On July 19, the Maine House of Representatives sustained Gov. Janet Mills’ veto of LD 1708, the bill that would have created a consumer-owned utility.
The House voted 68-65 in favor of allowing the bill to become law despite the governor’s objections. This failed to meet the two-thirds majority threshold required to override a governor’s veto. As a result, the Senate did not vote on the bill.
LD 1708 would only have created a consumer-owned utility, which would have had the power to purchase and take over the state’s investor-owned utility, if voters approved a ballot question.
The language of the ballot question was included in the bill. It asked if voters favored replacing Central Maine Power and Versant Power with the consumer-owned Pine Tree Power Company “without using tax dollars or state bonds, and to focus on delivering reliable, affordable electricity, and meeting the State’s energy independence and Internet connectivity goals?”
Mills cited this language, which she said highlighted “the most optimistic potential outcomes, with no mention of the potential downside risks” as a reason for vetoing the bill.
Though the bill is dead, voters may still see the question LD 1708 would have posed on the ballot next November. Rep. Seth Berry (D-Bowdoinham), one of the bill’s sponsors, has stated his intent to put the question of creating a consumer-owned utility to a referendum.
Berry has made in-kind contributions in the form of Facebook advertising boosts to Our Power, a ballot question committee formed in December 2020 for the purpose of putting a question about a consumer-owned utility on the ballot.
According to Our Power’s most recent quarterly filing report, the group has received a total of $66,521 in contributions since it was formed.
“We have already begun recruiting volunteers to collect petition signatures and take the question of consumer ownership to the voters next November through a citizen’s initiative,” said Stephanie Clifford, Our Power’s campaign manager, in a press release issued after the legislature sustained Mills’ veto of LD 1708.
To initiate a referendum, Maine law requires a voter submit an application to the Secretary of State to review. A petition must receive the signature of 63,607 eligible Maine residents in order to appear on the ballot.