eagleson, CGsm were invited to participate and present the concerns and needs of genealogists. The two hour meeting ended with two issues unresolved: the definition of immediate family / related individual and what is meant by the term “research identification card” in paragraph 8. At least one more meeting of the work group will be scheduled. A request will be made to the attorney general to leave current law in play until these issues can be resolved.
Don Lemieux, director of the Office of Data, Research and Vital Statistics, stated that PL 601 does not affect access to vital records at the Maine State Archives or at other facilities which have microfilms and/or books of Maine vital records. There will be no request from the state to pull vital records within the 100 year closure period from the shelves. Maine vital record indexes currently online will remain available to the public.
Mr. Lemieux further stated that the state does not regulate access to vital records created prior to 1892; municipalities make their own rules for accessing their records. Some towns allow researchers to browse through vital record books on their own and others require the researcher to tell a clerk what records are being sought and the clerk does the search. Under PL 601 the record of an illegitimate birth is no longer a reason to deny access to, or a copy of, that record. The (potential) presence of illegitimate birth records had been used in the past to deny free access to volumes of birth records. All vital records prior to 1892 are open to the public; certified and non-certified copies may be purchased.