Thursday, December 12, 2013
By MICHAEL CIANCHETTE
Orlando Delogu's recent column (Maine Voices, "In this case, LePage's refusal to sign off on bonds not within his power," July 5), blasting the governor's position on taxpayer-backed debt, is a well-written advocacy piece hidden within what might be described as legal analysis. Unfortunately for the emeritus professor, he is wrong on the law.
He writes that a governor cannot decide to not issue authorized bonds because "no such latitude or power exists." He couches his argument by quoting liberally from the Maine Constitution and throwing around legally charged words like "nullification" and "unconstitutional." This zealous defense of his position might be found compelling in the court of public opinion or in a legal advocacy classroom.
However, Delogu's analysis neglects the role of that other branch of government -- the Legislature. That body is constitutionally empowered to write the laws of our state and has significant discretion in determining what those laws say. Some laws are prescriptive and use words like "shall" or "must," while others are permissive and use words like "may" or "authorize."
In the case of the authorized-but-unissued bonds, the public laws ratified by the voters specifically and purposefully use the word "authorize." The state treasurer, under the governor's direction, is authorized to issue bonds up to a certain amount. An authorization to act is not a requirement to do so.
Michael Cianchette is deputy counsel to Gov. Paul R. LePage.