A bill that would codify the right to a healthy and clean environment through an amendment in the Maine Constitution failedAfter misleading and false claims made by Republicans about the measure’s content, the House approved the measure for a vote.
The bill, LD489 (also known as the Pine Tree Amendment), was first introduced by Sen. Chloe Maxmin (D-Lincoln) last year and carried over to the current session.
As BeaconPreviously reportedThe amendment would add the following to the state constitution: The citizens of the State have the right of a clean environment and the preservation of the natural and cultural healthful qualities of the environment. These rights cannot be violated. The State must preserve, protect, and maintain its natural resources for the benefit of all citizens, including future generations.
The policy proposal is part of an effort to secure green amendments that protect the right for all states to a healthy environment. Pennsylvania and Montana already have Already hadSuch amendments have been in effect for decades and New York voters approve. PassedThey voted for a measure in their respective state late last fiscal year. Green amendment initiatives are also available in Maine. Active in over a dozen states.
The legislation’s supporters argue that it would protect the state’s climate for decades to come. They also believe that it will give the public the ability to hold governments responsible if they engage in environmentally destructive policies. Maxmin explained that the amendment ensures that climate laws and environmental laws are not subjected to political whims. BeaconJanuary
House debate Tuesday
The measure passed initial votes in the Senate and House last year. However, the Senate and House must approve the bill by a two-thirds vote before it can be sent to voters for a final decision regarding whether or not to amend the constitution. However, the measure failed to pass the House’s Tuesday vote. The chamber voted 77 59 in favor, but it fell short of the two thirds threshold.
During floor speeches, Republicans repeated their support for clean air and water, but opposed a bill that would enshrine in the constitution the right to a healthy atmosphere. House Republicans also felt the bill was too broad and made a number of claims about possible consequences of the amendment that were mischaracterized by the proponents.
It is so broad that anyone can say that the bike path they are building is affecting clean waters, or that the road they are building is affecting the atmosphere. Rep. Michael Perkins (R.Oakland) said that this is too broad.
Rep. Will Tuell (R – East Machias), claimed that the amendment could have been interpreted in a manner that would unintentionally prohibit the burning of firewood.
Rep. Michael Lemelin, R-Chelsea, also attacked the bill as a measure to give activists extreme power.
During his floor speech, the speaker stated that this is a very, very deceiving bill. This bill is intended to give activists the supreme power, and I want my people to be aware of that.
During Tuesday’s debate, Rep. Bill Pluecker (Irish Warren) pointed out that there is nothing in Pine Tree Amendment to support the concerns of some Republicans.
He said that we were looking at our constitution to provide protections to our citizens and to protect our state. This does NOT target businesses, and it does also not target bike trails.
These arguments were also made by House Republicans and were criticized by Sen. Rick Bennett (R.Oxford), who co-sponsored the Pine Tree Amendment.
Bennett stated that they were simply inaccurate and exaggerated. Bennett also pointed out that the claims made by House Republicans are not true in Montana or Pennsylvania, which have had green amendments to their constitutions for decades.
Bennett stated that the House debate and chambers vote on Pine Tree Amendment were disappointing.
He said that I view the amendment as a restriction on government power and an expression of the rights of individual citizens. The narrative changed with some thinking it was somehow threatening individual rights and supportive government overreach. This is the exact opposite of what the amendment intended and the way I would see the amendment working.
The senator added that qualms expressed by Governor Janet Mills’ administration also didnt help generate support for the amendment. Bennett claimed that the Maine Department of Transportation sent an earlier email to lawmakers this year, raising concerns about the measure. He argued that this bolstered opposition.
A spokesperson for the Maine DOT confirmed that the department sent an email on Jan. 25 to members of the legislature’s Transportation Committee expressing concerns about the Pine Tree Amendment, including that the language of the bill was too broad and could be used to bring court challenges aimed at halting department infrastructure projects.
“While we are not in support of LD 489, MaineDOT supports a healthy natural environment, and our employees and contracting partners design and build infrastructure to support that goal,” department spokesperson Paul Merrill said in an email to BeaconWednesday
Future of Pine Tree Amendment
Maxmin, who sponsored the Pine Tree Amendment, said that Tuesday’s vote in the House was disappointing. She also said that arguments on Tuesday that the bill was a sham and would ban curb bike path construction and firewood burning were deeply inaccurate. This was particularly frustrating for supporters of the bill, who made repeated efforts in education to educate GOP legislators about it and the need to protect the constitution’s environmental rights.
I had spoken to many of these people personally and they said they would look into it. I was disappointed because the facts that were presented on the floor were incorrect and there was so much for people to learn about it, Maxmin stated.
Bennett indicated that the bill will move next to the Senate. Bennett stated that it could either go directly to the Appropriations table because it contains a fiscal note, or it could be moved to full Senate. AllocationThe bill only relates to the ballot initiative that is triggered if it passes.
To be approved by the Senate, the initiative will need two-thirds approval. Bennett said that this margin is possible, but that the vote will likely not be close. He said that the House would approve the measure if it is approved by the Senate with a two-thirds vote. It will likely encounter the same opposition that it faced Tuesday.
Maxmin stated that it is unlikely that the bill will be passed by lawmakers this year. She stressed that the grassroots campaign for the Pine Tree Amendment, which was spearheaded by constituents from her Lincoln County district, will continue.
Every time I go out, I see a Pine Tree Amendment sign placed on someone’s lawn. They’ve done such incredible work getting businesses and organizations and citizens to stand up and get behind the Pine Tree Amendment and thats not going to die, she said. They will continue to do so.
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