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Under New Rule, Citizen Initiatives May Have to Pass Constitutionality Check

Republican state Sen. Eric Brakey of Auburn has introduced legislation to establish the constitutionality of citizen initiatives before going to voters.

He says the proposed ballot measure to require background checks for gun sales on last November’s ballot is one example where his bill could have been helpful.

“You had Michael Bloomberg-affiliated groups, special interest money come in, to try to put a referendum on the ballot that would have restricted a right that is specifically safeguarded for the people of Maine in our constitution,” Brakey says.

Under the bill, a constitutionality check would be initiated by request, not by default. And it would require the state Supreme Court to make a formal ruling — not simply an advisory.

“My legislation would allow the governor, the attorney general, the Legislature or the citizens of Maine with a petition of 500 registered voters to raise that question and have the Supreme Court make that determination,” he says.

The state Supreme Court is currently evaluating whether to formally consider the constitutionality of the Ranked Choice Voting measure voters approved last Fall. Brakey says that question should have been answered before it went to the voters.

Journalist Mal Leary spearheads Maine Public's news coverage of politics and government and is based at the State House.