Maine House rejects proposed elections for state constitutional officers

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June 4, 2013


By Nick Katers

AUGUSTA, Maine: The Maine House of Representatives voted 79-59 today to reject a proposal to allow voters to select the state’s Treasurer, Secretary of State and Attorney General. LD 1279 called for a referendum to amend the Maine State Constitution to shift the selection of these officers from the Legislature to voters.[1] The bill sponsored by Representative Andre Cushing (R) called for two-year terms for the Treasurer and Secretary of State and a four-year term for the Attorney General. Legislators currently select all three officers every two years. This legislation was blocked yesterday by the Maine State Senate 18-16.[2]

Maine is currently the only state in the United States where all three offices are filled by legislators. Advocates for LD 1279 argued that the current approach to selecting constitutional officers is not responsive to the wishes of voters. “Let the people speak. I trust the people. They elected everyone in this chamber,” stated Representative David Cotta (R).[3] Representative Justin Chenette (D) argued that the current process leads prospective office holders to work behind the scenes for votes in the Legislature. “How transparent is that? How is that not being influenced by special interests?” asked Chenette.[2]

The House and Senate votes largely followed party lines with Democratic majorities in both houses. Republican majorities in the House and Senate blocked similar legislation in 2011.[3][4] Opponents of LD 1279 including Representative Anne Graham (D) and Representative Janice Cooper (D) argued that the current process did not need to be remedied. Graham argued that the proposed referendum would ask voters to look “for a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.” Cooper does not believe that constitutional officers are corrupted by the current process. “They are staffed by professionals, they are professional in nature. That’s the way we should keep it for the foreseeable future,” said Cooper.

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