It came to light this past week that a couple of my colleagues in the
Legislature saw fit to approach business owners in their districts to make them
aware of the risks involved in permitting people to gather petition signatures
in their stores. They reportedly said that doing so would "offend and alienate"
some of their customers.
Senator Joe Perry of Bangor and Representative Jeremy Fisher of Presque Isle,
both Democrats, suggested it might be bad for business to "open up politics" in
their stores. They insinuated that by allowing the signature gatherers into
their stores, the storeowners would be inviting "people who want to discourage
people" as well They suggested that this would be bad for business, especially
on a weekend as potentially profitable as Mother’s Day weekend. Unfortunately it
is unfounded advice, and it goes against that very passage in our State’s
Constitution that provides for the petitioning of our Legislature when the
citizens see an issue that they believe needs redress:
"The electors may propose to the Legislature for its consideration any
bill, resolve or resolution, including bills to amend or repeal emergency
legislation but not an amendment of the State Constitution, by written petition
addressed to the Legislature or to either branch thereof and filed in the office
of the Secretary of State by the hour of 5:00 p.m., on or before the 50th day
after the date of convening of the Legislature in first regular
That paragraph comes from the Maine State Constitution Article IV, Part
Third, Section 18, paragraph 1. The subject in that sentence is "The electors,"
anyone in the State qualified to vote for Governor. In plain English, that means
you, or any other eligible voter in this State, has the right to circulate and
sign a petition addressed to the entire Legislature, to fix something they did
that you don’t like. State law makes no mention of where and when signatures can
be gathered, and the folks hoping to collect signatures at some of these
businesses did the right thing by securing permission from the store owners
before they set up there. Then along came the Democrats, intervening to protect
the storeowners from themselves.
The Assistant Senate Democrat leader, Ken Gagnon of Waterville, said on
Monday that he personally supports any effort to frustrate the signature
gathering process because he thinks the veto process will lead to the eventual
downgrading of Maine’s bond rating. I have some news for Senator Gagnon: Moody’s
Investor Service placed the State of Maine on their Watchlist for possible
downgrading of bond rating back on the 4th of February. That was more than two
months before the People’s Veto was launched on April 25th. In the press release
announcing their actions, Moody’s specifically mentioned Governor Baldacci’s
budget proposal to borrow money to keep the lights on in Augusta. "We look for
structural balance and ask whether ongoing revenues meet ongoing expenditures,"
said Nicole Johnson, senior analyst and vice president at Moody's Investors
Service. "We want to see what the state's plan is to get back to structural
balance," Johnson said.
Wall Street clearly did not need to wait for the citizens of Maine to
exercise their constitutionally protected right to petition the Legislature
before they put us on their Watchlist. Perhaps the present action of the
citizenry of Maine will be enough to help get us off that list someday.
Senator Paul Davis (R-Sangerville) is the Republican leader of the Maine
State Senate and a four-term legislator.