AUGUSTA — A legislative panel decided Friday to recommend full repeal of a law that seeks to prohibit predatory marketing to teenagers, saying it could not fix concerns about its constitutionality.
The Judiciary Committee voted to tell legislative leaders that “An Act to Prevent Predatory Marketing Practices Against Minors” should be removed from Maine statutes as soon as possible when the Legislature returns in January.
“The existing law as written will not pass constitutional muster,” said Sen. David Hastings, R-Fryeburg.
The law prohibits Web sites and other entities from collecting health-related information for marketing purposes from those younger than 18 without parental consent.
But because of the way it was drafted, it goes far beyond that and far beyond what Sen. Elizabeth Schneider, D-Orono, said she was hoping to do when she sponsored the legislation last year.
“The one positive in all of this is, even the opponents acknowledge there is a problem,” she said. “That speaks to the need for something to occur to protect minors’ information, especially when it is sold.”
Representatives of health insurers, newspapers, colleges and Internet search engines told the committee Thursday they would be prevented from gathering or using information from teenagers under the law.
Even before it went into effect in September, a lawsuit filed in federal court alleged the law violates free speech rights protected by the First Amendment.
In response, Attorney General Janet Mills filed a brief saying she shared some of the concerns raised in the suit and would not enforce the law. The issue then went back to the Legislature.
Schneider said she was disappointed in the recommendation and promised to introduce a narrowed proposal.
“There’s incredible opposition to this because there’s big bucks at stake,” she said.