Old News Archive

Legislature passes spending resolve, rejects rule change

January 16, 2007 - TRC

Attorney General cautions rule change proposal might violate the state’s constitution

Augusta – House members voted to pass a resolve committing the 123rd Legislature to staying below the state’s self-imposed spending cap by a unanimous vote on Tuesday.

The resolution was proposed by lawmakers to strengthen the commitment to work in a bipartisan fashion and to enact a state budget that will keep the state under the spending caps that were enacted by the 122nd Legislature as part of the tax and spending reforms contained in LD 1.

Speaker of the House Glenn Cummings supported the measure as a sign of good faith that the Legislature is willing to live by the spending restrictions that it has asked Maine’s municipalities and counties to live by.

“We have never exceeded our self-imposed spending caps, but we feel it is important to lead by example and send a strong message about abiding by these spending limitations,” said Cummings. “We are making it very clear that we are committed to staying below the state spending caps as a part of our effort to ensure responsible and sensible government spending.”

In a separate vote, House members voted 85 – 60 to reject a proposal that would have changed the rules in the Maine House and Senate to require a vote of two-thirds of the Legislature to override the state’s self imposed spending cap on Tuesday, after Attorney General G. Steven Rowe issued an opinion that said the measure could violate the State Constitution.

“Whether or not you are in favor of the ultimate goal, we can’t in good conscience pass legislation that could potentially violate our state constitution,” said Cummings. “The preponderance of the evidence says that the Joint Rule proposal may conflict with the rights guaranteed in our constitution. This certainly should give us pause before considering similar measures - and their full implications - in the future.”

In an advisory opinion issued by the state’s Attorney General the proposed Joint Rule was found to potentially violate the state constitution’s “presentment clause,” found in Article IV, part 3 section 4, should it be challenged in court. The “presentment clause” spells out the process for passing and enacting legislation that will then be sent to the Governor for signature or veto. The constitution clearly states that a “majority quorum” is required, except in certain instances that are identified, such as emergency legislation, that require a two-thirds majority. Therefore, the Attorney General advised, the imposition of a two-thirds majority requirement on legislation that is not spelled out in the constitution would unconstitutionally usurp the standards of majority rule established therein.

NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.