Friday, September 4, 2009

Referendum questions are set for November

If you live just a wee bit inland, you’ll have some absolutely wonderful weather today. Temperatures not far from the coast could reach into the eighties. Along the coast, however, even though it will be a delightful day, expected sea breezes will keep that temperature in the upper seventies.

The election is drawing closer, now just two months away. The Maine Secretary of State yesterday released the order of the ballot questions for the November election. All are extremely important to the future of our state.

Referendum questions are worded so that a “Yes” vote passes the initiative and a “No” vote maintains the status quo. There are five citizen initiatives on the ballot.

By law a people’s initiatives to overturn newly enacted laws appear first. In November voters will be facing one such initiative, a People’s Veto to reject the same-sex marriage law. That law is currently on hold pending the outcome of the balloting.

Advertising has already become rather abundant by those hoping to defeat the referendum that was put the law into effect as passed by the Legislature. You can expect both sides to ramp up the rhetoric in the next few weeks.

The exact question 1 reads: “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?”

The second question deals with an initiative by a people’s campaign to lower the excise tax you pay on your vehicles and to give a three-year exemption for cars using alternative energy (hybrids). It reads: "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?"

In 2007 the state ordered school district consolidation for what it said would be cost savings. A group of citizens opposed to the consolidation has given us what was drawn as Question 3: "Do you want to repeal the 2007 law on school district consolidation and restore the laws previously in effect?"

TABOR II is the fourth question. If passed, it would limit state and local government spending and require an approval to go over the spending limits or increase state taxes. "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?"

Question five, "Do you want to change the medical marijuana laws to allow treatment of more medical conditions and to create a regulated system of distribution?" would give more medical usage for medical marijuana.

A Legislature requested bond issue is the sixth question and it seeks more than $71-million for roads, bridges, and transportation facilities and funds for the LifeFlight Foundation. Passage will make the state eligible for matching funds. "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?"

I believe the actual ballot will also include the amount of interest we’ll have to pay on top of the $71-million if it passes.

The ballot will end with a Constitutional Question about a topic I’ve heard little or nothing. It has to do with the certification of initiative petitions like the ones that led to the first five questions. "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?"

You have probably noticed that the petition drive currently going on to have the so-called tax reform passed by the last Legislature repealed is not among the ballot questions. To have had it on the November ballot, the petitioning groups would have had to turn in their petitions with the required certified numbers earlier this week. They did not.

However, I have been told that petitions containing just over 55-thousand signatures will be passed in by the September 12th absolute deadline. They will probably need closer to 65-thousand signatures to get the right number certified by the Secretary of State’s office. If they succeed, the law will be put on hold until next June’s balloting date.

In an earlier post I hinted how I plan to vote, but at the time I didn’t realize a bond question and a Constitutional question would be included. I’ll probably give my thoughts on these various referendum questions as the weeks go by.

We hinted Monday this would be a slow week here. I somehow don't think I was wrong.


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