STATE HOUSE

September 9, 2011

People's veto efforts in Maine go back more than a century

By Susan M. Cover scover@mainetoday.com
State House Bureau

AUGUSTA -- When Mainers go to the polls Nov. 8 to decide whether to overturn the state's new voter registration law, it will be the 30th people's veto vote in state history, according to records at the Maine State Law Library.

The first issue went before voters in 1910, when they were asked whether they supported a bill to ban all beverages with more than 1 percent alcohol or require the payment of a federal tax.

Voters rejected that law -- and two others on the same ballot.

The second would have divided the town of York and established the town of Gorges. The third would have "provided for an elaborate new bridge across Portland harbor to connect the cities of Portland and South Portland," according to a story in the Daily Kennebec Journal.

Since then, voters have weighed in on legislative action on all sorts of issues, including the hours of employment for women and minors (1916), measures to increase the gas tax (1929, 1932, 1941), Sunday liquor sales (1966) and gambling (1980).

After 18 years without a people's veto vote, the option provided in the Maine Constitution was used again in the late 1990s. The Constitution requires those who seek a people's veto to gather signatures equal to at least 10 percent of the votes cast in the previous gubernatorial election. Today, that number stands at 57,277.

Here are the questions and outcomes for recent votes:

* February 1998: "Do you want to reject the law passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor that would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation with respect to jobs, housing, public accommodations and credit?" Yes: 145,452; No: 138,135. Repealed.

* November 2005: "Do you want to reject the new law that would protect people from discrimination in employment, housing, education, public accommodations and credit based on their sexual orientation?" Yes: 181,926; No: 223,274. Upheld.

* November 2008: "Do you want to reject the parts of a new law that changes the method of funding Maine's Dirigo Health Program through charging a fixed fee on paid claims and adding taxes to malt liquor, wine and soft drinks?" Yes: 462,818; No: 253,026. Repealed

* November 2009: "Do you want to reject the new law that lets same-sex couples marry and allows individuals and religious groups to refuse to perform these marriages?" Yes: 300,848; No: 267,828. Repealed

* June 2010: "Do you want to reject the new law that lowers Maine's income tax and replaces that revenue by making changes to the sales tax?" Yes: 193,960; No: 124,928. Repealed

 

Susan Cover -- 620-7015

scover@mainetoday.com

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