Petition backers to mine June 10 election for signatures

Posted on May 22, 2008

Petition backers to mine June 10 election for signatures

Voters going to the polls to vote in the June 10 primary could be asked to sign as many as seven petitions for proposed ballot initiatives. Proposals range from the so-called TABOR 2 tax and spending limit to a ban on gay marriages.

Four of the petitions are holdovers from last year. Their proponents are confident they can get the 55,087 signatures needed by January to place referendum questions on the November 2009 ballot.

They include a repeal of the state's school consolidation law; a modified version of the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR) that voters defeated in 2006 by a margin of 54-to-46 percent; a proposal to cut the motor vehicle excise tax in half; and a measure that would allow Mainers to purchase health insurance coverage in other New England states.

Two are people's veto petitions to overturn laws passed by the Legislature during the session that concluded in April. They include repeals of the new soda, beer, wine and insurance taxes to fund the state's subsidized Dirigo Health insurance program; and tighter restrictions on issuing Maine driver's licenses to begin compliance with the federal Real ID law. The people's veto proponents must collect the 55,087 signatures by July 17 to get the repeals on this November's ballot.

The seventh petition is being circulated by the Christian Civic League of Maine, which aims to get its new referendum on the November 2009 ballot. It would overturn language added to the Maine Human Rights Act to protect gay men and women from discrimination and prohibit same-sex marriage or adoption by an unmarried couple.

Three of the proposed ballot questions were initially promoted by the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a conservative think tank in Portland. They have since been handed over to a new conservative group - Maine Leads of Augusta.

Maine Leads Director Roy Lenardson, a spokesman for the first TABOR campaign and a former tax policy analyst for Maine Heritage, says the two groups will work in tandem to help articulate a more conservative fiscal policy to Maine voters.

Maine Leads will be the politically active partner, gathering signatures for TABOR 2, the excise tax reduction and health care reform.

Lenardson said he is confident the group will get its needed signatures this summer.

Skip Greenlaw of Stonington, head of the Maine Coalition to Save Schools, heads the petition drive to overturn Maine's new school district consolidation law. He says his group already has more than 40,000 signatures and hopes to collect at least 15,000 more at the June 10 primary.

Greenlaw had been worried that changes made to the law during the last legislative session would render the initial petition moot.

Julie Flynn, head of elections for the Secretary of State's Office, said any challenge to the validity of the petition would not be considered until after the signatures are handed in and an election held.

"We don't really have any authority to determine that before the fact," Flynn said, and challenges from an outside party could only be brought if and when the school consolidation repeal is approved on a statewide ballot.

The people's veto petitions just started being circulated, with language approved by the Secretary of State last week.

The repeal of the taxes to fund the Dirigo Health insurance program is being organized by the Fed Up With Taxes coalition, with Brunswick resident Newell Augur of the Maine Beverage Association in the lead. The coalition is made up of more than a dozen organizations, including the Maine Beverage Association, Maine Beer and Wine Wholesalers, Maine State Chamber of Commerce, Portland Region Chamber of Commerce and the Maine Restaurant Association.

The repeal of Maine's new driver's license rules to comply with Real ID regulations coming out of Homeland Security is being organized by Kathleen McGee of Bowdoinham.

Her group, People for Real Freedom, is supported in its effort by, among others, the Maine Civil Liberties Union, Common Cause and Peace Action Maine.

Date: 5/22/2008 12:00:00 AM

Office: Common Cause Maine

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