This final part of a three-part series focuses on the eight ballot questions Maine voters will be asked this Nov. 7. In the first two parts, we covered Questions 4-8 and the ballot initiative process in general. This week, we conclude with Questions 1-3 and how these three questions are connected to one another.

It all starts with Question 3, our most well-funded and highly debated question, which will consume our airwaves until Nov. 8 (one day after the election). Question 1 and Question 2 were inspired by Question 3 and a proposal called Pine Tree Power.

Last week, I expressed concern about Maine voters being asked to consider too many topics this year. Pine Tree Power is the exception to that and absolutely is the kind of topic that should come to the Maine voters. I applaud the Legislature and the governor’s office for not signing this proposal as regular legislation and having the correct vision to send it to the voters.

Here’s the big things to know:

• If you vote “yes,” you’re voting for Pine Tree Power to be created, and voting “no” means things will remain as they are.

• A “yes” vote means there will be a forced buyout of Central Maine Power and Versant Power as the state, meaning Maine taxpayers, will take on the debt, while the workforce and infrastructure transition to a new utility distributor dubbed Pine Tree Power.


• Pine Tree Power’s leadership team will be comprised of seven elected officials, who will then appoint six others at their discretion, to make up the 13-person board of directors.

• Pine Tree Power will then hire a qualified third-party contractor to run the operational side of power distribution.

• Proponents of the Pine Tree Power plan say the cost of the buyout will be $5-$6 billion and say it will happen in 2025 or 2026, while opponents of Pine Tree Power say it will be closer to 2030 or 2032 at a cost of $12-$13 billion.

The Maine Office of the Public Advocate created a seven-page Q&A-style PDF on their website called the Pine Tree Power Fact Sheet ( For my money, it’s the most unbiased take I’ve seen yet on the subject. It evaluates the claims made by the proposal and offers analysis. The link is also available on our chamber site at

As for the others, Question 1 is straightforward and was generated by opponents of Pine Tree Power. The question asks if voters want to “bar some quasi-governmental entities and all consumer-owned electric utilities from taking on more than $1 billion in debt unless they get statewide voter approval.” This directly relates to Pine Tree Power, with even the lowest estimates being $5B in borrowing. As I always like to remind people — to get an idea of how large a billion is — you have likely not seen 1 billion of anything in your life that’s bigger than your hand. One billion grains of sand or rain drops, maybe. One billion leaves or pine needles, perhaps. But you haven’t seen 1 billion trees or clouds or birds or anything like that.

Question 2 asks, “Do you want to ban foreign governments and entities that they own, control or influence from making campaign contributions or financing communications for or against candidates or ballot questions?” The word “influence” makes this so broad that this question essentially becomes “Do you want any international business to be banned from having a say in Maine politics?” At first, it may seem like, “Of course we don’t want foreign interference.” However, don’t forget that many companies in the Maine north woods have ties to Canada. The “SA” in SAPPI means South African. In fact, according to Global Business Alliance, international companies in Maine employ 38,100 U.S. workers and there are 386 international companies in the Pine Tree State. Passing this would mean that laws could be presented that affect the livelihood of these 38,100 workers, but since they work for an international company, their company can’t have a say in how it affects these workers. It also means that if a company does grow to become international and a foreign government “influence” their operation by, let’s say, approving a new building or permit, that they no longer have a say in the political arena because they have globalized.


What does that do to investment in Maine by multinational companies that want to invest in the communities and employees here? This stems from Central Maine Power being a subsidiary of Avangrid, and Avangrid being owned by a Spanish conglomerate Iberdrola, which owns other electric utilities worldwide such as Scottish Power in the U.K. This also alludes to Hydro-Quebec being the producer of the New England Clean Energy Corridor two years ago trying to get hydropower produced in Quebec onto the New England electric grid. Passing Question 2 will effectively limit these companies who can’t advocate for their own projects that could be beneficial to Maine because they are international companies.

If you want to limit globalized companies from participating in ballot initiatives, I just want you to be aware of the precedent you’re setting. Maybe there are some European-based Medicare-for-all administrators that want to bring a program forward. Or some international solar panel and windmill producers that have a large-scale investment in clean energy that they want to make here. Or some stem cell research firms or high-speed rail plants or any other international companies that are “influenced” in some minor way by foreign government policies that would not be eligible to support ballot initiatives here. We may be limiting many voices unintentionally if this passes, but if that is what you choose to do, then so be it — just understand what may happen, is all.

Look for a stance on at least Question 3 and perhaps other questions, too, coming from the Bath-Brunswick Regional Chamber in the weeks ahead.

Cory King is executive director of the Bath-Brunswick Regional Chamber of Commerce.

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