Under the Dome: Inside the Maine State House

Pierce Atwood LLP

Under the Dome: Inside the Maine State House provides a high-level overview of recent activity at the Maine State House.

Maine Legislature Reconvenes Today, May Possibly Adjourn sine die
The Maine State Legislature reconvened today with an expectation of wrapping up its second regular session. Returning from a two-week recess, the House and Senate will now consider gubernatorial vetoes and attend to other last minute items. The vetoed legislation includes bills proposing a comprehensive solar energy policy, increased access to Naloxone for first responders, and additional funding for jails. In addition to addressing the vetoes, the Legislature could still take up bills and bond issues that remain as unfinished business, or they may render any outstanding legislation dead by bringing down the hammer on a motion to adjourn sine die

Maine Republican Party Convention Selects Delegates to National Convention
More than 2,000 Maine Republicans met last weekend at the Cross Insurance Arena in Bangor for the state convention. The convention featured speeches from Governor Paul LePage, Second District Congressman Bruce Poliquin, and a keynote address by former presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson. During the convention, party members elected 20 of 23 delegates (the remaining three are Republican Party officials and Governor LePage) to the Republican National Convention. The party elected 12 delegates for U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, nine for Donald Trump, and two for Ohio Governor John Kasich. However, the delegates are only bound to those candidates during the first round of voting at the convention. If one nominee fails to secure a majority during that first round, the delegates are free during the second round to support any nominee. Of the 20 delegates elected in Maine, 19 have promised to cast their vote for Ted Cruz during the second round of voting. Maine’s Democratic Party Convention will take place at the Cross Center in Portland on May 6 and 7.
Four Referendum Questions Set to Appear on the Fall Ballot
This fall, Mainers will have the opportunity to vote on at least four ballot questions.  These questions are about adopting ranked choice voting; incrementally raising the minimum wage to $12 by 2020; requiring background checks for all gun sales; and assessing a 3% income tax surcharge on taxpayers earning over $200,000 to increase education funding in Maine. Earlier this month, supporters of a referendum question to establish a casino in Southern Maine appealed the Secretary of State’s disqualification of the requisite number of signatures for the question to appear on the ballot. The courts upheld the Secretary’s decision and this week the supporters of the question announced they would not seek to further appeal the court’s findings, meaning that a casino question will not appear on the ballot this fall. 

One Additional Referendum Question Likely
It’s highly likely Mainers will also face a fifth citizen-initiated referendum question, this one on whether or not to legalize marijuana in Maine. This petition made its way through an appeal process after initially being rejected by the Secretary of State’s office. The Secretary’s office invalidated roughly 17,000 signatures because it found that the signatures of the notary who signed the petitions did not match the signatures the Secretary’s office had on file. Proponents of the marijuana referendum appealed the Secretary of State’s decision to the Maine Superior Court, which reversed the decision. This reversal triggered a review by the Secretary of State’s office of each of the signatures on the petitions. As of this week, the Secretary of State’s office certified the requisite number of signatures. Pursuant to the state constitution, the Legislature must now either enact it as worded, present a competing measure to present to voters in the fall, or pass it on to the voters as drafted. The Legislature does not have an option to defeat the measure. 

NOT Under the Dome…
On Monday, Governor LePage invited members of the newly established Commission to Reform Public Education Funding and Improve Student Performance to the Governor’s residence, known as The Blaine House, located across the street from the Capitol. The Commission was established as part of a compromise that also resulted in enacting tax conformity and increasing education funding to certain Maine communities. Non-commission members, including some legislators and the media, were not allowed into The Blaine House for the meeting, leading to controversy. Maine’s Attorney General Janet Mills issued a statement asserting that the meeting was a violation of Maine’s Freedom of Access Act, which requires all government agencies and organizations to make their meetings open to the public. Speaker Eves has called upon the attorney general to impose sanctions on the Governor for this action. The Governor’s office has explained that the meeting was an informal meet-and-greet breakfast intended to allow the members of the Commission to get to know each other better before beginning their work in earnest at a later date.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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