In a rare bill signing outside of the State House, Maine Gov. John Baldacci went to a homeless shelter in Portland on Thursday to sign into law legislation that he said makes Maine a leader in protecting the homeless. The new law ensures that attacks on the homeless are prosecuted as vigorously as those against anyone else, reports the Associated Press.
The legislation was signed as violence against homeless people prompts other states to consider similar laws. In Florida, teenagers were caught on videotape earlier this year beating a homeless man, prompting a bill in that state that could increase the penalties for those who attack people living on the street. A bill also was being considered in Maryland. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, assaults targeting the homeless have risen dramatically since 2002 across the country. In 2005, 73 homeless people were assaulted and 13 died, the report said.