Referendum review

Maine’s voters will be confronted with five citizen initiatives and one bond question when they enter their local voting station for next week’s Nov. 8 elections.

Many citizen initiatives result from proposed lawmaking efforts that fail in Augusta – which illustrates general lack of support or that no legislative consensus can be reached.

Asking voters to cull through complex issues, often without the research, understanding or the facts behind these seemingly simple ballot proposals is a poor way to enact laws that may have significant impact on our Maine economy and society as a whole.

Question 1, An Act to Legalize Marijuana promotes taxing and controlling adult consumption of marijuana while removing rules restricting possession, transportation and use.

It is hard to fathom how legalizing marijuana use in Maine will positively affect other drug use and our growing problem with drug abuse. Expanding availability and access surely will reach our children.

This poorly conceived initiative does not warrant voter support.

Question 2, An Act to Establish the Fund to Advance Public Kindergarten to Grade 12 Education is an additional 3 percent tax on citizens earning over $200,000 a year.

This tax would result in the second-highest tax bracket for high earners in the nation, while doing nothing to encourage new job creation, retaining physicians, retirees or entrepreneurs. School enrollments are declining, school administrative costs are rising, and this bitter pill would only assist certain school districts, not the rural communities that need financial help most. And it sets a poor public policy precedent in allowing individual constituencies to seek redress outside the comprehensive budget process.

This question flunks the straight-face test and deserves to fail.

Question 3, An Act to Require Background Checks on Gun Sales asks whether Maine should require background checks prior to the sale or transfer of firearms between individuals not licensed as firearms dealers.

Exceptions would be made for transfers between family members, transfers while the parties involved are hunting or sport shooting, transfers for emergency self-defense and transfers of antique firearms or firearms that are curios or relics.

Those points cut no ice with opponents here in Maine who argue that out-of-state liberals, including Everytown for Gun Safety, a group founded by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, are the primary backers of Question 3.

But the citizen initiative to bring the measure before the voters was spearheaded by a group of citizens that includes Bucksport Police Chief Sean Geagan. And more than 85,000 Maine citizens from across the state signed petitions to place the proposal on the ballot.

Several Maine law enforcement officials have argued forcefully for the need to close the existing loophole in the law that allows individuals to easily and anonymously buy guns from strangers at gun shows, over the internet or through classified ads. Question 3 has the backing of the Maine Chiefs of Police Association. And Bucksport’s Geagan, a citizen sponsor of the measure, argues that “supporting the Second Amendment goes hand in hand with the responsibility to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.

While no law can prevent every tragedy,” he said, “this ballot measure will help keep Mainers safe.” We agree.

Question 4, An Act to Raise the Minimum Wage is noble. The current base rate is inadequate.

But this law would combine with other new labor regulations and health insurance rate increases to create a perfect storm of Maine economic depression.

We strongly urge a “no” vote here. Your individual legislative representatives and senators need to be pressured for more responsible changes in Maine’s wage laws.

Question 5, An Act to Establish Ranked-Choice Voting would institute a unique voting law used nowhere else in America for statewide elections. The proposal is cumbersome, confusing and very expensive to administer.

Secretary of State Matt Dunlop estimates $800,000. Ballot results every general election will be delayed weeks while state troopers drive all ballots to Augusta for counting. Further, the state’s attorney finds the proposal unconstitutional.

A “no” vote is necessary here to preclude a prolonged battle to resolve this complicated maneuver to produce “choice.”

Question 6, The Bond Issue requests voters spend $100 million for highway and bridge construction, marine transportation and other MDOT projects while securing a matching federal grant of $137 million. Question 6 warrants voter support.

Your vote is important, so we urge, if you haven’t already, please take time to vote.

Please participate this November. Take the time to vote.

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