The secretary of state’s office is reviewing 17 requests for petitions to force statewide votes on an array of laws passed by the Legislature this year.
The measures range from the bill expanding access to abortions and the so-called death with dignity bill to the state budget. Secretary of State Matt Dunlap says the requests aimed at forcing a vote on the budget and another creating the Climate Change Council were rejected because the people’s veto process only applies to legislation passed without an emergency clause,
Dunlap says his office has 10 days to review the requests and approve a petition for circulation.
“If we certify they don’t have enough, then the law takes effect. If they certify they do, the stay remains in place until the voters can weigh in, up or down, at the next statewide or general election,” he says.
Organizers have to get more than 63,000 valid signatures to suspend a law until the voters decide its fate at referendum. Dunlap says that could be in November or next spring. He says practically speaking, those signatures would need to be collected by the end of July.
“It takes an incredibly organized and probably well-financed effort to pull something like that off. But I would not say it’s not possible,” he says. “We need the 30 days to make the certification, and … we have to get it to the printers to print ballots. Now we have to have ballots ready not less than 45 days prior to an election for military and overseas voters.”
Fourteen of the 17 petition requests came from one person — Jack McCarthy of Aroostook Watchmen radio fame. Three of his requests were also filed by other groups in June to force a repeal vote: LD 1313, or death with dignity; LD 798, eliminating most exemptions for immunizations; and LD 820, expanding access to abortions.
McCarthy’s other active requests are:
- LD 1282, establishing a Green New Deal
- LD 1711, promoting solar energy projects
- LD 1494, reforming the renewable portfolio standard
- LD 1626, implementing presidential primaries
- LD 1463, creating automated voter registration
- LD 1475, eliminating racial profiling
- LD 1685, facilitating an immigrant workforce
- LD 1261, authorizing additional health care professionals to perform abortions
- LD 1205, banning conversion therapy for minors
McCarthy’s requests to repeal the budget and climate change council have been rejected.
Originally published 2:49 p.m. July 9, 2019