A new citizens initiative was approved for circulation in Maine on January 25, yet the Secretary of State’s office has not published the official documents for the initiative on its website. The Free Maine Committee, a political action committee run by Harrison Kemp of Old Town and Tyler Rowe of Bangor, is looking to secure more than 63,000 valid signatures to prompt a statewide vote on their bill to reform emergency executive power in Maine. The group calls its effort “truly grassroots.”
The initiative would make a number of small tweaks to the language of Maine’s emergency powers law while adding a new provision that requires an affirmative vote of the legislature to extend a state of emergency. Under the bill, a two-thirds vote of the Maine Legislature would be required for a governor’s emergency powers to persist after the initial 30-day emergency declaration.
The Free Maine Committee is now actively fundraising to fuel its petition effort. The group says it’s looking to secure $1,700 to print all of its petition forms and equip their volunteers with clipboards, pens, hand sanitizer and face masks to begin collecting signatures. Kemp told The Maine Wire he and Rowe are pursuing the initiative because “nobody is trying to stop what the government is doing.”
The full text of the initiative can be found below:
“The governor is allowed to do anything she wants right now, and the citizens have no recourse,” Kemp said, referring to the emergency declared by Governor Mills on March 15, 2020 in response to the pandemic and the many executive orders issued since to restrict travel, commerce and other activities in hopes of “controlling the virus.”
Kemp says he has many friends and family members who have been adversely affected by the virus and the governor’s response to it, and wants to be part of the solution since lawmakers have not stepped in to reclaim their rightful policymaking authority from the governor.
“Many of her rules don’t make sense,” Kemp said, adding that some of governor’s executive orders simply forced unnecessary compliance costs on business owners who were already struggling to survive amid the pandemic.
For the group, the initiative is about bringing balance back into the equation. Kemp says Maine lawmakers, not the governor, should be directing the state’s virus response, especially since nearly one year has passed since the emergency was first declared. The current arrangement enables the chief executive to govern by edict without input from the people or their representatives.
“Governor Mills calls all the shots with no input from our legislature, which means the people of Maine have no representation in their government.”
Kemp, who identifies as a civil libertarian, says the governor’s actions are antithetical to the U.S. and state constitutions, and that one person was never meant to have this much power in our government. He likened the Constitution to a social contract between government and citizens, and says state government is not holding up its end of the bargain.
“If the people don’t have a say, it’s not government anymore.”
The committee’s petitions were issued on January 25 and the filing deadline to appear on the November 2022 statewide ballot is January 31, 2022, though the question could still appear on voters’ ballots after that date. The group has 18 months, or until July 25, 2022, to collect the necessary 63,000+ signatures before their petitions expire.