The Committee on State and Local Government recently heard testimony on LD 1209, which requires public hearings for any citizen-initiated legislation (referendums) going to ballot. Current rules allow for legislative public hearings, but only if the legislature chooses to hold such hearings.
The bill’s sponsor, Representative Dick Bradstreet (R-District 80), argued having a public hearing for referendums gives members of the legislature and public an opportunity to better understand the specifics of the proposed legislation.
Bradstreet went on to suggest the current method of having the legislature decide on a case by case basis whether or not to hold public hearings for referendums had become politicized. Bradstreet argued this decision should be taken away from the legislature entirely by making it a legal requirement to have a hearing.
The potential importance that these hearings can have on the public discourse as well as the fact recent legislatures had broken with tradition by not holding them was reiterated by both Deputy Secretary of State Julia Flynn as well as the Maine State Chamber of Commerce’s Megan Sanborn during their testimonies supporting LD 1209.
Dan Davis of Porter provided testimony neither for nor against but suggested public hearings on referendums should exclude private and non-profit lobbying efforts, out-of-state interests and others that would directly benefit financially.
After an April 3rd work session and committee vote, a divided report was expected for the legislature to consider. However, the committee held a second work session on April 17th, and voted to fully support passing LD 1209 with an amendment allowing the legislature to forgo a public hearing if 2/3 majority of each the senate and house agree to do so.
The committee’s unanimous report and recommendation was sent to the legislature on May 3rd. It passed the House on May 9th and is expected to pass the Senate today.