Civil Discourse in Legislative Hearings

By Irene Lang

Those attending the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee public hearing on LD 121, An Act To Require Photographic Identification to Vote, were witness to an event that is rarely seen in the State House and that raises important questions about the state of discourse in our state and in our country.

As the most recent entry in a long line of contentious efforts to change voting rules in the state, LD 121 would require voters to show a photo ID at the polls unless a municipal clerk could vouch for the person’s identity, and would require the Secretary of State’s office to provide non-driver identification cards to anyone who wants one, free of charge.

The Committee Chairs, anticipating a passionate debate, established ground rules for the hearing that permitted testifiers to discuss the ramifications of the bill, but prohibited them from ascribing motivations to any of the sponsors or supporters. As the hearing progressed, one of the citizens testifying used the word “racist” and mentioned Governor LePage’s name during her testimony, at which point the Chairman cautioned her to stay on topic. As the woman attempted to make her points about racial disparity in the consequences of photo ID, a verbal battle ensued. The Chair muted the speaker’s mic  as the woman insisted that she be allowed to continue, while the Chair – still on mic – insisted that she was out of order.

The Chair’s heightened sense of concern to control any passionate or offensive outburst actually led to an over-reaction, turning what could have been a teachable moment into an angst-producing counter-example. The gaveling down of this speaker, and the heated off-mic exchange, were far more “uncivil” than what likely would have emerged in the speaker’s comments. When the woman claimed her constitutional right to discuss racism, the packed overflow room erupted into applause. More than one observer could be heard saying, “Nevertheless, she persisted.”  The situation was eventually rescued, and she was eventually allowed to complete her testimony, including a discussion of the racial impact of the bill.

However, in the Chairs’ effort to quell what he feared would be an attack on the character of the bill’s sponsors or supporters, he instead tried to suppress discussion of concerns about some very serious issues. Many of those testifying in opposition to LD 121, including the League, described it as a mechanism of voter suppression, disproportionately affecting minority constituents. Clearly, it would be inappropriate to call the sponsor or supporters of a bill racist, and we would expect the Chair to caution against such accusations. But to say that a bill has the potential for racial suppression – or even to say that it is potentially racist – is not to say that its sponsor had that intent or is, himself, a racist.

At the same time, when similar bills have been litigated in other states, they have been struck down if it could be demonstrated that the supporters had partisan or voter suppression motivations. Motivation and intent are relevant.

Civil discourse must allow for free and full discussion of a bill’s impact, including strong opinions and potentially negative consequences. Regardless of the sensitivity or volatility of the topic, it is essential to allow these concerns to be voiced. Racism, in particular, is a destructive force in our world that must be confronted openly and honestly. Using the term “racist” to describe someone who espouses racist views is no less accurate for being offensive, and any offense is clearly insignificant when measured against the destructive impact of laws that result in racist outcomes. To deny the existence of racism or to turn a blind eye to racist behavior – or legislation – is to become complicit in its perpetuation.

While this type of exchange has been rare in the State House, it may become less so in our currently contentious political climate. Civil discourse takes practice. As our citizenry becomes more divided and views become more passionately held, it will be increasingly difficult to find the fine line between strong views and offensive ones. And, as voters become more vocal in their objections to government actions, they will have to find a way to say what they mean without crossing that line. If the relationship between voters and legislators becomes increasingly strained and defensive, it is incumbent upon the legislature to ensure that the rights of constituents to be heard are upheld and to make room for strong opinions on difficult subjects to be delivered in a respectful way.

 

 

 

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VLA Committee January 15

By Stephanie Philbrick

Committee confirmation of William Lee on the Ethics Commission. Mr. Lee has a very impressive legal resume and, as he spoke extemporaneously, it became clear that he is also a college professor. At times, his presentation before the committee sounded more like a class lecture than an introduction. The mood of the Committee was light, though, and Sen. Cyrway cracked himself up by asking how the VLA was doing on ethics issues. In a more serious way, Rep. Golden asked what Maine was doing right. Mr. Lee, not quite answering the question, cited Maine’s rural nature, integrity, trust and professionalism as characteristics that make our state great. It would have been nice to hear about the processes and regulations that work well, perhaps with his opinions on citizens’ initiatives, Clean Elections, access to voting and citizen involvement opportunities. Those questions didn’t come up, and so we don’t really know how he would have answered. Instead we got a bit of cheerleading and quite a bit about why the American system is so much better than those in Cuba and the former U.S.S.R. In the end, the Committee unanimously voted to recommend Mr. Lee for confirmation. He was unanimously confirmed by the full Senate on January 19th.

LD 742 RESOLUTION, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine to Require That 5 Percent of Signatures on a Direct Initiative of Legislation Come from Each County

Carried over from last session, LD 742 is a vestige (hopefully the last) of the controversial bear baiting referendum. Extensively reworked, the amended bill was somewhat confusing, and it took some discussion for everyone to be clear on just what was being discussed. Despite the title, with amendments the result is this:

petitions for citizen initiatives must submit signatures from each congressional district representing 10% of the turnout that voted in the previous gubernatorial election in that congressional district (Maine has two).

Senator Cyrway felt very strongly that this was a better system, saying, “It’s good. We’ve worked on it because in other states one section of the state can control the entire election just because the population concentration is in one area. This allows different regions to weigh in despite population.” There was some discussion about constitutionality, but it was noted that a similar process was tested in the Nevada courts and deemed okay because of the one-man one-vote theory.

Midway through the discussion, Rep. Longstaff said that he was unwilling to vote yes because he doesn’t support dividing Maine into two for election purposes and because, in any given election, a local issue can sway the turnout and affect the entire state. Immediately, a party caucus was called and the work session was halted. Democrats left while Republicans milled about the room. It’s not clear why a caucus was called because the discussion continued pretty much as before with Sen. Cyrway reiterating why the bill was good and Rep. Turner agreeing, “Will level the playing field. Gives small communities a voice on petitions.”

Result: divided report.

 

Report from the Statehouse: SLG Work Session June 2

By Helen Hanlon

Commiserating with each other about the stalemates, partisanship and whatever else, the State and Local Government Committee held a rare and last minute Tuesday Work Session. All committee members were present and accounted for except for Reps. Evangelos and Libby who were working on other committee assignments. After discussion  of their favorite Capitol-area food (fisherman platter at Red Barn or chowder at the Liberal Cup) and fortified with “made from scratch” Milky Way brownies courtesy of Treasurer  Hayes, members were in a better mood and ready to polish off what was left on their legislative plates…

Almost no one in attendance – just me, a sprinkling of Representatives waiting for the bond bill and Ken Quinn (see our previous post) from Citizens For Self Governance, who was bedecked with a flag pin and lugging a huge briefcase — just in case he was called upon.

WARNING: This is a long one!

LD 1417 (RESOLUTION, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine To Change the Selection Process for the Attorney General)

Several issues were raised with this bill, including the fact that it has no effective beginning date and no way to transition from the current Attorney General’s term of office.

Action: No discussion. ONTP (6), OTP as amended (5) (current AG allowed to complete current term), Absent (2)

 

LD 1418 (RESOLUTION, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine To Provide for a Lieutenant Governor and Change the Line of Succession for Governor)

Similar problems plagued this bill: there is no effective start date, it contains confusing language and there is no transition plan. And most importantly, perhaps, there is a potential conflict of interest if the Lt. Governor is called upon to certify their own or the Governor’s election).

Rep. Dore of Augusta made a strong statement about her years working in the Sec. of State’s office with no hint of partisanship and her plan to vote NO.

Action: ONTP (6), OTP as amended (4) (amended to include transition language). Absent (3).
At this point it was really hard to keep track of who was where. It was like Grand Central Station with people coming and going. There were caucuses, people coming in and going out –grabbing the last of the brownies on their way (oohing and aaahing about how really good they were and “what was that recipe?”). Poor Rep. Tuell rolled in in a wheel chair, apparently with a  recent foot injury ( John Kerry , Maine style?) – but there were no brownies left for the poor guy. No one offered me one, either (So much for constituent services!)…

 

LD 1419 (RESOLUTION, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine To Change the Selection Process for the Treasurer of State)

Transition issues as noted in previous bills.

Action: ONTP (6), OTP as amended (3) (amended to address transition issue), Absent (4)  (OD on chocolate?)

 

HP 804 (JOINT RESOLUTION MAKING APPLICATION TO THE CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES CALLING A CONVENTION OF THE STATES TO PROPOSE AMENDMENTS TO THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION TO IMPOSE FISCAL RESTRAINTS, LIMIT FEDERAL POWER AND IMPOSE TERM LIMITS)

Rep. Pickett moved to carry this bill over; motion failed.

Rep. Turner moved ONTP. 5 approved ONTP, 3 OTP as amended (amended  with Rep. Short’s language change – not Con/ Con but Convention of States). 5 Absent.

 

HP 956 (JOINT RESOLUTION MAKING APPLICATION TO THE CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES CALLING A CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION TO PROPOSE AN AMENDMENT TO THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION REGARDING THE STATUS OF CORPORATIONS AS PEOPLE AND THE ROLE OF MONEY IN THE ELECTION PROCESS)

Sponsor Rep. Chapman, as a procedural matter, asked the committee to consider holding the bill over.

Action: ONTP Unan.

 

SP499 (JOINT RESOLUTION MAKING APPLICATION TO THE CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES CALLING A CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION TO PROPOSE AN AMENDMENT TO THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION TO REQUIRE A BALANCED FEDERAL BUDGET AND FURTHER FISCAL RESTRAINTS)

Action: ONTP Unan.

 

LD 862 (Act To Clarify Who May Authorize Repairs in a Burying Ground) 

OTP (Unan). The committee gave major huzzahs over their efforts on these graveyard bills which have been hanging around for years and were finally “put to rest.” (Sorry.)

 

LD1378 (An Act to Amend the Laws Governing  The issuance of Bonds  To Support Maine’s Natural Resource based Economy)

This bond business has been in the news recently as our Governor has refused to sign off and has been accused of holding these citizen-initiated bonds hostage for a variety of reasons. It appears that, according to the Attorney General, the Governor’s role in this is basically magisterial and the Legislature can make the call about the process. I am unclear on this but, according to discussion, it seems that this is already addressed in legislation.

Action: ONTP – 5, OTP as amended – 5. Absent – 3

 

LD 66 (Resolve, Naming the Bridges That Span the Machias River in Machias the Jeremiah O’Brien Memorial Bridges)

Brought back for reconsideration. Action:  Motion to Carry Over was Unan.

 

At this point, a pile of papers awaiting final clean-up appeared. It was amendment reviews, but there was also action to get rid of some minority reports. The committee members were really moving in and out of the back room and corridors. Some of the bills we’ve been following were in this pile, so I stayed. There are still 15-16 bills waiting to hit the floor, according to Chair Whittemore. I was the only person left besides the Committee.

 

LD957 (RESOLUTION, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine To Provide for the Popular Election of the Attorney General, Secretary of State and Treasurer of State)

Rep. Turner made a motion to reconsider. Action: ONTP – Unan.

 

LDL1012 (RESOLUTION, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine To Increase the Length of Terms of Senators)

Motion to Reconsider:  ONTP – Unan.

 

LD1354 (An Act To Improve the Maine Administrative Procedure Act)

This was the Governor’s bill. Despite a short, intensive caucus, Rep, Bryant stated he had major heartburn about this bill and could not support it, necessitating the need for a minority report.

 

LD732, 909 & 999 were also briefly mentioned regarding fiscal notes.

 

Members gladly celebrated nearing end to the session and planned a Friday outing at the Chair’s home (mercifully, I was not invited). So after a long, long afternoon, I followed the trail of chocolate crumbs and went home. I’m glad I am not on that committee, I’d be even fatter – boy, they eat a lot!

 

Report from the Statehouse: SLG Committee Public Hearing May 27

By Helen Hanlon

Demonstrators crowded the entrance to the State House for a press conference in anticipation of the Public Hearing on HP 956 (A Joint Resolution Calling For a Constitutional Convention Regarding The Status of Corporations As People and the Role Of Money In the Election Process). Dressed in a variety of garb sure to draw attention – especially in the 90 degree heat –their passion was obvious.

With a full afternoon of hearings ahead, we all streamed into the SLG Hearing room. There was an overflow crowd to hear proposals for changes to the selection process of State constitutional officers (Attorney General, Secretary of State and State Treasurer). The full SLG Committee was in attendance, though some needed to leave during the long afternoon for work on other Committees. To my surprise, Senate Chair Whittemore said that each proposal for each office would be heard separately.

LD 1417 (Resolution, Proposing an Amendment  to The Constitution Of Maine  To Change The Selection Process for The Attorney General)

LD1418 (Resolution, Proposing An Amendment To The Constitution Of Maine To Provide For A Lieutenant Governor and Change The Line of Succession For Governor)

LD 1419 (Resolution, Proposing An Amendment To The Constitution Of Maine To Change the Selection Process for The Treasurer of State)

First-term Legislator, Rep. Stetkis, presented each proposal while acknowledging that these were the Governor’s bills. Despite that, he faced very tough grilling, primarily from Reps. Evangelos and Co-Chair Martin with a few more polite jabs from Rep. Babbidge. Rep. Stetkis, took it in good humor, admitting he’d had no part in writing any of these proposals and hadn’t spoken to the Governor about why we needed these changes. This was all in the spirit of getting away from partisan politics, he said. After the guffaws subsided, the very public issues between the Attorney General and the Governor were rehashed and the consolidation of power was mentioned. Hank Fenton, Deputy Counsel to the Governor, spoke on behalf of the Governor, saying that a more efficient, cohesive team would be better for Maine. No one seemed to buy that argument.

Next we moved on to items of interest to the League: HP 804 and SP499

HP 804 (Joint Resolution Making Application To the Congress of The United States Calling a Convention of the States to Propose Amendments to the United States Constitution To Impose fiscal restraints, Limit Federal Power and Impose Term Limits)

A long list of people signed up to testify and there was a 6-1 ratio in favor of the Resolution. Note: We were surprised to find so much well-organized support for these measures. To learn more about the supporters see the links below.[i]

SP 499 (Joint Resolution Making Application To The Congress of The United States Calling A Constitutional Convention To Propose an Amendment to the United States Constitution to Require a Balanced Federal Budget and Further Fiscal Restraints)

Rep. Short and Rep. Crafts introduced the resolution and spoke about the need to fix the Federal Government, saying that we shouldn’t be afraid to do this. Since there was a packed house, the Committee Chair, stated that there would be a strict 3-minute rule for testimony. Despite that, Ken Quinn of Grassroots Citizens for Self Government (whom Rep. Crafts and Rep. Short called an expert on the topic) was given an hour and a half to speak. Mr. Quinn is apparently leading the charge throughout the land for a “meeting of states” – not a constitutional convention. He stated that whoever wrote the bill did it incorrectly and the wording would need to be amended. His extended testimony turned into a lecture on constitutional convention, Federalist Papers, Hamilton, Madison and state vs. federal powers. At one point, Rep. Evangelos interjected that he was hearing from all sorts of “arm-chair constitutional scholars” via email on this issue and so facts were thrown back and forth in a match between government history wonks.

Once Ken Quinn brought his testimony to a close, others could speak (it was after 4:30 by then) and the pro/con testifiers alternated with 5-4 ratio in favor. Those supporting the measure railed against our unfair federal government, and one woman even held up a torn $10 bill stating this was all the money she had left and hadn’t been able to pay this year’s or last year’s taxes. She demanded that the government has to get off her back. Meanwhile, her cell phone kept ringing – adding to the cacophony in the room.

Those in opposition included a district rep from the John Birch Society, an Attorney from Connecticut and the League, along with a citizen from Camden who spoke spontaneously (the “League of Voters got it right!” regarding what happens when cutbacks occur in times of crises). I was asked one question after testifying: Rep. Pickett questioned the statement in our testimony about deficit spending being admissible, in our opinion, in times of crises. “What about our $19 trillion deficit?”

The Attorney from Connecticut, Deborah Stevenson, testified testified because she was asked by friends – that is, she was not being paid. Her testimony was precise, interesting and focused, citing specifics of why we should proceed very cautiously when considering a Constitutional Convention. She noted that states have unlimited powers to rectify situations when we don’t want to deal with the Federal Government: we can tell them to take their $ and leave. She and the windy Ken Quinn agreed to return for a work session. Some members of the gallery were restless and objecting during her presentation (because she’s from away). It was enough of an interruption that Rep. Dore ask them to be polite and quiet. Questions from the Committee were xenophobic in nature – who was she & why did she come up from Connecticut for this?  Yipes, someone from away!

Meanwhile the pack of people there for HP956 were getting hungry because it was after 6pm. I headed home, waving “nite-nite” to Danielle Foxx, Legal Analyst extraordinaire from VLA Committee. At least I’ve made some friends this session – but I miss the bear bills & the good ol’ days of February and March!

 

 

[i] http://www.conventionofstates.com/; https://selfgovern.com/ & http://www.themainewire.com/2015/05/quinn-maine-joins-convention-states-movement/

 

Report from the Statehouse: SLG Work Session May 13

By Helen Hanlon

The session began with many motions, corrections, retractions of motions and confusion about what the Committee was being asked to decide today. It demonstrated to me – once again – the lack of preparation, communication and research in the development and drafting of some of these bills. So often it’s déjà vu all over again because many of these measures have been proposed and reworked for years. I get flashbacks of a comic strip from my youth called, “There Ought to Be a Law” and then envision a bunch of Mainers hard at work to make this a reality show.

After much debate about the process of today’s scheduled work, the Committee unanimously decided to form a 3-member subgroup to draft acceptable language that would allow the bills to pass rather than carrying them through into next session. I should note that Reps. Turner, Babbidge, and Evangelos seemed exceptionally thoughtful and practical throughout today’s work sessions.

 

LD857 (An Act To Prohibit Public Endorsement of Candidates for Office By County Employees and Elected Officials)

Debate continued into the bill discussion… with questions about the rationale for legislating an issue that is probably covered by existing rules and regulations in State, County and Departmental entities. The Committee was unsure how to proceed after Rep. Evangelos stated that he felt there was a conflict at issue since they had been asked to decide on the popular election of  an Attorney General (LD743) and to weigh in on LD857.

It was proposed that Committee vote ONTP with a letter asking the Secretary of State to review existing regulations for any conflicts or loopholes, but Rep. Evangelos made the sensible suggestion that the Chair and Co-chair simply send a letter seeking advice from the Sec. of State on how or if to proceed. Phew!

 

LD 1354 (An Act To Improve The Administrative Procedure Act)

This bill repeals a requirement that rules be approved for form and legality by the Attorney General and adds a requirement that rules be submitted to the Attorney General for advice as to form and legality. It changes a statutory provision regarding the taking of private property and notice requirements; allows for electronic submission of certain rule-making information; and enacts a provision that allows an agency to choose to incorporate by reference certain amendments to a code, standard, rule or regulation.

Rep. Martin forcefully maintained that there should be no change to the existing process and suggested the bill stemmed from the “Governor’s major heartburn with the Attorney General.”  Rep. Turner, however, felt that they “should not throw the baby out with the bathwater.” She urged the Committee to work on parts of the bill that made sense and keep provisions 3, 4, 5, 6.

On the ONTP motion, the vote was split 6-6 with one absent.

 

Report from the Statehouse: TAX Committee Work Session May 13

By Stephanie Philbrick

Scheduled first on the agenda, LD 1367 was moved to the end so that employees from Maine Revenue Services could attend.

The session began with discussion on LD 76 and LD 1095, both concerning tax fairness credits and “circuit breaker” deductions. The Property Tax Fairness Credits replaced the circuit breaker or Property Tax and Rent Refund program last year. Rep. Goode said that he had been contacted by many constituents who were surprised to find they no longer get the refund they used to get and had come to rely on. Despite some very detailed discussion about tax formulae and percentages, there didn’t seem to be much interest in the bills outside of Reps. Libby and Goode. Since the Appropriations Committee hasn’t finalized their work, many felt that they couldn’t address these bills because so many of the measures before Appropriations impact other bills and any revenue/expense in these two bills would be based on guesses. So, with time winding down in the Legislative session, LD 76 was tabled and LD 1095 was ONTP with a divided report.

The TAX Committee is an engaged group and I was impressed with how prepared they seemed to be to discuss the minutiae of taxes. And, twelve of the members were there. A for Attendance! Unfortunately, the session didn’t draw a lot of public visitors and, as far as I could tell, most of the attendees were from Maine Revenue Services and other States agencies.

LD 1367 (RESOLUTION, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine To Eliminate the Income Tax)

This is the Governor’s bill and not to be confused with LD 409 which also proposed to end the income tax (our testifimony on LD 409). There was some interesting discussion in the beginning, with details coming from Julie Jones, Policy Analyst for the Committee, and from Maine Revenue Services. The major details were:

  • Based on the current budget and without any additional revenue sources, the loss of revenue to the State would be $1.7 billion.
  • If sales tax is raised the budget deficit is projected to be a lot less.
  • Municipal revenue sharing is likely to decrease by 90%.

This bill aims to end the income tax in 2020 (though it was unclear if this meant as of January 2020 or for the earnings in 2020) leaving the State to find alternative sources of revenue to fund the budget. No plan or sample budget outlining cuts or revenue streams accompany the bill – and this is a point that frustrated many members of the committee.

It was a long discussion and, once the details were cleared up, it quickly divided along party lines. Three times it was predicted that Maine’s economy would rise out of the “doldrums” if we get only rid of income tax. On the other side, it was predicted that K-12 education would be defunded, and we would find ourselves in the same predicament as Kansas if we get rid of income tax. The Committee went into caucus for the second time today — after Rep. Russell made a wild (and perhaps emotional) motion to pass the bill amended to say that as a result all k-12 schools would close, programs would lose funding, roads wouldn’t be maintained, etc. Discussion was — if not heated– definitely getting warm by this point. Rep. Seavey said, “We need to analyze the Kansas situation, but we aren’t cutting the budget by $1.7 billion. There will be a budget, and it will be balanced. No question there will be cuts…. But this must change because income tax is partly responsible for Maine’s doldrums.”

Rep. Sukeforth worried that there was no spending plan with this bill. “If the Governor thinks this is such a good idea why is he waiting until 2020 to enact it?” he asked. “Why doesn’t he apply it sooner so that he can apply it to his final budget while in office?”  He continued, “He should propose a budget without income tax in the next budget, and then we could see a plan and address a constitutional amendment then.”

And finally, Rep. Russell was concerned with the timing of voting on a constitutional amendment this coming November. We learned that, by law, constitutional amendments must go to the voters the November following passage by the Legislature. But, Russell contended, we should be presenting an issue this important to voters in a presidential election year when the largest number of voters turn out at the polls.

In the end the uncertainty of the result – because there is no plan or budget based on this, we don’t know what would be funded or not – and, ultimately, this is what swayed the majority of votes.

Action: An OTP motion failed 5-7; ONTP succeeded 7-5, with a divided report.

 

 

 

Report from the Statehouse: VLA Work Session April 8

By Helen Hanlon

Lovely day at the VLA! The Committee was raring to go, the most engaged I’ve seen them so far with great give and take at today’s work sessions.

LD1335 (An Act To Amend Election Laws) and LD585 (An Act Regarding the Processing of Absentee Ballots Prior To Election Day)

Both of these bills were tabled after several hours of meticulous review with Legislative Analyst Danielle Foxx and Deputy Secretary of State Julie Flynn.

The 14 page analysis of this Legislation brought out many questions from the Committee, but they were still unclear on several issues (noted below). Deputy Flynn stated her hopes for a unanimous OTP vote. She stated that she was willing to bend on a few sticking points in order to see the main point passed. The result would save money, time and staffing, and produce a better product for the voters, too. But, though the Committee mostly seemed in favor, they felt they needed time to discuss some of the specifics.

Action: Tabled.

Points of possible contention with LD1335:

  • Sec.4 . MRSA  Para 331, sub-Para.1

The substantive change in this bill means that no primary would be held for legislative and county offices when there is only one qualified candidate running for office. It also increases the number of days before an election that a write-in candidate must provide a declaration of intent (from 45 to 70 days). This would provide the Secretary of State’s office with additional time for ballot preparation. The cost of changing ballot styles and printing remains an issue for their office.

Several Committee members, notably Reps. Turner, Longstaff and Dillingham, felt that a candidate may be put at a disadvantage if their name isn’t on the primary ballot – even if they don’t have an opponent in that race – because it may affect their name recognition in preparation for the main race. They also queried whether voters might be confused when candidates are omitted from the ballot.

  • Sec. 6  21-A MRSA  Par. 371

Candidates for Nomination vacancy. This would result in a substantive change governing nomination of a replacement candidate when a candidate withdraws before the primary. It requires that withdrawal before a primary must be “for good cause.” This section also changes the deadline to withdraw from 60 to 75 days before the primary. Committee members discussed Rep. Chenette’s bill regarding Place Holders and his experience with the situation. Deputy Flynn reported that the number of withdrawals has increased substantially over the years (50-60 during the last few elections), and currently there are about 2,000 different ballot styles. Both Rep. Turner and Dillingham agreed on the good cause aspect, believing that once you agree to put your name on the ballot, there is a moral aspect to this oath and it should not be treated cavalierly. Rep. Luchini cautioned the Committee to be careful of “legislating ourselves into a corner.” Sen. Cyrway felt that sometimes parties just need more time to find a suitable candidate, therefore the place holder can have a legitimate function.

Currently party rules determine how the public is notified about withdrawal and replacement of a candidate. Legislation could clarify and set specific parameters but Deputy Flynn stated she wasn’t eager for separate bill.

  • Sec. 20.21-A MRSA Para. 712

If an election return is not delivered to the Secretary of State on time a penalty would be imposed on the Town Clerk, resulting in a civil violation and fine of not more than $50/day the return is late. There was much discussion regarding the appropriateness of targeting the clerk vs. municipality. Rep. Saucier felt the fine should be larger ($500) and charged against the municipality not the clerk. Deputy Flynn countered that the Clerk is the officer charged with this responsibility, and it is considered a crime to not comply with election laws. However, she said that this wasn’t a deal-breaker for this bill but it has become an onerous burden for her staff.

LD1192 (An Act Regarding Campaign Finance Reform)

In addition to the dizzying detail above, I added horse racing to my list of vices this session (adding it to booze, bear hunting, slots, underage drinking for veterans, OTB). What can possibly be next? I sat through two Horse racing bills before learning that LD1192 was off today’s docket. I did, however, learn what “handle” means (a wager or bet) and how many out of state horse breeders are in Maine collecting up to $500,000 so I can’t count the afternoon as a loss.