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Stories about Maine

Kyle Bailey resigns from Maine state House

Maine state Rep. Kyle Bailey (D-27) resigned on Oct. 15, citing a new job opportunity. “Due to an exciting professional opportunity that has arisen recently, I am unable to complete my full term as state representative,” Bailey said in a statement.

Bailey was first elected to represent Maine’s 27th House District in 2020, defeating Roger Densmore (R), 59% to 41%. 

If there is a vacancy in the Maine State Legislature, the governor must call for a special election. The political committees representing the vacant seat are responsible for setting all deadlines. The winner of the election will serve the remainder of Bailey’s two-year term, which was set to expire in December 2022. 

So far in 2021, there have been 113 state legislative vacancies in 41 states. Two of those vacancies occurred in Maine.

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How will Maine Question 1 stack up to prior measures in terms of cost-per-vote?

Maine Question 1, a citizen-initiated measure designed to prohibit the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC), could see one of the highest cost-per-vote ratios for a ballot measure that Ballotpedia has recorded. The most recent campaign finance reports, which cover through Sept. 30, show that more than $71.82 million has been raised between supporters and opponents of Question 1. With Maine’s population of 1.36 million residents, contributions received were equivalent to $52.71 per resident.

For comparison, California Proposition 22, passed in 2020, is the most expensive ballot measure on record. Over $224.25 million was raised for and against Proposition 22, which was about $5.67 per California resident. At the election, 16.99 million people voted on Proposition 22, giving it a cost-per-vote ratio of $13.11 per vote. Alaska Ballot Measure 1, which would have increased taxes on oil production fields, had the highest cost-per-vote in 2020 at $64.64 per vote.

In Maine, turnout at odd-year referendum elections varied between 17 and 34 percent over the three prior election cycles. With about 1.14 million registered voters, based on the last published count in 2020, turnout would be between 203,000 and 380,000 voters based on the prior cycles. That would lead to a $189 to $353-per-vote projection for Maine Question 1. Maine turnout could exceed the three prior cycles, and Question 1 campaigns could still yet receive an influx of contributions. 

Ballotpedia has been conducting a cost-per-vote analysis for ballot measures since 2018. Three of the five top measures addressed policies related to energy. Since then, the following are the top five measures in terms of cost-per-vote:

Nevada Question 3 (2018) had a cost-per-vote of $100.85. Question 3 was defeated. It would have required the state legislature to pass laws to establish “an open, competitive retail electric energy market” and prohibited the state from granting electrical-generation monopolies.

Alaska Ballot Measure 1 (2020) had a cost-per-vote of $64.64. Measure 1 was defeated. It would have increased taxes on at least three oil production fields.

Montana I-185 (2018) had a cost-per-vote of $51.30. Initiative 185 was defeated. It would have increased the tobacco tax to fund Medicaid expansion.

Ohio Issue 2 (2017) had a cost-per vote of $37.79. Issue 2 was defeated. It would have required state agencies and programs to purchase prescription drugs at prices no higher than what the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) pays for them.

Arizona Proposition 127 (2018) had a cost-per vote of $23.80. It was defeated. Proposition 127 would have required electric utilities in Arizona to acquire a certain percentage of electricity from renewable resources each year, with the percentage increasing annually from 12 percent in 2020 to 50 percent in 2030.

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Maine Question 1, transmission lines initiative, sees $71.82 million in contributions

The support and opposition campaigns of Maine Question 1, which voters will decide on Nov. 2, 2021, have raised a combined total of $71.82 million in contributions through Sept. 30. The next deadline to report contributions and expenditures is Oct. 22.

Maine Question 1 would prohibit the construction of electric transmission lines defined as high-impact in the Upper Kennebec Region, including the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC). The citizen-initiated ballot measure would also require a two-thirds vote of each state legislative chamber to approve high-impact electric transmission line projects.

Question 1 was designed to stop the NECEC, a 145-mile long, high-voltage transmission line project that would transmit around 1,200 megawatts from hydroelectric plants in Quebec to electric utilities in Massachusetts and Maine. Construction of the NECEC began after the project received a presidential permit on Jan. 15, 2021. The ballot initiative would prohibit the construction of high-impact electric transmission lines in the Upper Kennebec Region, retroactive to Sept. 16, 2020, thus prohibiting Segment 1 of the NECEC.

No CMP Corridor is leading the campaign in support of Question 1. The PAC Mainers for Local Power is also registered to support the ballot initiative. Together, the PACs had raised $16.64 million, including

  • $13.67 million from NextEra Energy Resources, LLC, which owns a natural gas-fired plant in Cumberland, Maine, and six solar fields or projects in southern and central Maine;
  • $1.41 million from Vistra Energy Corp., which owns a natural gas-fired plant in Veazie, Maine; and
  • $1.25 million from Calpine Corp., which owns a natural gas-fired plant in Westbrook, Maine.

The PACs Clean Energy Matters, Hydro-Québec Maine Partnership, Vote No to Protect Maine, and Mainers for Fair Laws are registered to oppose the ballot initiative. Together, the PACs had raised $55.18 million, including

  • $39.28 million from Central Maine Power (CMP), NECEC Transmission LLC, and the companies’ parent firm Avangrid; and
  • $13.53 million from H.Q. Energy Services (U.S.) Inc., which is a subsidiary of Hydro-Québec.

Based on the 2020 Census, the state’s population is 1.36 million. With $71.82 million in contributions, an equivalent of $52.71 had been raised per state resident. According to the Bangor Daily News, Question 1 is the second most expensive political election in Maine history, only following the 2020 U.S. Senate race. 

Maine Question 1 is the most expensive ballot measure of 2021 thus far. The second most expensive is Colorado Proposition 119, for which supporters and opponents have raised $1.36 million in contributions.

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Matthew Dunlap vacates the office of Maine State Auditor

The office of the Maine State Auditor became vacant on Oct. 1 when former auditor Matthew Dunlap (D) stepped down. 

The Maine Legislature elected Dunlap as state auditor on December 2, 2020, effective January 4, 2021. Under Maine law, he was required to have certification as a public accountant, internal auditor, or information systems auditor within nine months of the day he assumed office. Dunlap resigned on Oct. 1 after failing to obtain those credentials by the deadline. According to The Maine Wire, Dunlap said he intended to continue pursuing internal auditor credentials.

Deputy state auditor Melissa Perkins will serve as the interim auditor until the state legislature confirms a successor. 

The Maine State Auditor is a statutory state executive position in the Maine state government. The auditor is in charge of examining all state financial records and reporting the findings to the Legislature.

Forty-eight (48) states have a statewide auditor, with New York and Tennessee being the two states that do not. The state auditor’s office belongs to either the executive or legislative branch, depending on the state. While both offices are similar in function, a legislative auditor functions primarily under the state legislature and is not considered a state executive office. Maine is one of 33 states that have state executive auditors. Twenty-three (23) states have legislative auditors, and eight states have both.

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Maine enacts new congressional and state legislative district maps

On September 29, 2021, Maine Gov. Janet Mills (D) signed legislation enacting redrawn congressional and state legislative district boundaries as a result of the 2020 census. The Maine Apportionment Commission approved a final congressional district plan on Sept. 24 and final state legislative district plans on Sept. 27. 

The Maine legislature unanimously approved the state’s new congressional and state Senate maps. The Senate unanimously approved new state House district boundaries and the Maine House approved them, 119-10. A two-thirds majority was required to approve new district boundaries.

According to the Bangor Daily News, “The only changes to the state’s congressional maps will take place in Kennebec County, where about 54,000 Mainers will switch districts. Augusta, the capital city, will move from the 1st to the 2nd District, along with Chelsea, Farmingdale, Hallowell, Manchester, Readfield and Winthrop. Meanwhile, Albion, Benton, Clinton, Litchfield, Unity township and West Gardiner will move from the 2nd District to the 1st.”

The Maine Wire reported that the legislature did not change any of the maps submitted by the Apportionment Commission, but some members objected to changes made to the composition of their districts.

Upon signing the new district plans, Gov. Mills released a statement saying, “I applaud Maine’s Apportionment Commission, especially its Chair, former Maine Supreme Judicial Court Justice Donald Alexander, as well as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle for preparing and approving new maps that fulfill our commitment to making sure Maine people are equally and fairly represented in their government. To have done so without rancor and partisanship and under a constrained timeline is something Maine people can be proud of.”

After the maps’ approval, State Sen. Rick Bennett (R), a member of the apportionment commission, said, “Extremely happy that we reached the deadline and we were able to deal with it in a legislative context and not send any part of it to the court. I was pleased, while there was some elbows here and there, that we did our work, we worked collaboratively and we got the job done.”

All maps will take effect for Maine’s 2022 congressional and legislative elections.

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Maine House District 86 filing deadline passed Sept. 1

Candidates interested in running in the special election for Maine House of Representatives District 86 had until Sept. 1 to file. The general election is scheduled for Nov. 2. Raegan LaRochelle (D) and James Orr (R) are competing for the seat.

The special election was called after Justin Fecteau (R) left office on July 4 due to moving outside the district. Fecteau served from 2018 to 2021. 

As of September, 58 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2021 in 20 states. Between 2011 and 2020, an average of 75 special elections took place each year. Maine has held 15 state legislative special elections from 2010 to 2020.

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Judge rules that permitting process for one mile of transmission line corridor in Maine violated 1993 constitutional amendment

On Aug. 10, Judge Michaela Murphy of the Maine Superior Court vacated a lease for the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC) to bisect one mile of public land in northern Maine. NECEC is a 145-mile long, high-voltage transmission line project that would transmit around 1,200 megawatts from hydroelectric plants in Quebec to electric utilities in Massachusetts and Maine. The state Department of Environmental Protection suspended the firm’s lease of the one mile of land through West Forks Plantation and Johnson Mountain Township.

The permitting process for the public lands violated a constitutional amendment passed in 1993, according to Judge Murphy. The constitutional amendment, known as Question 5, required a two-thirds vote of the legislature to reduce or substantially change the uses of state park, conservation, or recreation land. Whether or not public land is reduced or substantially altered is determined by the Bureau of Parks and Lands (BPL). Judge Murphy stated that BPL did not present evidence that a “finding of no ‘reduction’ and/or no ‘substantial alteration'” was made during the permitting process. 

NECEC, Inc. could appeal the superior court’s decision to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, seek approval to reroute the project, or enter into a new lease for the public lands (which could end up requiring legislative approval depending on the BPL’s assessment). As of Aug. 13, NECEC, Inc. had not announced how the project was expected to move forward.

While the ruling relied on a 1993 constitutional amendment, NECEC is also facing a citizen-initiated measure on this year’s November ballot. Question 1 was designed to stop the NECEC. The ballot initiative would prohibit the construction of high-impact electric transmission lines in the Upper Kennebec Region, retroactive to Sept. 16, 2020, thus prohibiting a segment of NECEC. The ballot initiative would also require a two-thirds vote of each state legislative chamber to approve high-impact electric transmission lines. Question 1 would define high-impact electric transmission lines as those that are (a) 50 miles in length or more, (b) outside of a statutory corridor or petitioned corridor, (c) not a generator interconnection transmission facility, or (d) not constructed to primarily provide electric reliability.

Maine Sen. Russell Black (R-17) was the lead plaintiff before the superior court. He is also a supporter of the ballot initiative. Sen. Black responded to the ruling, “Even though it’s a small parcel of land it’s in the middle of the corridor and will keep the corridor from being connected. It’s (going to) put a gap in the corridor and I believe because of that gap and no legal permit they have to stop the process and get this corrected.”

The companies involved in the NECEC project raised $36.99 million to oppose the ballot initiative through June 30, 2021. Central Maine Power, NECEC Transmission LLC, and the companies’ parent firm Avangrid provided $27.12 million. H.Q. Energy Services (U.S.) Inc., which is a subsidiary of Hydro-Québec, provided $8.58 million. Hydro-Québec owns the hydroelectric plants that would produce the energy carried by the NECEC. 

Supporters of the ballot initiative raised $9.46 million through June 30, with $6.67 million from NextEra Energy Resources, LLC, which owns a natural gas-fired plant in Cumberland, Maine, and six solar fields or projects in southern and central Maine. Vistra Energy Corp., which owns a natural gas-fired plant in Veazie, Maine, provided $1.27 million. Calpine Corp., which owns a natural gas-fired plant in Westbrook, Maine, provided $1.23 million.

Question 1 is one of three measures on the November 2021 ballot in Maine. The others are a constitutional amendment to declare a right to produce, harvest, and consume food and a $100 million bond issue for transportation projects. 

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Contributions exceed $46 million to campaigns surrounding Maine electric transmission lines initiative

In November, voters in Maine will decide a ballot initiative designed to stop the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC), a 145-mile long, high-voltage transmission line project. NECEC would transmit around 1,200 megawatts from hydroelectric plants in Quebec to electric utilities in Massachusetts and Maine.

Since 2010, Ballotpedia has tracked campaign finance for ballot measures in Maine, and the transmission lines ballot initiative is the most expensive since then. Supporters and opponents of the initiative have raised more than $46 million raised June 30, 2021.

The second most expensive initiative was Question 1 (2017), an initiative to authorize slot machines or a casino in York County, Maine, which saw $10.16 million in contributions through the entire election cycle. In June 2017, the combined campaign contributions surrounding Question 1 were at $4.41 million—less than half of the final aggregate contributions. The next campaign finance deadline for the campaigns surrounding the transmission lines initiative is October 5, 2021.

The NECEC was proposed in response to Massachusetts soliciting for 9.45 million hydropower-derived megawatts in 2016. Hydro-Québec, a government-owned firm in Quebec, and Central Maine Power (CMP) submitted a joint proposal to deliver hydropower from Quebec to Massachusetts through Maine. Segment 1 of the NECEC required a new 53-mile corridor from the border with Quebec to The Forks, Maine, which began construction on May 13, 2021. Other segments were planned to use existing transmission line corridors. 

Maine, in exchange for entering into a stipulation agreement for the project, was set to receive a benefits package worth $258 million, which included funds for low-income electric consumer projects, rural broadband internet, electric vehicle charging stations, electric heat pumps, education grants, workforce development, and business retention. Maine also secured 500 megawatt (MWh) hours per year from hydroelectric plants via NECEC. 

Former Sen. Thomas Saviello (R-17), a member of the campaign No CMP Corridor, filed the ballot initiative in October 2020. He said, “Mainers know they’re being lied to by these two foreign corporations, and they know that this project will forever change our state’s character, environment and economy in ways that will not benefit us.” Besides aiming to halt the NECEC, the ballot initiative would prohibit the construction of electric transmission lines defined as high-impact in the Upper Kennebec Region, such as the NECEC, and require a two-thirds vote of each state legislative chamber to approve high-impact electric transmission line projects. The ballot initiative would define high-impact electric transmission lines as those that are (a) 50 miles in length or more, (b) outside of a statutory corridor or petitioned corridor, (c) not a generator interconnection transmission facility, or (d) not constructed to primarily provide electric reliability.

No CMP Corridor, together with the Mainers for Local Power PAC, raised $9.46 million, including $6.67 million from NextEra Energy Resources, LLC, which owns a natural gas-fired plant in Cumberland, Maine, and six solar fields or projects in southern and central Maine; $1.27 million from Vistra Energy Corp., which owns a natural gas-fired plant in Veazie, Maine; and $1.23 million from Calpine Corp., which owns a natural gas-fired plant in Westbrook, Maine.

Clean Energy Matters is leading the campaign in opposition to the ballot initiative. Jon Breed, executive director of Clean Energy Matters, stated, “It’s bad public policy and sets a bad precedent for our state if we take a project that has cleared every major regulatory milestone at the state and federal level, and then turn around and pull permits.” The PAC Hydro-Québec Maine Partnership is also registered to oppose the ballot initiative. Together, the PACs had raised $36.99 million, including $27.12 million from Central Maine Power (CMP), NECEC Transmission LLC, and the companies’ parent firm Avangrid; and $8.58 million from H.Q. Energy Services (U.S.) Inc., which is a subsidiary of Hydro-Québec.

The Maine State Legislature passed a bill in June 2021 that could have impacted Hydro-Québec’s abilities to make contributions. LD 194 was designed to prohibit corporations and other entities that are at least 10% owned by a foreign government from making contributions or expenditures for or against a citizen-initiated ballot measure. Gov. Janet Mills (D) vetoed the legislation, saying, “Government is rarely justified in restricting the kind of information to which the citizenry should have access in the context of an election, and particularly a ballot initiative.”

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Justin Fecteau resigns from Maine House of Representatives

Justin Fecteau (R) resigned from the Maine House of Representatives on July 4 to accept a teaching job outside his legislative district. He represented District 86 from 2018 to 2021. Fecteau was first elected to the state House in 2018. He defeated Adam Turner (D) to win re-election in 2020, 57% to 43%.

When there is a vacancy in the Maine state House, a special election must be held to fill the seat. The governor must call for an election and allow all political committees representing the vacant seat to set all deadlines. The person elected to the seat serves for the remainder of the unexpired term. Fecteau’s term was set to expire on Dec. 6, 2022. 

District 86 is one of 710 state legislative districts nationwide that intersects with one or more Pivot Counties. These 206 Pivot Counties voted for Donald Trump (R) in 2016 after voting for Barack Obama (D) in 2008 and 2012. The 206 Pivot Counties are located in 34 states. Iowa, with 31, has the most such counties. Maine has eight Pivot Counties.

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Maine voters to decide $100 million transportation bond at November 2021 election

On July 6, Maine Gov. Janet Mills (D) signed legislation placing a $100-million bond issue on the ballot for November 2, 2021. The bond issue is the third ballot measure set to go before voters in November. It’s the only bond issue certified for the ballot so far. 

The ballot measure divides the bond revenue into two categories:

  • (1) $85 million for the construction, reconstruction, and rehabilitation of Priority 1, Priority 2, and Priority 3 highways, as well as bridges, and
  • (2) $15 million for facilities or equipment related to transit, freight and passenger railroads, aviation, ports and harbors, marine transportation, and active transportation projects.

The bond issue would leverage an estimated $253 million in federal and other funding. 

Since 2007, voters have approved 97.6 percent (40 of 41) of statewide bond issues in Maine. The last bond measure to be rejected was Question 2 (2012), which would have authorized $11 million in bonds to expand the state’s community college system. In 2020, voters approved two bond issues, one that issued $105 million for transportation projects and one that issued $15 million for high-speed internet infrastructure.

As of June 30, 2020, Maine had $572.70 million in debt from general obligation bonds. About $64.63 million of voter-approved bonds from prior elections had not yet been issued for projects. The debt from general obligation bonds was the highest since at least 2005 (not accounting for inflation). In 2019, the general obligation bond debt was $543.40 million.

Besides the bond issue, voters will also decide a ballot initiative to prohibit the construction of electric transmission lines in the Upper Kennebec Region, including the New England Clean Energy Connect, and a constitutional amendment to create a state right to growing, raising, harvesting, and producing food. Also before Gov. Mills, as of July 7, is a bill that would refer to voters a measure that would create a state-established, consumer-owned electric utility company called the Pine Tree Power Company. The legislature will return to session on July 19 and could consider an additional two constitutional amendments.

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