If lawmakers voted to approve a paid leave program — funded by a new one percent payroll tax on workers — then that would legally nullify a more radical version of the plan left-wing activists are pursuing via ballot referendum.
So said Sen. Mattie Daughtry (D-Cumberland) Thursday morning on the WGAN Morning News in an interview with host Matthew Gagnon.
“From what I understand, depending on when the law takes effect, it would render the referendum null and void,” Sen. Daughtry said, after disclosing that she’s not a lawyer.
Perhaps she should have consulted with one. Because she’s 100 percent wrong about her bill (LD 1964) having the legally ability to render a ballot referenda “null and void.”
Multiple attorneys confirmed for the Maine Wire that there is no legal mechanism by which a bill passed by the State Legislature would cancel out or nullify a ballot initiative with different language.
If the Legislature voted to approve the exact language of a referendum that had been approved by the Maine Secretary of State, that would be a different question.
But Daughtry was incorrect to say that a legal mechanism existed that would allow the Legislature to obviate the more radical referendum pursued by Portland-area activists affiliated with the Maine People’s Alliance.
The legal flub may seem like a small matter, but the political significance is big.
As Sen. Matt Pouliot (R-Kennebec) said Wednesday while the Senate debated Daughtry’s bill, the existence of the ballot referendum is like a “gun to the head” of Republican lawmakers.
That is: vote to approve Daughtry’s bill — or else you’re going to get the more radical version cooked up by activists in Portland.
Daughtry’s comments on Gagnon’s radio show, if they were true, could lead some Republicans or business groups to support LD 1964 as a way of getting the lesser of two evils.
However, nothing in Maine law would prevent an outside interest group from using the people’s veto or the referendum process to push the state to adopt the more expansive version of paid family and medical leave.
Daughtry did not respond to a text message asking her if she wanted to set the record straight.
And, in fairness, if you listen to the whole radio clip, she does go on to imply that there has been an informal arrangement made with the activists backing the referendum to drop the campaign if LD 1964 passes.
But a political promise is not the same as a formal legal mechanism.