A lawmaker who has led efforts to expand the rights laid out in Maine’s constitution is now proposing a sweeping review that could lead to expanded rights and changes in the structure of state government.

Sen. Craig Hickman, D-Winthrop, is asking the Legislature to form a commission to study and recommend changes to the state constitution that could include expanded individual rights, the election of constitutional officers, a smaller Legislature and the addition of a lieutenant governor.

The bill would create a 13-member, bipartisan commission of lawmakers, judges, constitutional scholars, and representatives from a federally recognized Indian tribe, national civil liberties organization and the secretary of state’s office.

The commission would be asked to review nine specific reforms to the constitution: changing the declaration of rights, removing “procedural minutia,” creating a lieutenant governor, enabling the popular election of the state’s constitutional officers, doubling the term of senators to four years, reducing the number of legislators, creating a unicameral Legislature and allowing constitutional amendments to be initiated directly by the people.

The commission, which would also examine all 30 of the constitutional changes proposed during this legislative session, would present their recommendation to the Legislature no later than Dec. 6, 2024.

The Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the bill, L.D. 1824, on Monday afternoon.


Hickman, who helped lead a successful right-to-food constitutional amendment campaign in 2021, did not respond to an interview request Friday.

Senate Minority Leader Trey Stewart, R-Presque Isle, said his caucus hasn’t discussed Hickman’s proposal. But Stewart noted common themes between the proposal and his bill, L.D. 1067, which would establish a commission to study the operations of the state Legislature, including its size, term length and frequency of elections.

“I’m not sure where he’s going with some of the constitutional questions he seems to be getting at in his bill, but there are ways I think we can improve accountability and transparency in Maine state government that we might be able to agree on and come back with some recommendations about,” Stewart said. “Whether they’ll ever be accepted by the whole Legislature or not is an entirely different question.”

Nicholas Jacobs, assistant government professor at Colby College, said the proposal stands out because it’s more limited than calling a constitutional convention, which would put the entire document in play, and because of the issues it flags for consideration. He said constitutional reviews typically involve procedures, such as legislative apportionment, tax and debt, or the power of the courts.

“We tend to think of conventions dealing largely with changes to procedure and changes to the election rules for governing institutions,” Jacobs said. “This one does have the policy at the heart of it.”

Several of these proposals flagged for consideration, such as the popular election of constitutional officers, are pending before the Legislature and have been debated before, but have failed to advance.


But James Melcher, political science professor at the University of Maine Farmington, says that forming a bipartisan commission could help advance some of the proposals, including creating the post of lieutenant governor, although he believes it would be a “tough sell” to convince Mainers to reduce the number of lawmakers.

“Mainers often like things that seem like they’re nonpartisan or at least they’re not specifically about one party,” Melcher said. “I think that would be one of the things that a commission would have going for it. It would focus attention on the issue I think more than having just one legislator propose it.”

Jacobs agreed, adding that a commission would be better positioned to clarify the intent of any new constitutional rights and work through any conflicts with existing rights.

The proposal comes amid an onslaught of proposed amendments since voters approved adding a constitutional right to food in 2021. That’s one of 175 amendments approved by voters since the construction was adopted 1819, according to the Council of State Governments.

This session, lawmakers have proposed 30 constitutional amendments, including proposals to add the right to an abortion, privacy, a health environment, housing and equal rights for women. That’s the highest number since 2004, when 38 amendments were proposed.

Last session, 22 constitutional amendments were proposed, but none received the necessary two-thirds support needed in the Legislature to send the questions to voters for final approval. 


In addition to the constitutional commission, Hickman has proposed seven specific constitutional amendments, including proposals to add a right to bodily autonomy, health care and to be free from hunger. He’s also proposing changes to the governor’s pardon powers, strengthening due process rights and allowing lawmakers to expunge or seal certain criminal records. 

The proposed commission would be charged with looking into at least two areas in which Maine is an outlier among other states: the way the secretary of state, attorney general and treasurer are elected by the Legislature rather than the public, and the absence of a lieutenant governor.

According to the Council of State Governments, Maine is one of only six states that does not have a lieutenant governor and one of two states that put the state senate president second in line for the governorship. A majority of the nation’s lieutenant governors – 26 – are elected on a joint ticket with the governor, while 18 are elected separately.

Melcher said examining the creation of a lieutenant governor position, as well as the popular election of constitutional officers, reducing the number of lawmakers and eliminating one of Maine’s two legislative chambers, are interesting because it could be viewed as the Legislature giving up some of its power.

“All of those things can be seen as things that take away power from some of the people who are there now,” he said.

Only Nebraska has a unicameral state Legislature, while the rest have two chambers.


Maine has the sixth-largest lower chamber in the country, with 151 members in the House of Representatives, according to the Council of State Governments. That’s more members than larger states such as California (80), Florida (120), New York (150) and Texas (150), but fewer than New Hampshire (400), Pennsylvania (203) and Georgia (180).

And Maine is the only state that allows the Legislature to appoint the secretary of state, attorney general and treasurer. These positions are mostly chosen through popular election. Five states allow the governor to appoint the attorney general, and nine allow the governor to select the secretary of state, according to the Council of State Governments.

Neither House Minority Leader Billy Bob Faulkingham, R-Winter Harbor, or Assistant Minority Leader Amy Arata, R-New Gloucester, responded to interview requests about Hickman’s proposal.

But Rep. Randall Greenwood, R-Wales, said in a statement released by a Republican spokesperson that a commission is not needed.

“We encourage passage of pending legislation to have Constitutional Officers directly elected by the Maine people,” Greenwood said. “I don’t believe that there is a problem with the Maine Constitution that needs a commission.”

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