Under the Dome: Inside the Maine State House 7.27.12

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Augusta, ME

Under the Dome: Inside the Maine State House provides a high-level overview of recent activity at the Maine State House. If you would like more specific information regarding an item in this newsletter or related to government relations, please contact a member of our Government Relations Practice Group: John Delahanty, Andrea C. Maker, or Avery Day.

State Legislative Candidates for November Ballot Set

The deadline for local party committees to replace withdrawn legislative candidates on November’s ballot has now passed, determining which names will appear on the ballot.  All 151 House seats and 35 Senate seats in the Maine Legislature are up for reelection.  Both parties have named candidates for almost all of these 186 contests, with Republicans running candidates in all but four races and Democrats running candidates in all but ten races.  These 14 “uncontested” races are not necessarily uncontested, as major party candidates may still face unenrolled and Green Party candidates on the ballot.  With the passing of this deadline, both Parties took the opportunity to publically discuss their optimistic prospects for November and to extol the quality of their candidates this election year. 

Wording of Same-Sex Marriage Question Set

This week, Secretary of State (and U.S. Senate Candidate) Charlie Summers announced the final wording of the ballot question that would authorize same-sex marriage in Maine.  The Secretary of State’s Office originally proposed asking “Do you want to allow same-sex couples to marry?”  Both proponents and opponents of the ballot initiative opposed this wording and over 600 public comments were received by the Secretary of State’s Office in reaction to the original question.  The question has now been revised to ask “Do you want to allow the State of Maine to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples?”  While not completely satisfied, both proponents and opponents of the ballot initiative seem to prefer the new wording of this question, which will appear on the general election ballot in November. 

Federal Election Roundup

  • The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has recently endorsed Republican candidate for U.S. Senate and current Secretary of State, Charlie Summers.  This week, that endorsement turned into tangible support as the U.S. Chamber began airing an advertisement attacking another candidate for this seat, former Governor Angus King (unenrolled).  This ad has appeared on a number of Maine stations in what is reported as a $200,000 ad buy.  Whether Mainers can expect additional out-of-state spending in Maine political contests this year is uncertain at this point.
  • While the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate was the beneficiary of support from the U.S. Chamber, the Democrat candidate for this seat has raised concerns that her own party is not sufficiently supporting her campaign.  Last week, state Senator Dill sent a letter to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in D.C. requesting additional involvement by her party in her race. 
  • In Maine’s second congressional district seat, Senate President Raye (R) outraised Congressman Michaud (D) $165,000 to $109,000 in political contributions for the reporting period between May 24th and June 30th.  With $635,000 in his war chest, Congressman Michaud still had more cash on hand than Senate President Raye, who has $242,000.  Nonetheless, Raye used his recent fundraising advantage as an opportunity to equate his fundraising success with success in courting voters.

Year-End State Surplus Likely Smaller than Anticipated

State revenues in June came in below estimated levels, meaning that the State closed out the fiscal year, which ended on June 30, 2012, with a smaller than anticipated surplus.  Official figures on the previous fiscal year will not be compiled until sometime in August, but the year-end surplus is estimated to stand at around $20 million.  While this is technically a surplus, a statutory “cascade” already directs how this money will be spent, with money first going to the Governor’s Contingency Account, then to the Finance Authority of Maine, then to a cost-of-living-adjustment for state retirees, and finally to hospitals for payments owed by the State.  This entire “cascade” would account for over $40 million in spending, far above the anticipated surplus.  This means that the hospitals will not receive the full $25 million that is included in the cascade for them.