Constitutional Questions Arise From Solar Bill
This afternoon, a group of seven House Republicans questioned the constitutionality of LD 1686 “An Act To Amend the Laws Regarding Distributed Energy Generation and To Eliminate Gross Metering” during a public hearing in front of the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee. The bill proposes to raise revenues from one group of electric ratepayers and redistribute those funds to another class of ratepayer. This fee would be mandated providing no way for those impacted to opt-out of paying it, which by definition makes it a tax. According to the Maine Constitution, bills that raise revenues must originate in the House of Representatives. The sponsor of LD 1686 is Sen. Tom Saviello, meaning this bill that proposes to raise revenues originated in the Senate, which is clearly at odds with the Maine Constitution.
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.
“LD 1686 is intentionally structured to raise revenues from one class of electric consumers with no means of opting out, and redistributing those funds to another class of ratepayer, solar panel owners. These acts fit squarely within the common court case findings of a tax,” Rep. Richard Malaby (R) of Hancock told the committee. “As this bills’ primary sponsor is Senator Tom Saviello, and it clearly is a bill which raises a tax, I respectfully submit that is improperly before the body and is unconstitutional.”
“Members of the House Republican caucus have raised legitimate constitutional questions about whether LD 1686 is properly before the committee,” said House Republican Leader Ken Fredette of Newport. “The Maine Constitution is very clear on this matter and as members of the Maine Legislature we swore an oath to uphold the constitution.”