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Dear Members and Friends of LWVME,

The legislature adjourned sine die on May 2. Sine die (without day) means without an appointed day or specific plan to resume. The second regular session is now officially over. Regular, non-emergency laws enacted during the second regular session become law 90 days after adjournment. That will be Wednesday, August 1. Here is the schedule for this week. There's not much on it.

The legislature met for just that one day last week: Wednesday, veto day. Although the members dealt with some important gubernatorial vetos, they left town with most of the major business undone. Some of the most important bills of the session remain "undead," in a state of suspended animation until any special session is convened. A special session can only be called by the Governor himself, or by the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate as long as a majority of the members of each party agree. Yes, the Green Independents, with one voting member, have a say. The Republicans in the Senate together with the House Democrats appear agreed to do that; House Republicans are holding out for concessions.

Action Under the Dome will go quiet until such time as a Special Session is convened.

Recap on Where Things Stand
Funding for Clean Elections
One of the bills caught in the crossfire is LD 1894 An Act To Correct Errors and Inconsistencies in the Laws of Maine. There was a drafting error regarding funding for Clean Elections in the biennial budget passed at the 11th hour last summer. Because of the way that budget bill was worded regarding the early transfer of $3 million from FY 2019 to FY 2018, the error prevents the Ethics Commission from disbursing money to candidates from the Maine Clean Election Fund after the end of this fiscal year, June 30, 2018.

To make matters worse, it now appears that candidates participating in the Clean Elections program will not be allowed to raise private money to make up the difference. The Maine Clean Election Act provides that participating candidates may raise private money to finish their campaigns IF the fund runs out of money. In this twisted circumstance, the fund is NOT out of money. The fund HAS plenty of money. But the Ethics Commission is not allowed to disburse it.

Everyone agrees it was a drafting error. Remember, this is not more money, just moving the money from one year to another. The legislature attempted to fix the problem in the so-called Errors Bill, which normally sails through unopposed. Not this time. This is among the "undead" bills remaining for legislative action when and if the legislature comes back.

We need a special session, and we need this bill to pass. Candidates and voters from all parties have been relying on the Clean Elections program. We have three gubernatorial candidates already qualified, and now hundreds of legislative candidates have qualified, too. This funding was part of a bipartisan budget deal hammered out last year. There is no legitimate reason for House Republicans to renege on that deal now. You can find contact information here. Tell your representatives how much you want them to fix this problem.


Ranked Choice Voting
Full speed ahead on ranked choice voting? Not so fast.

Last Friday, the Maine GOP announced that it would file suit in federal court to block ranked choice voting (RCV) in the Republican primary election to be held on June 12. You can read the complaint here. Since the Maine GOP that same day adopted “simple plurality” as the party’s nomination rule, which they then used in their complaint to claim that RCV violates their party rules, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the late adoption of this rule merely opened another chapter in a continuing campaign of disruption and opposition to RCV. You can read the League's statement here.

The Secretary of State has already published sample ballots in the RCV races. Ballots including RCV races were distributed to uniformed and overseas voters on April 27, some of whom have already started voting. Elections matter. Let’s work together to get this right.


More Funding for Clean Elections
LD 1780 An Act to Transfer Funds to the Maine Clean Election Fund To Provide Adequate Funding for Maine Clean Election Fund Candidates
No change from last week, undead. This bill is among those caught in suspension. With this bill, the Ethics Commission is requesting a modest amount of additional funding for the Maine Clean Election Fund to make sure that the fund does not run out of money in 2018. As noted above, we now have three gubernatorial candidates certified for Clean Elections: one Democrat, one independent, and one Republican, in addition to hundreds of legislative candidates. The fund has never run out before in the 18-year history of the program, and we don't want to start now. LWVME testified in support of LD 1780 at its public hearing in February. The bill got bipartisan support in both chambers and has been placed on the Special Appropriations Table pending enactment in the Senate as part of the overall appropriations process. Let your representatives know that you support LD 1780. You can find contact information here.


Regulating Citizen Initiative Campaigns
LD 1865 An Act to Increase Transparency in the Initiative Process
No change from last week. Undead. The amended bill contains some important new provisions for the disclosure of large donations to citizen initiative campaigns, which we support. It also includes strict new limits on who can serve as a notary public on citizen initiative campaigns.


Voter ID
No change from last week. Near dead. This is the Governor's bill, LD 1846, An Act To Require the Provision of Photographic Identification by Voters. It is similar boilerplate language to what has been introduced and defeated each session since 2010. You can read the League's testimony on the photo ID bill from last year. The bill was taken up in the House and indefinitely postponed on a majority roll call vote.

Presidential Primaries vs. Caucuses
No change from last week; virtually no chance at this point. On January 3, the Office of the Secretary of State delivered its Report Regarding Establishing a Presidential Primary System in Maine. The requirement for this report was created by the 127th Legislature, which passed a presidential primary law and directed the Secretary of State to examine state and municipal costs for conducting such a primary and report back by December 1, 2017. The legislation enacted in 2016 includes an automatic repeal provision with an effective date of December 1, 2018.  Therefore, if the legislature does not take action this session, our presidential nominations will revert to the caucus system and not primaries. There has been no action or enthusiasm to work on this so far; and, under the circumstances, it seems very unlikely that anything would emerge this late in the game.


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