Maine’s Constitution, art. IV, part 3, §18, allows the “direct initiative of legislation.” In the same vein §17, the Constitution’s referendum provision, allows “… acts, bills, resolves or resolutions…passed by the legislature”to be submitted to the voters.

In other words, Maine’s Constitution clothes the people with the power to initiate/create new legislation and to overturn legislative enactments – that’s it. These tools are constitutionally limited to the creation or repudiation of legislation – nothing more.

The ten-line initiative to block CMP’s power line does not create new legislation affecting power line location, construction, maintenance, etc. Nor does it repeal any measure “passed by the legislature.” Instead, it directs the PUC (a quasi-judicial regulatory body) to reverse an order conditionally permitting the power line – an order issued after months of hearings and public testimony.

The initiators were no doubt disappointed, but if they felt the PUC’s process/order was invalid, against the weight of the evidence, they could have appealed to the courts. Failing this, the initiators cannot now use the initiative to force the PUC to reverse its order – such a directive is neither legislation, nor the repeal of a legislative enactment.

In sum, constitutional limits on the use of citizen initiatives are real; the use of initiative to overturn a presumptively valid quasi-judicial decision by the PUC because some people are unhappy with it seems facially impermissible.

Before more time and money is spent, the Secretary of State and/or the AG’s office should examine and cut-off this misuse of Maine’s initiative/referendum provisions.

Orlando E. Delogu

Portland

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