House GOP Members Working To Make Changes To Referendum Process
House Republican leaders Rep. Ken Fredette, Rep. Ellie Espling and other House Republican caucus members are working to make changes to the referendum process in Maine to prevent out of state special interests from gaming the system as well as to ensure that legislation presented to the Maine people at the ballot box is in line with the Maine Constitution.
House Republican Leader Rep. Ken Fredette of Newport is introducing legislation that proposes an amendment to the Maine Constitution prohibiting the creation, implementation or raising of any tax through referendum. It also would prohibit the appropriation of any state funds by referendum. The proposal stems from a series of referendums pushed by wealthy special interest groups that have sought to levy new taxes on the Maine people and Maine small businesses in order to pay for initiatives the state cannot afford. The decision to appropriate money should not be made in a vacuum at the ballot box. Appropriating tax dollars should be done by the members of the Maine Legislature where these decisions can be made within the context of the entire state budget.
“The proposal I’m putting forward is not a perfect bill with regard to the right of voters to collect signatures for and ultimately pass bills independent of the legislature. However, we need to engage in a serious conversation about whether the process has gotten out of control,” said Rep. Fredette. “I believe this bill has provides the legislature with an opportunity to have that conversation.”
Rep. Fredette’s proposal, LR: 2708 Sponsor: Representative Fredette of Newport Title: RESOLUTION, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine Regarding the Direct Initiative of Legislation, requires approval from the Legislative Council in order to be heard this session. The Legislative Council meets Thursday morning at 10:00 a.m.
Below is from Article IV of the Maine Constitution that clearly states that legislation relating to raising to revenue must originate in the House of Representatives:
Section 9. Either House may originate bills; revenue bills. Bills, orders or resolutions, may originate in either House, and may be altered, amended or rejected in the other; but all bills for raising a revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives, but the Senate may propose amendments as in other cases; provided, that they shall not, under color of amendment, introduce any new matter, which does not relate to raising a revenue.
Rep. Ellie Espling of New Gloucester sponsored a bill last session that sought to rid the citizen referendum from some of the nefarious behavior that has plagued the process of for the past few years.
LD 31 “RESOLUTION, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine To Require That Signatures on a Direct Initiative of Legislation Come from Each Congressional District” was presented and debated last session. The bill was eventually carried over and work should resume during the next legislative session that begins in January.
“We need to make sure that Maine’s referendum process is still meeting its original intent and not being taken advantage of by wealthy out-of-state and in-state special interest groups. That’s what this bill is seeking to do,” said Rep. Ellie Espling of New Gloucester. “Maine’s citizen referendum process was not designed to allow these special interest groups to circumvent the Maine Legislature to further their extreme agendas.”
Rep. Beth O’Connor of Berwick will also be proposing a constitutional amendment to the legislative council tomorrow that would ensure all direct initiatives of legislation are constitutional. Rep. O’Connor’s bill, LR: 2625 Sponsor: Representative O’Connor of Berwick Title: RESOLUTION, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine To Help Ensure Direct Initiatives of Legislation are Compatible with the Constitution of Maine and Statutory Law, will also require the approval of the legislative council in order to be heard during the next legislative session.