Maine Legislators Consider Bill to Establish Recall Elections

Spurred in part by public frustration at having no way to oust Gov. Paul LePage after a series of embarrassing comments, lawmakers are taking a look at a measure that would allow the recall of elected officials in Maine.

Its sponsor, Sen. Justin Chenette, D-Saco, said this week he wants "to give power back into the hands of the people."

His proposal would allow people to gather signatures to force a special recall election when an official is accused of neglect of duty, misuse of office or incompetence. It would also apply if an elected leader turns to crime, obstructs voter-approved initiatives or violates ethics laws.

It would apply to town board members, mayors, legislators and the governor.

"On the surface, it would be easy to view this bill as a direct response to the governor, but there is a reason why I include each level of government in this bill," Chenette said. "This is about holding all of us accountable, not just about one position or about one man."

"In fact, by the time this would be in effect and in place, it wouldn't really impact the current occupant of the Blaine House," he told the Legislature's Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee.

The Maine Municipal Association took a firm stand against the bill this week. It said town charters already govern recalls and that recalls require a lot of administrative work.

Besides, it said, "recalls are initiated as much to cause political and partisan mischief as they are to root out an incompetent or otherwise inappropriate elected official."

Chenette pointed out that 19 states already allow recalls of state officials and 29 for municipal leaders. The only one in New England is Rhode Island.

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