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Maine ballot 2009 | News |

Maine Attorney General calls TABOR ‘burdensome’

The Maine Campus | The Maine Campus

Maine Attorney General Janet Mills said she will vote against TABOR II come Election Day during a visit to the University of Maine Thursday, Oct. 29. She also talked to students about her recent actions and advocated increased community response to public issues.

The Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center invited Mills to UMaine to receive the Distinguished Maine Policy Fellows Award and to talk to students and faculty about Maine politics.

“I think it [TABOR II] is burdensome and unnecessary,” said Mills, who added she was speaking as a former legislator, not as the attorney general.

“I just don’t think we need a state-wide campaign every time there needs to be a tax expenditure,” Mills said.

Cailin Higgins, a third-year education student, asked Mills what her thoughts were on Question 1 — the people’s veto concerning Maine’s same-sex marriage law.

“We don’t teach divorce. We don’t teach foster parenting. We don’t teach adoption. We don’t teach marriage in schools, period. It’s not part of the learning results,” Mills said.

Susan Gendron, Maine’s commissioner of education, asked Mills on Oct. 7 to look into concerns some voters had about a court of appeals decision concerning same-sex marriage, and whether that decision or Maine statutes would require gay marriage be taught in schools if Question 1 fails to pass. Mills said last Thursday she was unable to find any basis for those concerns.

“So I read the First Circuit decision. I talked with the attorney that represents the Department of Education; I talked with the deputy attorney general. We looked at the decision, we looked at the Maine law curriculum. I scoured Title 19(A), Title 22, 21 for references to marriage in educational sections of the statutes — couldn’t find any,” Mills said.

Mills went on to talk about her own opinion of same-sex marriage and Question 1.

“I felt that marriage equality was an extension of Maine’s constitutional right to a population that deserved equal treatment,” Mills said.

Mills said people have a right to object to issues in government and public services, but said the right is not constitutionally protected.

Kenneth Nichols, professor of public administration at UMaine, asked Mills what she thought of Maine’s ballot and people’s referendums.

Mills said money interests are dominating political campaigns in Maine, and that the legislature has questioned the constitutionality of paying signature gatherers for campaign petitions. She said the legislature has talked about increasing the number of signatures a petition requires to become a question on the Election Day ballot.

Amy Fried, associate dean of research in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, agreed with Mills. She said California has a lot of paid signature gatherers and Maine is beginning to see them as well.

“It really is contrary to the spirit of Maine,” Fried said.

Mills defended Maine’s laws requiring the dissemination of campaign finance sources, which have come under criticism recently. The National Organization for Marriage sued the Maine state government two weeks ago claiming Maine’s financial reporting requirements violate the First Amendment and are unconstitutional.

“[Those laws] are critical to the functioning of a democracy,” said Mills, who added the laws “help the people of Maine to know where that money is coming from. … People voting on something have a right to know that.”

Jonathon Nason, a former UMaine art student, asked Mills about her thoughts on the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.

“That’s nothing I have any say on,” said Mills, who added President Barack Obama “knows what he’s doing.”

Nichols asked Mills what the student population at UMaine and other college campuses can do to help promote and advance today’s public issues.

Mills said there has to be a cultural change — a shift — in the thinking of young Mainers. She said Maine children — mainly young boys — are too heavily exposed to domestic violence and the idea that hitting other people is acceptable.

“What they grow up observing and understanding is different from what they should be observing and understanding,” Mills said.

Mills recalled a case she worked with involving one young boy whose father killed his wife and then himself. She said she asked the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to help the child adjust after the loss of his parents, but said the department told her that since the parents were dead, there was no need to help the boy. Mills said Maine children need good role models.

Speaking to reporters after her discussion with students, Mills said prescription drug abuse is one of Maine’s biggest problems.

“Prescription drug abuse is responsible for more deaths than cocaine, more deaths than heroine, more deaths than amphetamines, more deaths than traffic crashes. In this state, and many other states across the country, prescription drugs affected 464 drug-affected babies born in Maine last year alone. Prescription drug diversion and abuse is the No. 1 cause of crime in our state,” Mills said. “We had six homicides in the last 18 months or so over prescription drugs. People are killing each other over prescription drugs.”

Mills met with students in courses and across campus throughout the day.

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