While it makes perfect sense to ask the Law Court to weigh in on the constitutionality of a citizens’ initiative, that is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many problems associated with citizens’ initiatives that have little to do with constitutionality; some are just poorly written. A law can be poorly written and still be constitutional.

There’s a better way: put the citizens’ initiative process on a two-year cycle. Signed petitions would have to be turned in to the Secretary of State no later than early January of the Legislature’s general session only. The Legislature would still have the option of passing an initiative outright, or either doing nothing or voting it down (initiative would automatically go on the November ballot), or passing a competing measure. But, on a two-year cycle, an additional option would become possible: allow the Legislature to vote to hold the bill over to the special session. That would give the Legislature an additional year to vet bad language and come up with a better, competing alternative.

As it stands now, the Legislature is often being asked to take up citizens’ initiatives at the same time that it is attempting to pass a biennial budget. This proposal gives the Legislature a second bite at the apple. Moreover, it also means that, if held over, the initiative would go to the voters in an even-numbered year, when voter turnout is higher, thereby making it more difficult for one side to ram an initiative through.

Peter Robinson, Lewiston


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