January 30, 2012

State House Notebook: Group from away rejoins gay marriage debate

From staff reports

AUGUSTA — The National Organization for Marriage says it's ready to once again help fight attempts to legalize gay marriage in Maine.

TUNE IN TODAY

MaineToday Media State House Writer Susan M. Cover will be on NewsRadio 560 WGAN at 8:08 a.m. today to talk about what's going on at the State House.

After EqualityMaine and others turned in more than 105,000 signatures last week to get on the November ballot, the Virginia group put out a news release saying it will "vigorously fight" the issue again.

"Maine voters rejected gay marriage barely more than two years ago," National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown said in a prepared statement. "What part of 'no' don't gay marriage advocates understand?"

The group spent nearly $2 million in 2009 to provide most of the funding for the campaign that overturned the state's same-sex marriage law before it could take effect. It did not say how much it is willing to spend this time around.

The organization still has two court cases pending that relate to the last campaign. It's suing the state in federal court to challenge the constitutionality of a state law that requires campaign disclosure, and it sued in state court to try to block an investigation into its finances by the ethics commission's staff.

PRAYER BACKLASH

A Wisconsin group wrote a letter to Gov. Paul LePage and members of the Maine Legislative Prayer Caucus, saying it believes "it's a misuse of civil power" for them to have signed the Call to Prayer for Maine earlier this month.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation said it represents the views of 25 percent of Maine citizens who "self-identify as nonreligious." The proclamation signed by LePage and several lawmakers said they "believe in prayer and the Judeo-Christian principles that remind us that our rights come from almighty God."

The foundation disagrees.

"The Prayer Caucus offensively and incorrectly asserts that people need religion to be moral," says a news release from the group. "This statement shows far more about those who ascribe to it than those who don't (and it's not pretty). FFRF invites the Prayer Caucus to get off your knees and get back to work."

SIGNATURES TODAY

Maine Citizens for Clean Energy is expected to deliver signatures to the Secretary of State's Office today in hopes of putting a ballot measure before voters in November.

The citizens initiative would require 20 percent of Maine's electricity to come from renewable sources such as solar, wind, and hydro. It also would require utilities to invest in energy efficiency.

Gov. LePage has repeatedly criticized the measure, saying it would increase costs and drive business away. Groups behind the effort say it would create jobs, protect the environment, and make Maine less dependent on fossil fuels.

Assuming the backers have the 57,277 required signatures, expect a vigorous debate through the summer and fall.

LESS RED TAPE

Rep. Kerri Prescott, R-Topsham, is sponsoring a bill (L.D. 1695) that would free up precious wall space in stores, particularly convenience stores, by allowing owners to keep licenses and permits in a drawer instead of prominently displayed on a wall.

She said her bill "alters the existing, ineffective requirement that retailers post numerous licenses and permits on a high-visibility area of their stores." The Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee gave the bill a unanimous stamp of approval, which means it's heading to the House and Senate for consideration.

SOS: ELECTION REFORM NEEDED

Secretary of State Charles Summers asked lawmakers last week to direct him to do a thorough review of the state's election system so he can bring back a "comprehensive election reform package" next year.

(Continued on page 2)

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