During last year’s general election cycle, the people of Maine saw a record number of citizens’ initiatives up for a vote. After the dust settled, many voters were left wondering what the consequences would be of sweeping legislation enacted through the ballot box.
Thankfully, the legislature acted and fully repealed Question 2, the 3 percent surtax on incomes earned over $200,000, in the biennial budget deal. The legislature also altered the minimum wage initiative, Question 4, by reinstating the tip credit for workers in Maine’s food service industry. However, conservatives had to battle tooth and nail through a government shutdown for these reforms.
Maine has the opportunity to prevent lofty, overreaching initiatives like Questions 2 and 4 from appearing on the ballot in the future by enacting LD 31. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Ellie Espling, R-New Gloucester, would amend the Maine Constitution by requiring petitioners collect signatures for citizens’ referendums from voters in both of Maine’s congressional districts. The number of signatures collected in each district cannot be less than 10 percent of the total votes cast for Governor in that district during the most recent gubernatorial election.
This measure would ensure Mainers across the state support an initiative before it appears on the ballot. Too often signatures are collected in left-leaning Portland and other southern areas of the state for initiatives that Mainers in The County would never consider enacting. When liberal organizations dump millions of dollars into Maine to pass a referendum question, Mainers in rural areas have no way to defend their livelihoods other than to hope people show up at the polls and beat the big money campaigns. As seen in 2016, that is easier said than done.
Unfortunately, the ballot initiative landscape in Maine is not a level playing field. Deep-pocketed liberal donors use our state as a guinea pig to test radical Leftist ideas, and our ballot initiative process has become their vehicle of choice. Rarely do these ballot questions spawn organically at the will of Maine voters.
For instance, during the 2016 cycle, Fieldworks, a political organization from Washington D.C., was paid $560,000 by Michael Bloomberg to collect signatures for Question 3 to appear on the ballot. Fieldworks was also paid to collect signatures for two other initiatives that appeared on the ballot last November.
Since its adoption in the early 20th century, the ballot initiative process has increasingly become a tool of special interest unable to move their agenda past the deliberative scrutiny of the Legislature. During the 1950s and 1960s, not a single citizens’ initiative appeared on the ballot in Maine, compared to 16 initiatives from 2000 to 2010 and five in 2016 alone.
It’s time for this to stop, and to return power to the People of Maine. Requiring an equal amount of petition signatures from each congressional district will give all Mainers more of a voice in the process, and prevent southern Maine from unilaterally imposing its will on the rest of the state. LD 31 accomplishes this reform.
It is imperative that you contact your state senator today and urge them to support LD 31 so that it gathers a two-thirds vote to move to this November’s ballot.