David Flanagan

President Kennedy, in his address to the Canadian Parliament in May 1961, stated that “Geography has made us neighbors. History has made us friends. Economics has made us partners. And necessity has made us allies. Those whom nature hath so joined together, let no man put asunder.”

There are three bills before the Maine Legislature that fully rub against the spirit of Kennedy’s sentiment of cross border collaboration. LDs 194, 479 and 641 all aim to limit the rights of “foreign owned” companies’ role in Maine’s referendum process. However altruistic this may seem, there is more to the story.

Not only are the sponsors taking aim at our state’s long history of excellent relationships with international companies, but they are also doing their best to curtail Mainers’ First Amendment rights. By preventing Maine people from hearing all points of view in whatever debate is the topic of the day, it is much easier for them to get their false messages out — and believed — by Mainers.

They want to win by cheating Mainers out of hearing what may very well be the truth. That’s no way to treat an electorate. People shouldn’t be told by the government what they can and cannot hear and say. Not to mention: it is discriminatory.

There are 36,800 Maine workers employed as a result of international investment in our state. That’s a significant 7% percent of Maine’s workforce. Foreign direct investment strengthens Maine’s economy.

In fact, nearly 370 international employers have operations in Maine. From 2013-2018, Maine’s employment with companies that have foreign direct investment rose 15%, while Maine’s private sector employment rose only 6% overall.

These numbers are increasing.

In Maine’s energy sector alone, new distributed generation solar projects around our state include 68 projects with over 12% foreign ownership, including the countries of Italy, Austria, France, Germany and Canada, to name a few. These companies will provide clean solar energy to Maine residents while employing Mainers.

If these bills were to pass, it would mean that none of these companies would be able to participate in referendums that were about their very own business interests, despite the fact that determination of those referendums would directly impact their customers and employees, who are Mainers.

Today’s economy is a global economy, and any attempt to pass laws that discriminate against overseas investors will compromise Maine’s opportunity for job growth. Companies won’t want to invest in a state that openly discriminates against them. Why would they? Our state simply could not compete nor survive if we were to limit the rights of global companies to fully invest in our state and equip them with the rights in law designed to help them protect those investments. Maine cannot wall itself off from the rest of the world and expect to thrive in the modern economy.

If we were to go down this road, why limit it to foreign-owned companies? If we are so concerned with companies “from away” lending their opinions on issues affecting Maine people and our economy, why not limit the free speech of companies based in other states? The supporters of these bills want our citizen-Legislature to act as if companies from Texas have more in common with Maine than our friends and neighbors next door in Canada, who are already heavily invested in our economy. Proponents of this bill wish Mainers to fight richly-sourced adversaries with both hands tied behind our backs.

I am a lifelong, native Mainer who has been involved with our government, environment, higher educational system, and economy for the last 50 years. I want the best landscape for creating opportunities for Maine people to stay, live and work in our state.

I implore our state’s decision makers to vote down these bills and not limit any Mainer’s ability to abridge the First Amendment rights of Mainers, nor curtail chances for employment in the global economy, while living right here at home. Voting down these bills helps guarantee that the future of Maine remains bright, clear and boundless.

David Flanagan is executive board chair, of Central Maine Power.


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