Independent PAC Spending on Legislative Races Nears $500,000

Political Action Committee and party committee spending on Maine legislative races reached $492,000 by October 4, exceeding the $475,000 spent on those campaigns during the same time period in the 2014 election cycle. According to the Maine Ethics Commission, about 92% of the funds have been spent in Maine Senate races, with about 62% of that spending targeting six key Senate districts. Most candidates benefiting from these independent expenditures are running as clean election candidates, funded by taxpayer dollars. Candidates are prohibited from coordinating their campaigns with independent PAC and party committee expenditures made in support of their candidacy, or in opposition to their opponents. Total PAC spending will continue to increase during the final weeks of this election cycle.

Busy First Day of In-Person Early Voting Tuesday, October 11 was the first day Mainers were allowed to cast their absentee vote, now referred to as early voting. With voters no longer needing a valid excuse to vote early, this method now accounts for more than 50% of all votes cast. These ballots will not be officially counted until Election Day. Based on reports from city and town clerks, October 11 was a busy day.

Signatures to be Gathered for Medicaid Expansion Initiative On Election Day, Maine Equal Justice Partners will seek to gather petition signatures in hopes of placing the Medicaid expansion issue on an upcoming statewide referendum ballot. How expansion would be funded, however, is not yet settled. The earliest the issue could appear on a ballot is June 2017. Numerous times during his tenure, Governor LePage has vetoed Medicaid expansion bills and each time, the Legislature failed to override his veto.

UPCOMING REFERENDUM QUESTIONS – This week, we report on Maine ballot Question 3 regarding background checks for gun sales and Question 4 regarding Maine’s minimum wage.

Question 3: Background Check on Gun Sales and Transfers Between Unlicensed Individuals Question 3, if passed, would extend the mandate for background checks before any firearm is sold or transferred by individuals who are not licensed as firearms dealers. The sale or transfer between the unlicensed persons would need to occur at a licensed firearm dealer and the dealer would facilitate the sale or transfer according to federal and state laws. A person who knowingly delivers or receives a firearm without complying with the law would be guilty of a Class D crime for the first conviction and a Class C crime for any subsequent conviction.

You can find information on the Mainers for Responsible Gun Ownership Campaign (Yes on 3) at www.responsiblemaine.org and www.facebook.com/responsiblemainers/; and on the campaign (No on 3) at www.votenoquestion3.org and www.facebook.com/MERights/.

Question 4: Increase in Maine’s Minimum Wage Question 4 proposes to raise the minimum wage for workers who are paid hourly, as well as service workers who are eligible to receive tips. Wages for hourly earners would increase to $9 per hour beginning on 1/1/17 and by $1 per hour each year after that until it reaches $12 per hour in 2020. After 2020 the wage would increase each year at the same rate as the increase in the cost of living. For service workers paid partially with tips, employers would be required to pay a minimum cash wage of not less than $5 per hour, beginning on 1/1/17, provided that workers received at least $4 per hour in tips. The minimum cash wage would increase by $1 per hour each year after that until it reaches the same amount as the adjusted minimum wage for hourly workers.

You can find information on the Mainers for Fair Wages campaign at www.fairwagemaine.com. Information on the campaign Restaurateurs for a Strong Maine Economy can be found at www.mainerestaurant.com.