Right to Repair initiative will appear on Maine ballots in November

A Right to Repair initiative will appear on the Maine ballot on Nov. 7, 2023.

The initiative would allow car owners and independent repair facilities to have the same access to onboard diagnostic systems and wireless data that manufacturers and approved repair facilities have access to. According to The Repair Association, an organization advocating for right to repair legislation, at least 40 states have initiated efforts towards enacting such laws. 

The Maine Automotive Right to Repair Committee is leading the campaign in support of the initiative. On Jan. 19, 2023, the committee submitted 83,252 signatures to the secretary of state, and 74,686 of those signatures were found to be valid. This met the 67,682 minimum valid signature requirement to be certified to the legislature. In Maine, a citizen initiative is indirect, meaning the initiative goes to the ballot if the legislature rejects the initiative or does not take action by the end of the session. If the legislature passes the initiative, and the governor signs it, the initiative becomes law.

On July 6, 2023, the Maine State Legislature completed its last full day of the legislative session for the year. Because the legislature did not take action by the end of the session, the initiative will appear on the November ballot.

Kate Kahn, spokesperson for the Maine Right to Repair Coalition, said, “This issue is about choice. Consumers want the ability to choose where to take their cars or trucks to be repaired. They do not want to be told they can only take their autos to expensive dealerships.”

The Maine Automotive Right to Repair Committee, according to campaign finance reports covering up until March 31, 2023, reported $1.65 million in contributions and $1.29 million in expenditures. The largest donor was Coalition for Automotive Repair Equality, contributing $1.32 million.

The first state to pass right-to-repair legislation was Massachusetts in 2013, but this did not include wireless accessibility to telematics systems by vehicle owners and independent shops. In 2020, Massachusetts voters approved Question 1, requiring manufacturers to give vehicle owners and independent repair facilities access to this information. However, a group representing automakers filed a lawsuit, arguing that the 2020 law is unenforceable because it conflicts with federal law and the U.S. Constitution and “makes personal driving data available to third parties with no safeguards to protect core vehicle functions and consumers’ private information or physical safety.” The lawsuit is still ongoing.

The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, the group representing automakers in the lawsuit against the Massachusetts measure, said that independent shops can already get the data they need with permission and that allowing the information to be automatically accessible could be dangerous.

Another initiative that was certified to the Maine ballot is a measure related to voter approval for certain state entities and electric cooperatives to incur debt that exceeds $1 billion. Three ballot measures were certified to the November ballot in Maine. The third measure that voters will decide on would create the Pine Tree Power Company, a municipal electric transmission and distribution utility.

Between 1995 and 2021, Maine voters decided on 17 citizen initiatives on odd-year ballots—approving seven and defeating 10.

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