The first of the Maine initiatives on next month’s ballot would “ban the construction of high-impact electric transmission lines in the Upper Kennebec Region.” This proposal is clear and straightforward. But the second part of the proposal, “to require the Legislature, retroactively to 2014, to approve by a two-thirds vote such projects using public land,” is ambiguous and confusing.

I presume that the intention of this provision is to require legislative review of all high-impact energy transmission projects on public lands that were approved by the state since 2014, and to stipulate that, following this review, such projects must be endorsed by at least a two-thirds legislative vote in order to proceed.

But I am concerned that, as it stands, the current language of the proposal risks an interpretation that the Legislature would be required not only to review, but also to approve all such projects by a supermajority vote. That is, after all, what the ballot initiative says.

Requiring a retroactive review by the Legislature is one thing, but requiring a retroactive supermajority approval is something quite different. Retroactive review would empower the Legislature to reconsider projects approved in the recent past. But a requirement that the Legislature retroactively approve such projects would disempower the Legislature and would fundamentally undermine the intention of the proposal.

This problem arises from carelessness in drafting the citizen’s initiative. Is there a way that it can be resolved, perhaps by a clarification to voters and an interpretation by the attorney general prior to the Nov. 2 vote?

Michael Mertaugh
Portland


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