Secretary of State ’09 Voter Information Guide

The Secretary of State’s office has released its 2009 voter information guide.  The guide provides information on what each question is asking, what they represent, and what a “yes” or “no” vote on each question means.  Please take a minute to familiarize yourself with each question.  An informed voter is the best kind.  And of course don’t forget to vote November 3rd, or earlier depending on your town.  A thank you too Rep. Meredith Strang Burgess (R-Cumberland) for the heads up on this.

Important Referendum Election Information

Question 1:  People’s Veto
Do you want to reject the new law that lets same-sex couples marry and allows individuals and religious groups to refuse to perform these marriages?

This referendum asks whether Maine voters want to reject or accept amendments to the state’s marriage laws that were enacted by the Legislature and approved by the Governor in May 2009.  The new law would allow same-sex couples to marry in Maine.  It also would recognize such marriages lawfully performed in other states.  It would allow individuals who are authorized to perform marriages to refuse to perform a marriage for a same-sex couple.  Finally, the law does not allow any court or governmental body to compel, prevent or interfere in any way with a religious institution’s doctrines, policies, teaching or practices regarding marriage.

After the legislation making the above changes was enacted in May, 2009, petitioners collected a sufficient number of signatures of registered voters to refer it to the people for a vote at a statewide election.  The effect of the legislation has been suspended pending the outcome of the election.

A “YES” vote would reject the new law permitting same-sex couples to marry.
A “NO” vote would allow the new law to take effect, permitting same-sex couples to marry.

Question 2:  Citizen Initiative
Do you want to cut the rate of the municipal excise tax by an average of 55% on motor vehicles less than six years old and exempt hybrid and other alternative-energy and highly fuel-efficient motor vehicles from sales tax and three years of excise tax?

This initiated legislation would reduce the rate of the excise tax on motor vehicles less than six years old.  This is the tax that owners of vehicles pay each year in order to register their vehicles.  The excise tax is collected and retained by the city or town where the owner of the vehicle resides.  If the vehicle owner lives in the unorganized territory, the tax is deposited in the unorganized territory fund in the county where the owner resides.

The extent of the rate cut varies depending on the age of the vehicle.  The legislation provides a rate cut of about 50% for one and two-year old vehicles (from 24 mills to 12 mills in year one, and 17 ½ to 8 mills in year two); 70% for a 3-year old vehicle (from 13 ½ to 4 mills); 60% for a 4-year old vehicle (from 10 to 4 mills); and 38% for a 5-year old vehicle (from 6 ½ to 4 mills).  The legislation does not change the current rate of excise tax (4 mills) for vehicles older than 5 years.  Each mill constitutes a tax of one dollar for every $1,000 of the manufacturer’s suggested retail price for the vehicle.  (For example, a 4-mill tax rate means that the vehicle owner would pay a tax of $4 for every $1,000 of the suggested retail price for that vehicle.)

Hybrid gasoline-electric vehicles, vehicles powered by fuel cells or hydrogen, and other vehicles with estimated fuel consumption rates of at least 40 miles per gallon on the highway according to United States Environmental Protection Agency testing, would be entirely exempt from excise tax during the first three years.  After three years, the tax rate would be the same as for all other motor vehicles of the same age.  These vehicles also would be completely exempt from sales tax.

If approved, this citizen initiated legislation would take effect 30 days after proclamation of the vote.

A “YES” vote favors enactment of the initiated legislation.
A “NO” vote opposes enactment of the initiated legislation.

Question 3:  Citizen Initiative
Do you want to repeal the 2007 law on school district consolidation and restore the laws previously in effect?

This citizen-initiated legislation would repeal the school district consolidation law that was enacted by the Legislature and signed by the Governor in June, 2007, and subsequently amended in 2008 and 2009, and would re-enact the laws governing school administrative units in Maine that were in effect prior to June 2007.

The 2007 school district consolidation law required every school administrative unit in the state to submit a reorganization plan or alternative plan to the state Department of Education by December 1, 2007, and to present it for voter approval at a local referendum election to be held on or before November 4, 2008.  The goal of reorganization was to reduce the number of school administrative units in the state from 290 to approximately 80, by creating Regional School Units and eliminating school administrative districts (SADs), community school districts (CSDs), and school unions that were formed under the laws in effect before June 2007.  Each new Regional School Unit was to serve at least 2,500 students, or at least 1,200 students if it was impractical to create a larger unit due to geography, density and distribution of the population, or transportation problems. Island and tribal schools, school administrative units that already served more than 2,500 (or 1,200) students, and units with existing administrative costs of less than 4% per pupil and at least three high performing schools within the unit were allowed to file alternative plans.  Every school administrative unit in the state was required to submit a plan demonstrating how it would reduce administrative costs.

The 2008 amendments to the school district consolidation law allowed isolated, rural communities to form units of fewer than 1,200 but no fewer than 1,000 students, and also allowed for the creation of alternative organizational structures as a third option for complying with the law.  The deadline for getting voter approval at a referendum election was extended from November 2008 to January 30, 2009.  Penalties for noncompliance with the law’s requirements, as amended, include reduced state subsidies for system administrative costs and a 2% increase in the education mill rate to be paid by a non-complying school unit.

In 2009, the law was further amended to delay penalties for one year for all school administrative units that are not yet in compliance.

All of the above provisions would be repealed by this citizen initiative, and the laws pertaining to school administrative units within the state that existed prior to June, 2007, would be re-enacted.  The status of Regional School Units and alternative organizational structures already formed under the consolidation law will have to be addressed by the Legislature if this initiative is approved.

If approved, this citizen initiated legislation would take effect 30 days after proclamation of the vote.

A “YES” vote favors repeal of the 2007 school district consolidation law and its amendments.
A “NO” vote opposes repeal and favors leaving the 2007 school district consolidation law and its amendments in effect.

Question 4: Citizen Initiative
Do you want to change the existing formulas that limit state and local government spending and require voter approval by referendum for spending over those limits and for increases in state taxes?

This initiated legislation changes existing law with regard to limits on spending by state, county and municipal governments, and state tax increases.

State government spending limits, tax increases and voter approval process
The initiative repeals the existing caps on spending of state General Funds and replaces it with a new formula that limits growth in spending for all state funds to the percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index for the most recent calendar year plus the percentage increase in state population for the three most recent years.  The new formula also caps the Highway Fund and other Special Revenue Funds and requires separate calculations for these funds as well as for the General Fund.  Certain expenditures are exempt from these spending limits, such as federal funds, pension fund contributions, disability payments and taxpayer refunds.  Any spending over the limits set by the new formula would have to be approved as a separate measure, first by a majority of all the members of each house of the Legislature, and then by a majority of the voters at a statewide referendum election.

Any state tax increase projected to generate revenue equal to or exceeding 1/100 of one percent (.01%) of General Fund revenue in a fiscal year would require approval of a majority of all the members of each house of the Legislature and a majority of voters at a statewide referendum election.  This requirement would apply to a new tax, an increase in a tax rate, the expansion of the tax base for an existing tax, an extension of a tax increase that was due to expire, or elimination of an existing tax exemption, credit or refund.

Under current law, the excise tax on motor fuels that goes into the Highway Fund is adjusted each year for inflation, based on the percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index.  This initiative provides that an increase in the motor fuel tax to adjust for inflation would not take effect unless and until approved by a majority of the voters at a statewide referendum election.

Before each statewide referendum vote, specific information regarding the fiscal effects of a proposed tax increase or proposal to exceed the spending limit on state funds would have to be mailed to every registered voter in the state.  The state would be required to reimburse municipalities for the cost of conducting any special statewide election for this purpose.

The initiative also creates certain reserve funds.  At the end of each fiscal year, 80% of any General Fund revenues not spent would be transferred into a Tax Relief Reserve Fund which the Legislature would have to use to fund temporary or permanent broad-based tax rate reductions.  Similarly, 80% of any excess revenues in the Highway Fund at the end of each fiscal year would be transferred to a new Highway Fund Reserve Fund.  If the amount in this reserve fund exceeded 1% of Highway Fund expenditures, the State Tax Assessor would be required to reduce taxes on motor fuels proportionately for the following calendar year.

County and municipal government spending limits and voter approval process
The initiated legislation changes the existing spending limits for county and municipal governments to add that the growth in spending allowed cannot exceed the percentage change in personal income in Maine, averaged over the previous 10 years, plus the percentage change in the Consumer Price Index forecast for the next two calendar years.

Under existing law, counties may not exceed the spending limit without the approval of a majority of all members of the county budget or budget advisory committee and a majority of the county commissioners. A referendum vote may also be required if petitions are submitted with enough voter signatures to trigger a referendum.  The initiated legislation would repeal the optional referendum process and mandate it instead.

Municipalities could not spend over the revised caps without getting voter approval, either at a town meeting, or by a separate referendum vote for those municipalities governed by a city or town council.

If approved, this citizen initiated legislation would take effect 30 days after proclamation of the vote.

A “YES” vote favors enactment of the initiated legislation.
A “NO” vote opposes enactment of the initiated legislation.

Question 5: Citizen Initiative
Do you want to change the medical marijuana laws to allow treatment of more medical conditions and to create a regulated system of distribution?

This initiated legislation repeals Maine’s existing statutes regarding the medical use of marijuana and replaces them with a new law, entitled the Maine Medical Marijuana Act.

The new Act expands the list of medical conditions for which marijuana may be prescribed to include cancer, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), AIDS, hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (commonly known as “Lou Gehrig’s disease”), Crohn’s disease, agitation of Alzheimer’s diseases, nail-patella syndrome, and the treatment of any of these conditions; plus any chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition that causes intractable pain that has not responded to ordinary procedures for reducing pain over a period of more than six months, and any chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or its treatment that produces severe nausea, seizures (including epileptic seizures), or severe and persistent muscle spasms, such as those associated with multiple sclerosis.  The public would be able to petition the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to add other medical conditions to this list, according to rules that would be developed by DHHS.

Any person diagnosed by a doctor as having one of these medical conditions, and who, in the professional opinion of the doctor, is likely to receive palliative or therapeutic benefit for the condition or its symptoms, could qualify to possess marijuana for medical use.  The patient would be issued a “registry identification card” by DHHS and authorized to possess up to two and a half ounces of usable marijuana and up to six marijuana plants, provided the plants were kept in an enclosed, locked facility.  A qualifying patient could designate another person to assist them with their medical use of marijuana, provided that person was over the age of 21 and had never been convicted of a felony drug offense.  This person, designated as a “primary care giver,” would be issued a registry card, and would then be authorized to possess, for each qualifying patient the person was assisting, up to two and a half ounces of usable marijuana and up to six marijuana plants kept in an enclosed, locked facility.  Applications by patients and caregivers for registry identification cards, and the list of persons who had been issued registry cards, would be kept confidential by DHHS.

Possession and use of marijuana for medical purposes would be prohibited on the grounds of any school (pre-school through high school), in a school bus, or in any jail or prison.  Smoking of marijuana would be prohibited in any public place and on any form of public transportation.  Patients would not be permitted to control or operate any motor vehicle, aircraft or motorboat while under the influence of marijuana.  Employers would not be required to permit use of marijuana in the workplace or to accommodate an employee working while under the influence.

The legislation authorizes the establishment of not-for-profit organizations as “nonprofit dispensaries” to acquire, cultivate and distribute marijuana to qualifying patients for medical use, and to be designated as primary caregivers for such patients.  Every dispensary would have to qualify and be registered with DHHS and would operate under regulations to be developed by DHHS.  The regulations must include restrictions on who could serve as a board member, officer or employee of a dispensary, and restrictions on the amount of usable marijuana or marijuana plants that the dispensary could produce and distribute to patients.  Any cultivation of marijuana by a dispensary would have to take place in an enclosed, locked facility.  No dispensary could be located within 500 feet of the property line of a public or private school that was already in existence, and local governments would remain free to restrict the number of dispensaries within their city or town or to enact reasonable zoning regulations applicable to dispensaries.

The proposed law provides legal protections from prosecution for primary caregivers, qualifying patients and nonprofit dispensaries operating in compliance with the law, and also includes penalties for noncompliance with the new law and rules.

If approved, this citizen initiated legislation would take effect 30 days after proclamation of the vote.

A “YES” vote favors enactment of the initiated legislation.
A “NO” vote opposes enactment of the initiated legislation.

Question 6:  Bond Issue
Do you favor a $71,250,000 bond issue for improvements to highways and bridges, airports, public transit facilities, ferry and port facilities, including port and harbor structures, as well as funds for the LifeFlight Foundation that will make the State eligible for over $148,000,000 in federal and other matching funds?

This Act would authorize the State to issue bonds in an amount not to exceed $71,250,000 to raise funds for a variety of projects, as described below.  The bonds would run for a period not longer than 10 years from the date of issue and would be backed by the full faith and credit of the State.  Fifty million dollars ($50,000,000) of the bond proceeds would be placed in the Highway Fund and the remainder would be in the General Fund.

The Department of Transportation would expend $69,750,000 of the bond proceeds for the following types of projects:

  • $55,000,000   for highway and bridge improvement projects statewide;
  • $  5,750,000   for improvements to the ports at Eastport and Searsport;
  • $  4,000,000   for improvements to state-owned rail lines and investments in the Industrial Rail  Access Program and the Critical Rail Corridors Program;
  • $  2,000,000   for improvements to publicly owned airports;
  • $  1,000,000   for ferry facilities;
  • $  1,000,000   for the LifeFlight Foundation, a non-profit foundation that supports a statewide medical helicopter service used to transport critically ill and injured patients to hospitals;
  • $     400,000   to continue development of the Acadia Gateway Intermodal Center in Trenton;
  • $     400,000  for improvements to island airports; and
  • $     200,000  for upgrades to the Augusta airport.


The Department of Economic and Community Development would expend the remaining $1,500,000 of the proceeds of sale of the bonds to rebuild a bulkhead and wharf at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland.

If approved, the bond authorization would take effect 30 days after the Governor’s proclamation of the vote.

A “YES” vote favors authorizing the $71,250,000 bond issue to finance all of the above activities.
A “NO” vote opposes the bond issue in its entirety.

Question 7:  Constitutional Amendment
Do you favor amending the Constitution of Maine to increase the amount of time that local officials have to certify the signatures on direct initiative petitions?

This proposal would authorize an amendment to the Constitution of Maine to change certain time frames in the direct initiative and people’s veto referendum process.

Direct initiative: The amendment would increase, from 5 days to 10 days, the time period for officials of cities, towns and plantations to complete their review of petitions for a direct initiative in order to certify which signatures are those of registered voters within their city, town or plantation.  It also clarifies for these purposes that “day” and “days” means any day that is not a Saturday, Sunday or legal holiday.  Direct initiative petitions would have to be submitted to municipal offices for review by 5:00 p.m. on the 12th day (instead of the 10th day, under current law) before the deadline for filing with the Secretary of State’s office.

There is a corresponding extension of the deadline for filing a direct initiative petition with the Secretary of State’s office.  Under current law, that deadline is the 50th day after the Legislature convenes in a first regular session (the first year of the biennium) and the 25th day after the Legislature convenes in a second regular session (the second year of the biennium). This proposal would extend those deadlines by ten days to the 60th and 35th days, respectively.  Petitioners would thus have approximately the same amount of time in which to circulate petitions and collect signatures under this proposal as under current law.

People’s veto: The only change to the time frames for a people’s veto petition is that such petitions would have to be submitted to municipal offices by 5:00 p.m. on the 3rd day (instead of the 5th day) before the deadline for filing with the Secretary of State’s office.  Saturdays, Sundays and legal holidays are again excluded.  The existing deadline in the Constitution for filing a people’s veto petition with the Secretary of State’s office would remain unchanged.

A “YES” vote favors adoption of this constitutional amendment.
A “NO” vote opposes adoption of this constitutional amendment.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: