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Stories about Maine

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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Maine legislature sends right-to-food constitutional amendment to 2021 ballot

Maine voters will decide a constitutional amendment to create a state right to growing, raising, harvesting, and producing food, as well as saving and exchanging seeds, at the election on November 2, 2021. People would have this right as long as an individual does not commit trespassing; theft; poaching; or abuses to private land, public land, or natural resources in the process of acquiring food. 

The Maine Senate approved the constitutional amendment, which required a two-thirds vote in both legislative chambers, on July 2. The House approved the amendment on June 10. Of House Democrats, 75 voted “Yes” and 2 voted “No.” Of House Republicans, 26 voted “Yes” and 29 voted “No.” The constitutional amendment also received the support of the House’s four independent and third-party members. As a constitutional amendment, the governor’s signature is not required for the proposal to go before voters.

State Rep. William Faulkingham (R-136) introduced the constitutional amendment. He said the proposal was needed to “protect our food rights for future generations.” He added, “Will Monsanto own all the seeds, and will we have gotten so far from our roots that we won’t even have natural seeds anymore? Will people even be allowed to grow gardens?”

House Minority Leader Kathleen Dillingham (R-72), who voted against the amendment, said, “I think most of us here agree we have every right to grow, raise, harvest and choose our own food, on our own property. But this isn’t limited to just that.” She also stated, “This language is so broad we will be placing these challenges in the hands of the courts to interpret intent.”

The constitutional amendment is the first legislative referral certified for Maine’s November 2021 ballot. A citizen-initiated measure to prohibit the construction of electric transmission lines in the Upper Kennebec Region, including the New England Clean Energy Connect, will also be on the ballot. As of July 2, the state Legislature had also approved a referred statute and a bond issue, which require the governor’s signature before being certified for the ballot.

The Maine State Legislature is also considering a constitutional amendment to create a state “right to a clean and healthy environment.” Between 1995 and 2020, the average number of measures on an odd-year ballot in Maine was between five and six. On average, there were one initiative, one amendment, and three bond measures.

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Maine governor vetoes bill prohibiting ballot measure contributions from foreign government-owned entities

On June 23, 2021, Gov. Janet Mills (D) vetoed Legislative Document 194, which was designed to prohibit contributions, expenditures, and participation to influence ballot measures by entities with 10% or more ownership by foreign governments.

Mills’ veto letter said, “Even more troubling is this bill’s potential impact on Maine voters. 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.”

The House approved LD 194 by a vote of 87-54 (61.7%-38.3%), with 10 absent. The Senate approved it by a vote of 23-11 (67.6%-32.4%), with one excused. A two-thirds (66.67%) vote of all present in both chambers of the Maine Legislature is required to overturn a veto. Maine has a Democratic state government trifecta. In the Senate, 14 Democrats and nine Republicans voted in favor of the bill, and seven Democrats and four Republicans voted against LD 194. In the House, 74 Democrats and eight Republicans voted in favor of it, and four Democrats and 50 Republicans voted against it.

Context and background on electric transmission lines initiative:

The bill was passed as an emergency bill in order to ensure it would apply to the current election cycle. There is one ballot measure currently certified for the 2021 ballot in Maine. The measure is an initiative that would (a) prohibit the construction of electric transmission lines in the Upper Kennebec Region, including the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC), and (b) require a two-thirds vote of each state legislative chamber to approve certain electric transmission line projects. The 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.

Clean Energy Matters is leading the campaign in opposition to the ballot initiative. The PAC Hydro-Québec Maine Partnership is also registered to oppose the ballot initiative. Together, the PACs have raised $31.56 million, including:

• $22.14 million from Central Maine Power (CMP), NECEC Transmission LLC, and the companies’ parent firm Avangrid; and 

• $8.28 million from H.Q. Energy Services (U.S.) Inc., which is a subsidiary of Hydro-Québec. 

Hydro-Québec is owned by the Province of Québec, which means LD 194 would have applied to it.

No CMP Corridor is leading the campaign in support of the ballot initiative. The PAC Mainers for Local Power is also registered to support the ballot initiative. Together, the PACs had raised $7.75 million, including: 

  • $4.98 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;
  • $1.26 million from Vistra Energy Corp., which owns a natural gas-fired plant in Veazie, Maine; and 
  • $1.22 million from Calpine Corp., which owns a natural gas-fired plant in Westbrook, Maine.

Additional reading: Maine Legislative Approval of Certain Electric Transmission Lines Initiative (2021)

Context and background on changes to laws governing ballot measures in 2021:

Ballotpedia has tracked 198 legislative proposals concerning ballot initiatives, veto referendums, referrals, local ballot measures, and recall in 39 states in 2021 legislative sessions. At least 24 have been approved. Of the total, 125 bills were designed to change laws governing statewide initiatives, veto referendums, and legislative referrals.

Legislators in Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Maine, Montana, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Utah have passed restrictions on the initiative processes in their states in 2021. Notable topics among bills introduced in 2021 sessions include:

• supermajority requirement increases,

• signature requirement and distribution requirement increases,

• single-subject rules,

• pay-per-signature bans,

• residency requirements and other circulator restrictions,

• fiscal impact statement and funding source requirements, and

• ballot measure campaign contribution restrictions.

Gov. Mills is not the first governor to veto a ballot initiative restriction in 2021. Idaho Gov. Brad Little (R) vetoed a bill to require that initiative and referendum petitions must be circulated in Idaho and that petitions must be signed while the signer is physically located within the state. Gov. Little cited concerns over constitutionality.



Maine voters to decide ballot initiative on electric transmission corridor through state’s Upper Kennebec Region

On November 2, 2021, voters in Maine will decide a ballot initiative to prohibit the construction of electric transmission lines in the Upper Kennebec Region, including the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC), which began construction in the region on May 13. The ballot initiative would also require a two-thirds vote of each state legislative chamber to approve electric transmission line projects defined as high-impact.

The 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. Segment 1 of the NECEC is a new corridor from the border with Quebec through the Upper Kennebec Region. The remainder of the NECEC would utilize an existing transmission corridor. 

No CMP Corridor is leading the campaign in support of the ballot initiative. The PAC Mainers for Local Power is also registered to support the ballot initiative. Together, the PACs had raised $7.75 million, including

  • $4.98 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;
  • $1.26 million from Vistra Energy Corp., which owns a natural gas-fired plant in Veazie, Maine; and
  • $1.22 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. The PAC Hydro-Québec Maine Partnership is also registered to oppose the ballot initiative. Together, the PACs had raised $31.56 million, including

  1. $22.14 million from Central Maine Power (CMP), NECEC Transmission LLC, and the companies’ parent firm Avangrid; and
  2. $8.28 million from H.Q. Energy Services (U.S.) Inc., which is a subsidiary of Hydro-Québec. 

Hydro-Québec is a state-owned corporation wholly owned by the Province of Quebec. In 2020, 25 current and former state legislators sent a letter to Quebec Premier François Legault and Hydro-Québec CEO Sophie Brochu, which said, “Hydro-Quebec provides billions of dollars annually to its sole shareholder, the Province of Quebec, which means that the residents of Quebec have a direct financial stake in the outcome of the CMP corridor referendum. … If the shoe were on the other foot and Maine voters were directly connected with a campaign to overturn public opinion on a construction project in Quebec, we would hear protests from the people of Quebec.”

Serge Abergel, the director of external relations for Hydro-Québec, responded to the letter, stating that Hydro-Québec should be allowed to provide information to voters after spending years to obtain permits. Abergel said, “So once you want to take that away, at least give us the right to give the facts when it comes to us. We don’t view this as a loophole at all. We’re compliant to the rules, and we’re just trying here to give a straight story, so people can understand and make their own choices.”

Proponents of the ballot initiative submitted 95,622 raw signatures on January 21, 2021. Former Sen. Thomas Saviello (R-17) filed the ballot initiative. On February 22, 2021, Secretary of State Shenna Bellows (D) announced that 80,506 signatures were valid. The minimum requirement was 63,067 valid signatures. 

The ballot initiative is the only initiated statute on the ballot for the election on November 2, 2021. The Maine State Legislature could still refer general obligation bonds to the ballot. It is also considering at least three constitutional amendments and a referred statute to create a consumer-owned electric transmission and distribution utility. The legislature adjourned its special session on June 17 but will reconvene on June 30.

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Stanfill confirmed as Maine supreme court’s chief justice

The Maine State Senate confirmed Valerie Stanfill as the chief justice of Maine’s highest court on June 3. Gov. Janet Mills (D) appointed Stanfill to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court on May 10 to fill a vacancy created when former Chief Justice Leigh Saufley retired in April 2020. The Maine State Senate was required to confirm Stanfill’s appointment.

Stanfill previously served on the Maine Superior Court from February 2020 until her confirmation to the supreme court. She served on the Maine District Court from January 2007 to February 2020. Stanfill’s career experience before becoming a judge included working as an acting director with the Cumberland Legal Aid Clinic, a visiting clinical professor of law with the University of Maine School of Law, and an attorney in private practice.

Stanfill earned a bachelor’s degree from Bryn Mawr College and a J.D., magna cum laude, from the University of Maine School of Law.

Stanfill joins six other justices on the seven-member court:

• Catherine Connors – appointed by Gov. Janet Mills (D) in 2020

• Ellen Gorman – appointed by Gov. John Baldacci (D) in 2007

• Andrew Horton – appointed by Gov. Mills in 2020

• Thomas Humphrey – appointed by Gov. Paul LePage (R) in 2015

• Joseph Jabar – appointed by Gov. Baldacci in 2009

• Andrew Mead – appointed by Gov. Baldacci in 2007

In 2020, there were 23 supreme court vacancies in 16 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. So far in 2021, there have been 11 supreme court vacancies in nine of those 29 states.

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Delaware, Maine, New Jersey end face-covering requirements

Three states ended statewide public mask requirements for vaccinated and unvaccinated people between May 21 and May 28.

Maine Gov. Janet Mills (D) ended the statewide indoor mask requirement May 24. Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said businesses could require people to show proof of vaccination, but “the state of Maine is not going to enforce this idea of different policies for vaccinated and unvaccinated people, nor do we expect businesses to do so.” The state recommended unvaccinated people continue masking in indoor public spaces. Vaccinated and unvaccinated people still had to wear masks in schools and childcare centers, on public transportation, and in health care settings.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) lifted the state’s indoor mask requirement for vaccinated and unvaccinated people on May 28. Masks will still be required in state offices open to the public, schools and childcare centers, on public transportation, and in health care settings. The six-foot social distancing requirement ended on the same day. Dance floors and standing service at bars and restaurants will also be permitted.

Delaware Gov. Jay Carney (D) signed an order on May 18 ending the statewide mask requirement, effective May 21. Carney said masks were still required in state offices open to the public, schools and childcare centers, on public transportation, and in health care settings. The order also strongly encouraged unvaccinated individuals to continue wearing masks in indoor businesses and public settings in compliance with CDC guidelines at the time.

Additionally, Hawaii lifted its outdoor mask requirements and New York lifted mask requirements for children ages two through five. Washington amended its existing mask orders to align with the CDC guidance issued May 13, exempting fully vaccinated individuals from most indoor mask requirements. 

Thirty-nine states issued statewide public mask requirements during the pandemic. Seventeen states had statewide mask orders as of May 28, including 13 of the 23 states with Democratic governors and four out of the 27 states with Republican governors. 

Of the 22 states that have fully ended statewide public mask requirements, 12 have Republican governors, and ten have Democratic governors. Nineteen states ended mask requirements through executive order, two (Kansas and Utah) ended mask requirements through legislative action, and one (Wisconsin) ended its mandate through court order.



Maine governor appoints Valerie Stanfill to state supreme court

Maine Gov. Janet Mills (D) appointed Valerie Stanfill to fill a vacancy on the Maine Supreme Judicial Court on May 10. The seat became vacant when former Chief Justice Leigh Saufley retired on April 14, 2020, to become dean of the University of Maine School of Law.

Under Maine law, Stanfill requires confirmation by the Maine State Senate in order to become a justice on the state’s highest court.

Stanfill has served on the Maine Superior Court since February 2020. She served as a judge on the Maine District Court from January 2007 to February 2020. Prior to joining the bench, Stanfill’s career experience included working as an acting director with the Cumberland Legal Aid Clinic, as a visiting clinical professor of law with the University of Maine School of Law, and as an attorney in private practice.

Stanfill earned a bachelor’s degree from Bryn Mawr College and a J.D. from the University of Maine School of Law.

If confirmed, Stanfill will join the other six justices on the seven-member court:

  • Catherine Connors – appointed by Gov. Janet Mills in 2020
  • Ellen Gorman – appointed by Gov. John Baldacci (D) in 2007
  • Andrew Horton – appointed by Gov. Mills in 2020
  • Thomas Humphrey – appointed by Gov. Paul LePage (R) in 2015
  • Joseph Jabar – appointed by Gov. Baldacci in 2009
  • Andrew Mead – appointed by Gov. Baldacci in 2007

In 2020, there were 23 supreme court vacancies in 16 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. So far in 2021, there have been 11 supreme court vacancies in nine of those 29 states.

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Hickman (D) defeats Guerrette (R) in special election for Maine state Senate District 14

A special general election was held for Maine state Senate District 14 on March 9, 2021. Craig Hickman (D) defeated William Guerrette (R) by a margin of 63% to 37%, according to unofficial election night results.

No special primary election was held, and the filing deadline passed on Jan. 8, 2021.

The special election was called after the Maine state Legislature elected Shenna Bellows (D) as secretary of state in December 2020. Bellows served from 2016 to 2020.

As of March 2021, 29 state legislative special elections have been scheduled in 16 states. Between 2011 and 2020, an average of 75 special elections took place each year. Maine held 15 special elections from 2010 to 2020.

Maine has a Democratic state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers. Democrats control the Maine state Senate by a margin of 22 to 13.

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