Diary

Citizen Rights Emergency

It’s an emergency! You may not be able to finish this two-minute commentary before the Marines bust through the door to save us. Or, it could be the Coast Guard. Or the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Well, not FEMA. But this is a big deal . . . at least in Maine’s state legislature. What’s the giant emergency, you ask? Are you sitting down? Citizens in Maine just might petition to place an issue on the ballot through the state’s initiative process or use their people’s veto to refer a bill passed by the legislature to a vote.

You see the problem, don’t you? Then people would decide. Not the politicians.

Last year, a group called Fed Up With Taxes put the so-called Dirigo Drink Tax to a vote of the people. In November, Mainers voted to repeal the legislature’s tax.

Some politicians don’t much like uppity voters having government their way. So they want to declare an emergency.

Running to rescue unresponsive government is Representative Mark Bryant, who introduced an emergency bill to require all people who gather petitions to be registered to vote.

There are two problems with Bryant’s bill.

First, it is unconstitutional: Years ago the U.S. Supreme Court ruled such requirements made no sense — except as a way to unfairly block petitions.

Second, shredding the Constitution doesn’t qualify as an emergency.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.