Guest Column / Upcoming Daylight Saving Time Election
The constitutional amendment on food sovereignty
An almost biennial feature of Maine’s election is a vote on a constitutional amendment. This year, voters have the opportunity to amend the 201-year-old document for the 175th time. The subject: an unusual subject, as its supporters seek to make the state the first in the country to enshrine a “Right to Food” provision in a state constitution. As with the CMP Corridor Initiative, each party has a different interpretation of what this will mean. and the extent of its reach.
The proposed dietary amendment also stands out for another reason: if ratified, it would mark only the fourth substantial addition to the State Bill of Rights – the equivalent of the Federal State Bill of Rights. . This part of Maine’s constitution, mostly copied from the John Adams Constitution of Massachusetts of 1780, consists of 25 provisions that enshrine rights such as free speech, freedom of religion, and jury trials.
The first substantive revision was a 1964 amendment that added a due process and equal protection clause, which echoed the Civil War-era 14th Amendment.
The next one was a 1987 amendment proposed by gun rights advocates.
He deleted “for common defense” as a perceived precondition for what amounts to the state’s version of the Second Federal Amendment. This was designed to overturn a Maine court ruling that such rights might only apply in a military context.
The following year, 1988, saw the ratification of an amendment that made the Constitution gender neutral.
Will food sovereignty be the next step? We will find out soon.
The issue of 100 million dollar road bonds:
One of the reasons Maine has had so many constitutional amendments is its borrowing policy. Like most states, it has for most of its history imposed significant hurdles before long-term debt could be authorized. The precautions grew out of scandals that besieged a number of state governments, including funding for New York’s Erie Canal.
An 1847 amendment to the Maine constitution went so far as to ban borrowing altogether. “The credit of the State will in no case be lent directly or indirectly and the legislator will not create any debt or debt. “
Since then, each episode of borrowing until its repeal in 1950 required a separate constitutional amendment.
For more than ten decades that a constitutional amendment was required to borrow money, various expenses were approved. Here’s a look at a few that stand out:
* The first was the $ 3.5 million in 1868 authorizing the state to reimburse local municipalities for debts they had incurred to help finance the civil war;
* The next one took place in 1919 for an obligation to build state highways and bridges. This was followed by similar transport loans approved four times between 1921 and 1935. The latter had the now-familiar incentive of attracting federal matching funds;
* Specific, largely local, bridge projects were also approved despite the need for a statewide mandate; these included the Carlton Bridge from Bath over the Kennebec in 1925, the 1935 requirement for the 800-meter-long Deer Isle-Sedgwick Bridge, and the 1950 vote on the Veterans Bridge connecting Portland and South Portland.
Overall, twelve loan amendments during this 103-year period when the constitutional requirement was on the books were approved. Five were defeated. Among these were two bonus proposals for veterans, one in 1921 for those of the Spanish-American conflict and another in 1946 for those of the Second World War.
Despite the repeal in the mid-20th century of the need to amend the constitution in order to borrow money, proponents of such spending still face an almost identical challenge: namely, securing the support of two-thirds in the House and in the Senate and ratification by the voters. Because none of the parties since the legislature elected in 1962 has commanded such super majorities, the mere act of stepping out of the legislative gate to stake a tie for voter approval has demanded some pride from all. sides.
Until a few years ago, voters’ verdict on bond issues was a barometer of the state’s economy. In a financially buoyant 1988, all six were approved. In the recession years from 1990 to 1992, sixteen were defeated and only six gained voter support.
The temperament of voters since the mid-1990s has offered no such parallels. Seventy-five of the last 78 issues since 1995 have been approved. Those that were approved included the six Great Recession bond issues of 2007-2009. The three that were defeated, including two on the U-Maine and Community College systems and one on the prisons, were toppled in years of relative economic prosperity.
It’s also likely that this year’s $ 100 million highway bonds, still a popular item at all times, will also be approved.
Why the date of November and what makes this year different:
The timing of the November vote has its roots in a federal law passed in 1845. It was at this point that Congress decreed a uniform date for the holding of presidential elections. It is the first Tuesday after the first Monday. This explains why we never have such an election the day immediately following Halloween! Congressional mandate thus requiring presidential elections to be held on that date prompted most states to hold their statewide elections at the same time. Maine was one of the last to resist this problem when after 1958 it moved its state election from the second Monday in September to the date we have now. Louisiana has flirted with other dates a little longer than we have.
The November vote in Maine also almost always took place at standard time. An exception occurred in 1944 when the nation used daylight saving time all year round as a temporary measure of wartime efficiency.
The next election extended in the light of day was in 2010, the so-called Tea Party Off Year election. This happened because of a 2007 federal law that moved the start of daylight saving time from the last Sunday in October to the first Sunday in November.
Ordinarily – because six of the seven possible dates for our November election will fall after the first Sunday of that month – the November vote takes place during the darker standard hour period.
This is not the case this year. The first Tuesday after the first Monday means the clocks won’t move back until November 7th. Therefore, the date of our election is as soon as possible. For only the third time in Maine history, our November election will have an extra hour of evening sun, with sunset occurring at 5:30 p.m. instead of 4:30 p.m.
All the more reason to seize the opportunity to vote on this year’s issues.
Paul Mills is a Farmington lawyer well known for his analysis and historical understanding of public affairs in Maine; he can be reached by e-mail [email protected]