November 11, 2022 Article

Portland Referenda and Legislative Leadership Update

In addition to all the state and national legislative races that were (mostly) decided by Wednesday morning, there were also 13 referendum questions on the Portland municipal ballot and one in Bar Harbor of relative significance.

Portland Referendums

Of the 13 referendum questions on the Portland ballot 8 were the result of the Portland Charter Commission process and 5 were citizen initiated. The latter were all generated either directly or in reaction to efforts by the local chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). These included 3 proposals related to the workforce housing crisis, one related to raising the minimum wage and removing the ability to have tipped wages, and another placing limits on visiting cruise ships. Of these, all but one failed to pass. The cruise ship restrictions and minimum wage questions lost most dramatically by 45 points and over 20 points respectively. The two questions attempting to limit short term rentals lost by 10 points each. The only question that passed provides some protections to renters through caps on rent increases and disallowing non-refundable application fees. This question passed by 10 points.

The 8 Charter Commission questions were related to a range of “good government” and other municipal government structural issues. Of these, the effort to create a strong executive mayor, rather than the members of the City Council choosing one of their own to hold that position and relying on a city manager to handle the day to day work was rejected. Also rejected was the question that would allow the school board to pass a school budget without the City Council’s approval before sending it to the voters.

The 6 questions that passed were mostly related to election issues including proportional ranked choice voting, establishing an elections ethics commission, and establishing a “clean” elections process. The voters also approved a Peaks Island Council, a Civilian Review Board, and requiring a “Native Land Acknowledgement” before municipal meeting proceedings. Other local questions throughout Maine were mostly related to school district funding with
mixed results.

Another significant referendum in Bar Harbor restricted cruise ships to only disembark 1000 passengers per day. This passed with 58% of the vote.

Of note, in both Portland and Bar Harbor, city councilors opposed these citizen led efforts. The Portland Press Herald also editorialized against these efforts, pointing out that, if passed, such policies cannot be changed for 5 years, regardless of negative outcomes.

Legislative Leadership Update

As stated in the previous update, Senate Democrats chose their leadership team for the 131st Legislature yesterday evening. As expected, Senate President Jackson, D-Aroostook; Senate Majority Leader Eloise Vitelli, D-Sagadahoc; and Senate Assistant Majority Leader Mattie Daughtry, D-Cumberland, will retain their positions.

Senate Republicans chose their leadership yesterday afternoon. Nether of the current leaders, Sen. Jeff Timberlake, R-Androscoggin; and Sen. Matt Pouliot, R-Kennebec attempted to retain their positions. Senator Trey Stewart, R-Aroostook, will be the Senate Minority Leader. Senator Lisa Keim, R-Oxford, will be the Senate Assistant Minority Leader. Both were elected unanimously by their colleagues.

House Democrats will make these decisions on Thursday, November 17th. At this time Rep. Rachel Talbot Ross and Rep. Ed Crockett, both D-Portland, have announced interest in the Speaker position. Rep. Maureen Terry, D-Gorham; and Rep. Lori Gramlich, D-Old Orchard Beach, are running to be the House Majority Leader. Rep. Kristen Cloutier, D-Lewiston; and Rep. Rebecca Millett, D-Cape Elizabeth, are running for the Assistant House Majority Leader position.

With both current Republican Leaders term limited, many House Republican members are considering a potential leadership run. House Republicans had until yesterday at 5 pm to announce their interest. We can now confirm that Rep. Josh Morris, R-Turner; Rep. Laurel Libby, R-Auburn; Billy Bob Faulkingham, R-Winter Harbor; Rep. Michael Lemelin, R-Chelsea; and Rep. Jack Ducharme, R-Madison, have all announced their interest in the House Minority Leader position. For the Assistant House Minority position Rep. Amanda Collamore, R-Pittsfield; Rep. Shelly Rudnicki, R-Fairfield; and Rep. Mark Blier, R-Buxton, have put their names forward for nomination.

We will keep you up to date as these decisions are made next week.