November Ballot Issues
(from Maine Townsman, May 2000)
By Linda Lockhart, Legislative Advocate, MMA

This November 7th, in addition to electing a new president and considering federal and state legislative representation, the voters will be asked to decide six additional issues: three citizensí initiatives, two constitutional amendments, and the ratification of a legislative enactment regarding civil rights that was recently adopted by the Legislature.

Citizensí Initiatives

Forest Practices

Do you favor requiring landowners to obtain a permit for all clear-cuts and defining cutting levels for lands subject to the Tree Growth tax law?

An Act Regarding Forest Practices is a citizen initiative that seeks to require that woodlot owners whose land is enrolled in the Tree Growth tax program adhere to specific sustainability standards. This initiative would require landowners to obtain a permit from the Maine Forest Service before initiating a forestry "clear cut" as that term is defined in law. The criteria for obtaining the permit is a finding that the clear cut is silviculturally justified, will not result in undue ecological damage, and there are no reasonable alternatives. A new process for citizen appeal of the proposed permit is included in the permit consideration.

The initiative would also establish that no timber harvesting activities on land enrolled under the Tree Growth tax law may exceed sustainable cutting levels over any rolling 10-year period. The term "sustainable level" means that the yearly allowable cut levels may not exceed the average annual growth during the past 10 years.

The clear cut permit and harvesting level requirements would be developed into rules by a 9-member panel made up largely of loggers, foresters, and forestry scientists.

For additional information, please see the April 28, 2000 edition of MMAís Legislative Bulletin, which is available by calling MMA, or by looking on the Associationís website, www.memun.org.

Video Lottery Terminals

Do you want to allow video lottery machines at certain horse racing tracks if 40% of the profits are used for property tax relief?

This ballot issue, initiated by citizensí petition, would allow the operation of video lottery terminals at certain horse racing tracks. The net video lottery terminal income would be distributed seven ways. Forty percent of that income would be placed in the Local Government Fund, which is the fund from which municipal revenue sharing is distributed. Twenty-six percent of that income would go to the owner of the video lottery machines, twenty-three percent would go to the person licensed to operate the video lottery machines, five percent would supplement harness racing purses, three percent would go to the Department of Public Safety to cover administrative costs, two percent would go for the benefit of state agricultural fairs, and one percent would be used for sires stakes purses.

Maine Death with Dignity Act

Should a terminally ill adult who is of sound mind be allowed to ask for and receive a doctorís help to die?

This citizen initiative would create the Maine Death with Dignity Act, which would allow a mentally competent adult who is suffering from a terminal illness to request and obtain medication from a physician to end that patientís life in a humane and dignified manner. The Death with Dignity Act includes safeguards to ensure that the patientís request is voluntary and based on an informed decision.

The patientís decision requires consultation with the attending physician, a consulting physician, a palliative care specialist and a counselor.

Provisions of wills, contracts, and insurance or annuity policies may not be affected by a patientís decision and the decision may not be used to deny payment of benefits payable under a life, health or accident insurance or annuity policy.

Constitutional Amendments

Assessment of Property Used for Commercial Fishing at Current Use

Do you favor amending the Constitution of Maine to allow the Legislature to provide for the assessment of land used for commercial fishing activities based on the current use of that property?

The voters will be asked to approve a proposed Constitutional amendment that would allow the Legislature to provide for the assessment of real estate used for commercial fishing purposes at its "current use" value. As a matter of current constitutional and statutory law, forested land, farm land and open space land is assessed for tax purposes at its "current use" rather than market value. Under this proposed constitutional amendment, the current use assessing requirement would also apply to "waterfront land used for commercial fishing activities". The Legislature acted to send this issue to the voters in by enacting Constitutional Resolutions 1999, c. 4.

Voting Rights for Persons with Mental Illness

Do you favor amending the Constitution of Maine to end discrimination against persons under guardianship for mental illness for the purpose of voting?

This resolution sends out to the voters a proposed amendment to the Constitution that would repeal a clause that prohibits persons under guardianship for reasons of mental illness from voting at statewide elections. The question to the voters will be "Do you favor amending the Constitution of Maine to end discrimination against persons under guardianship for mental illness for the purpose of voting." The Legislature acted to send this issue to the voters in by enacting Constitutional Resolutions 1999, c. 3.

Ratification of Legislative Enactment

Civil Rights

Do you favor ratifying the action of the 119th Legislature whereby it passed an act extending to all citizens regardless of their sexual orientation the same basic rights to protection against discrimination now guaranteed to citizens on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin in the areas of employment, housing, public accommodation and credit and where the act expressly states that nothing in the act confers legislative approval of, or special rights to, any person or group of persons?

In November, the voters will be asked to provide the legal protections in current law against discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, physical or mental disability, religion, age, ancestry or national origin to also include sexual orientation. These protections apply to employment, housing, public accommodations, and the extension of credit. Specific exemptions from compliance with the anti-discrimination provisions for sexual orientation are granted in the Act to religious entities, described as religious corporations, associations or societies, and educational institutions under the financial and management control of a religious corporation, association or society. Despite this specific exemption, a contract with a state agency may require non-discrimination from a religious entity.

The Legislatureís intent that the State not mandate or promote any form of sexuality or sexual orientation is explicitly expressed in the Act. Similarly, the Act states that its provisions are not intended to affect affirmative action or numerical goals or quotas. The Act explicitly neither requires nor prohibits the provision of employee benefits to domestic partners.

This issue is sent to the voters by enactment of PL 1999, c. 629.