AUGUSTA – Rep. Sharon Treat (D-Hallowell) has left Maine taxpayers on the hook for $680,000 worth of legal expenses stemming from a bill she advanced in 2007 that was recently struck down as violative of the U.S. Constitution.
Treat sponsored LD 838 in the 123rd Legislature, which was merged into another bill, LD 4, and passed in June of 2007. The combined bills, pushed aggressively in the Legislature by Treat, tried to stop private businesses from obtaining information about the prescribing practices of doctors. It was a popular initiative, but one that was already the subject of litigation in New Hampshire.
IMS Health, the company that ultimately challenged Maine’s law in court, testified against it in late March of 2007 (see page 11), noting that there was a pending court case against similar legislation in New Hampshire and that a decision was expected soon. IMS also noted that 11 of 12 states that considered a similar law rejected it.
On April 30, 2007, a federal district court handed down a decision (490 F.Supp.2d 163 (2007)) that found the New Hampshire legislation violated the First Amendment. LD 838 was not enacted until June 15, 2007.
“Rep. Sharon Treat and the Democrat-controlled Legislature were on notice about the constitutional problems with this bill,” said Maine Republican Party spokesman David Sorensen. “Instead of pausing to let the courts finish their work, they pushed this bill through and now we are all paying for it.”
The rest, then, including a $680,000 bill left at the taxpayers’ doorstep, was completely foreseeable. In a 6-3 decision where even Justices Scalia and Sotomayor found agreement, the Supreme Court struck down a Vermont law that was similar to the one in Maine and New Hampshire and, as a result, Rep. Treat’s law was declared unconstitutional by a lower court.
Since the state was on the losing end of a First Amendment claim, it had to pay a fee order of $678,189.64 to cover the costs incurred by IMS Health. This does not include the state resources that went into defending the unconstitutional law.
“Rep. Treat’s poor judgment and her impulsive quest for a legislative victory put Maine taxpayers on the hook once again,” added Sorensen. “As if we needed another reason to keep the Democrats out of the majority, here we have another instance of their mismanagement of state government coming back to haunt us.”