AUGUSTA — A bill to provide for the popular election of Maine’s attorney general, treasurer and secretary of state was rejected by the Maine House of Representatives on Tuesday, killing the proposal.

The House voted 79-59 to reject L.D. 1279, sponsored by Sen. Andre Cushing, R-Hampden. It would have amended the Maine Constitution to open the positions to popular election. The amendment would have to be approved by voters at referendum.

Maine is currently the only state to allow the Legislature to elect people to the three positions, according to data from the National Conference of State Legislatures that Cushing presented at a public hearing on the bill in April.

No other state allows the legislature to elect the attorney general. New Hampshire, Tennessee and Maryland let their legislature elect the treasurer, while New Hampshire and Tennessee let their legislature elect the secretary of state.

On the House floor, House Minority Leader Kenneth Fredette, R-Newport, called the current process in Maine “a relic.” Rep. Justin Chenette, D-Saco, said the process forces candidates to campaign in secret by hobnobbing with legislators.

“How transparent is that? How is that not being influenced by special interests?” Chenette said. “I think it’s the same thing.”

At first glance, the bill had a good shot for passage: It had heavy hitters co-sponsoring it, including Senate Majority Leader Seth Goodall, D-Richmond, and Assistant Senate Minority Leader Roger Katz, R-Augusta. It was recommended to pass by 10 members of a legislative committee.

But the Maine Senate rejected the bill 18-16 on Monday. Similar bills have gone down in past years. For example, a similar bill in 2011 died between the houses of the Legislature. On the House floor, Rep. Anne Graham, D-North Yarmouth, said the bill was “looking for a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.”

“They are staffed by professionals, they are professional in nature. That’s the way we should keep it for the foreseeable future,” said Rep. Janice Cooper, D-Yarmouth.

State House Bureau Writer Michael Shepherd can be reached at 370-7652 or at:
[email protected]
Twitter: @mikeshepherdme

 

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