Sometimes the law is complex, and high-priced lawyers earn their fees arguing every side of a polygon. Sometimes, though, the answer is simple.

If the Legislature has spoken and its intent is clear, that should be the end of the discussion.

Here’s an example: Section 93 of Title 1 of Maine statutes says, “Any change made by the revisor may not change the substantive meaning of any statutory unit. Any error or inadvertent substantive change made by the revisor must be construed as a clerical error and given no effect.”

What’s the revisor? It’s the “production office” of the Legislature, where all bills and amendments are filed and then produced in final form. It publishes statutes and maintains a statutory database.

There’s nothing hard to understand about Section 93: It says (as makes total sense) that the revisor’s office doesn’t have the authority to change legislation. If it does so by mistake, the change must be ignored.

There’s been a lot of ink spilled about the Public Utilities Commission’s decision to limit Efficiency Maine Trust’s annual funding to $23 million instead of $59 million because the revisor dropped the word “and” from a bill after a committee had approved it. Everyone, Democrats and Republicans alike, agrees that the Legislature intended the funding to be set at $59 million.

So why did two newly appointed PUC commissioners ignore Section 93 (and common sense) when they issued their order? They must not have known about that statute, right?

Wrong: A staff memo to the commissioners specifically cited the statute, and said it was relevant to whether the revisor was authorized to make the substantive change. So they made their decision – directly contrary to the Legislature’s intent that errors by the revisor be “given no effect” – in deliberate disregard of a Maine law.

PUC commissioners must follow the law, not ignore it.

Dan Amory

trustee, Conservation Law Foundation

Portland