The Jan. 1 Portland Press Herald editorial (“Our View: Don’t overreact to bear campaign ads”) urges legislators to approach with caution the subject of controlling government presence in citizens’ initiatives, as was demonstrated in last year’s bear ballot question.

It’s one thing for officials to give their expert opinion, but what we all saw – and will long remember – was quite another: the deliberate partisan role that Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife played in the decision-making process, siding, as per usual, with the hunting lobby it consistently supports, and saturating the media with uniformed personnel using scare tactics, all on company time and with the use of public resources.

As the editorial notes: “What we saw appeared to be the enormous power of state government wielded against a group of citizens who were calling for a change in state law. We have seen state officials involved in campaigns before, but we have never seen them go quite as far as the state biologists and game wardens went in this election.”

That’s exactly right. But it’s not a one-time occurrence, as the editorial later states. It happened to a lesser extent in 2004 during the bear referendum voted on in that year; it expanded considerably in 2014, and, if left unchecked, will continue in the future, no doubt on an even larger scale.

The question is: How many times must this abuse of power be allowed to undermine one of Maine’s basic tenets – the right of the people to decide for themselves without the biased efforts of a state agency?

The editorial decries overreaction – but that, in fact, is an underreaction to blatantly undemocratic interference in a public ballot. The correct response is to make sure it doesn’t happen again. The Legislature will soon have an opportunity to do just that.