Endorsement: Times Record Endorses Maine Referendums

The Times Record

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Maine voters are deciding on six referendums this election. Here are The Times Record’s endorsements.

Question 1 seeks to allow the recreational use and tax of marijuana. It’s past time to legalize marijuana, the most commonly used illicit drug in the nation. According to the Pew Research Center, 49 percent of Americans admit having tried marijuana, while 53 percent support legalization. Legalization would make recreational use safer, free up law enforcement and the courts to prosecute more serious crimes, and provide another source of badly-needed revenue for the state.

The sky-is-falling klaxon — sounded by the Maine Attorney General’s office and Mainers Protecting Our Youth and Communities — is that passage of Question 1 would eliminate penalties for consumption and possession by all Mainers, including youth.

Undoubtedly, the Legislature, during its normal rule-making process following the passage of citizen referendums will amend the question to resolve poorly constructed language in the bill.

Question 2 would add a 3 percent tax on Mainers making more than $200,000 to provide direct support for public school student learning in grades K-12. The Times Record stands by its Oct. 21 endorsement of the measure as a means to provide some relief to property tax payers that front the local cost of education, while also supporting the next generation of Mainers.

Question 3 would mandate background checks before a firearm could be sold or transfered between individuals not licensed as dealers. In Oct. 21 Times Record Oped, Sagadahoc County Sheriff Joel Merry recounted a tragedy in Bath where he “was one of the first police officers to arrive on the scene of an accidental shooting which claimed the mother of two young children. This event occurred as the result of a firearms transaction in a parking lot; the victim was an onlooker. I believe this happened because the firearm wasn’t handled as carefully as it might have been if the parties had to meet at a gun dealer’s shop to carry out the sale. As a result, a person is dead, and I cannot ignore that.”

Also notable, the referendum contains “some exceptions for family members, hunting, self-defense, lawful competitions, and shooting range activity.” We believe those exceptions will protect gun owners engaging in lawful, family activities. Will passage of Question 3 prevent all criminals from getting weapons? Of course not, but if it’s even partially successful, it will be a victory against gun violence.

Question 4 would increase the state’s minimum hourly wage from its dismal $7.50 to $12 by 2020. Many lawmakers and pro-business organizations such as Maine State Chamber of Commerce have for years resisted any attempt to raise the minimum wage. But in April, in a Hail Mary attempt to stave off the ballot question through the Legislature revealed they could stomach an increase to $10. However, it seems they were too late in the game to try their hand at compromise as Maine’s working poor continued to languish.

Is an increase to $12 an hour extreme? For many small business owners, the answer is undoubtedly “yes.” But for those working 40 hours or more in minimum wage jobs yet still live in poverty, passage of Question 4 is sorely needed. That is why it gets our endorsement.

Question 5 would create a system of ranked choice voting, limited to the election of Maine’s governors, congressional delegation and state legislators. If you were ever looking to break the stranglehold the two-party system has on state government, this is it. Question 5 is about having choices. It’s about having freedom to vote without necessarily feeling like you’re holding your nose and casting the lever for the lesser of two evils. Moreso, it allows you to vote your conscience, secure that a third party vote doesn’t mean you were forced to rob Peter to pay Paul.

Question 6 would approve a $100 million bond to pay for infrastructure for bridges, highways, ports, and seemingly anything that supports wheels, propellers or pedals. A word of caution that approval also incurs an additional $33 million in interest payments over 10 years. However, the money will be matched by $137 million in federal and other matching funds. Anyone who has driven over Maine’s highways and bridges knows how badly these funds are needed. Let’s just hope that, with passage, Gov. LePage actually releases funds in a timely manner, and not return to his habit of withholding bonds as leverage during political spats. Voters should pass Question 6, and LePage should acquiesce to the will of the people.

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