WATHEN, Chief Justice.
Defendant Town of York (Town), acting through its Selectmen, appeals from a judgment entered in the Superior Court (York County, Brodrick, J.) in favor of defendant York Charter Commission
The Charter Commission was created in 1989 for the purpose of drafting the Town's first charter. The Charter, enacted in 1991, significantly changed the structure of the Town's government. Prior to that time the Town was governed by the applicable laws of Maine (Title 30-A M.R.S.A.) and local ordinances. Under that system of governance, the School Committee had sole responsibility for preparing a budget for the school administrative unit and the Selectmen had responsibility for preparing a municipal budget. Those budgets were presented to voters for approval by voice vote at the annual Town Meeting.
The Charter divested budgetary authority from the School Committee and the Selectmen, and established a Budget Committee with exclusive authority to determine the amount of each warrant article in the Town Budget
HOME RULE AUTHORITY
This case concerns the limits of the Town's home rule charter authority. At issue is the relationship between the constitutional grant of home rule authority and the statutory grant of home rule authority in 30-A M.R.S.A. § 3001 (Pamph.1992).
The Maine Constitution's home rule provision reads as follows:
Me. Const., art. VIII., pt. 2, § 1. The last sentence of that provision contemplates the enactment of procedural enabling legislation. The original enabling legislation, however, went beyond procedural matters and broadened the scope of municipal home rule authority set out in the Maine Constitution by permitting local legislation in areas beyond those "local and municipal in character."
The Legislature has authority to grant municipalities broader home rule powers than are granted in the Constitution's home rule provision. Although a statute would ordinarily be restricted by the underlying constitutional provision, in this instance, the resort to the constitution was not necessary and was employed only to address concerns about the validity of the delegation of powers. For a summary of the relevant legislative history, see Robert W. Bower, Jr., Comment, Home Rule and the Preemption Doctrine: The Relationship Between State and Local Government in Maine, 37 Me.L.Rev. 313, 339 (1985). Legislative power is plenary, subject only to express or implied limitations of the state and federal constitutions. See Me. Const. art. IV, pt. 3, § 1 ("The Legislature, with the exceptions hereinafter stated, shall have full power to make and establish all reasonable laws and regulations for the defense and benefit of the people of this State, not repugnant to the Constitution, nor to that of the United States."); Ace Tire Co. v. Municipal Officers of Waterville, 302 A.2d 90, 96 (Me.1973). Although the Constitution's grant of home rule power is limited, it imposes no express or necessarily implied restrictions on the Legislature's power to grant additional home rule authority to municipalities. "[A] state is free to delegate any power it possesses to its political subdivisions." Central Maine Power Co. v. Town of Lebanon, 571 A.2d 1189, 1192 (Me.1990).
We conclude that section 3001 constitutes an independent and plenary grant of power to municipalities to legislate on matters beyond those exclusively "local and municipal," and is not limited by the Constitution's narrower home rule provision.
SCHOOL BUDGET PROVISIONS
The School Committee first argues that Article VIII, Part First of the Maine Constitution is the exclusive source of legislative authority over education.
The School Committee next asserts that matters relating to education, including the school budget provisions, are not "local and municipal in character" and therefore are outside the scope of Article VIII, Part Second of the Maine Constitution. It reasons that therefore, municipalities may not legislate on education matters in the absence of express legislative authority and, because there is no such authority for a budget committee, the enactment of the Charter provisions regarding the school budget process is not within the Town's home rule authority. The Town relies on a string of decisions recognizing the state's unique interest in matters relating to education. See Squires v. City of Augusta, 155 Me. 151, 159, 153 A.2d 80 (Me.1959) ("From our study of the laws pertaining to education, we are convinced that the Legislature ... intended that no municipality should regulate by ordinance or order any subjects which would affect or influence general education unless permitted to do so by an express delegation of power."); School Committee of Winslow v. Inhabitants of Winslow, 404 A.2d 988, 993-94 (Me.1979) ("[W]e hold that as respects the school committees of towns not otherwise clearly exempted by legislative pronouncement, the matter of terms of office for Committee members is not a matter "local and municipal in character" within the meaning of the "home rule" provision of our Constitution."); City of Lewiston v. Lewiston Educ. Directors, 503 A.2d 210, 213 (Me.1985) (quoting Winslow, 404 A.2d at 993) (Court struck down charter provision relating to education and not falling within the purview of a statute because municipality not entitled "`to pursue its own wishes with respect to what is clearly a state matter.'").
The School Committee next asserts that even assuming the Constitution's home rule provision and section 3001 apply, Title 20-A M.R.S.A. is an exclusive and comprehensive scheme that by clear implication preempts local regulation of matters relating to education in the absence of an express grant of authority. We disagree.
Title 30-A M.R.S.A. § 3001(3) sets out the following standard of preemption: "The Legislature shall not be held to have implicitly denied any power granted to municipalities under [section 3001] unless the municipal ordinance in question would frustrate the purpose of any state law." The Legislative Committee Report further clarifies that a municipality's home rule power should not be restricted unless the municipal
The School Committee first argues that the statutory scheme created by Title 20-A is so pervasive that it establishes that the Legislature intended to exclusively occupy the field of education. The Charter Commission concedes that Maine's education laws set out in Title 20-A constitute a comprehensive statutory scheme, but argues that the Legislature did not intend it to be an "exclusive" scheme. The Legislative Committee Report states: "The mere fact that there is a state law, or even a multitude of state laws on a subject is by itself irrelevant; the key is whether the Legislature intended to exclusively occupy the field and thereby deny a municipality's home rule authority to act in the same area." Legislative Committee Report at 8.
The School Committee next asserts that because the Legislature has expressly delegated school budgetary authority to school boards in school administrative districts, 20-A M.R.S.A. § 1302 (1993); school boards of community school districts, Id. § 1701; and cooperative boards administering vocational educational regions, Id. § 8460, a legislative scheme was created that denies by clear implication the Charter's ability to delegate school budget authority to a budget committee. The Charter Commission counters that those statutes were intended to clarify budgetary authority when a school unit is comprised of more than one municipality, and points out that the Legislature has expressly recognized the possibility of budget committee involvement in the preparation of school budgets in 30-A M.R.S.A. § 2528(5)(B)(2).
The School Committee finally contends that interposing a Budget Committee between the School Committee and the Town meeting frustrates the legislative scheme set out in Title 20-A because it undercuts state policy dividing school authority between the school board and the municipal legislative body, see 20-A M.R.S.A. § 2(2) (1993),
The Charter Commission contends that Title 20-A is not an exclusive scheme because it leaves "open areas that provide room for potential, appropriate regulation by municipalities." Central Maine Power Co. v. Town of Lebanon, 571 A.2d at 1194. One such open area ripe for municipal regulation is the designation of the entity responsible for preparing the budget for municipal school units. Although we previously indicated that the education laws of Maine constitute a comprehensive scheme
Finally, the School Committee argues that certain Charter provisions dealing with education, including those providing for the establishment of the Budget Committee, the timing of the budget process, the reconsideration of appropriations, and the treatment of defeated budget items, are directly contrary to state laws and must be declared invalid. We find no merit in these contentions.
The Charter Commission argues that the Superior Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the Town's cross-claim because (1) the Town failed to comply with the requirements of 30-A M.R.S.A. § 2108(2) (Pamph.1992), providing that a petition for declaratory relief may be brought under Title 14 by either the Attorney General or ten voters of the municipality
The Town acknowledges that it failed to comply with 30-A M.R.S.A. § 2108(2), but asserts that the Superior Court had jurisdiction of the cross-claim under the Uniform Declaratory Judgments Act, 14 M.R.S.A. §§ 5951-5963 (1980). That Act allows courts to "declare rights, status and other legal relations whether or not further relief is or could be claimed," Id. § 5953, and issue a declaratory judgment whenever "a judgment or decree will terminate the controversy or remove an uncertainty." Id. § 5957. Title 14 M.R.S.A. § 5954 specifically provides that "any person ... whose rights, status or other legal relations are affected by a statute [or] municipal ordinance ... may have determined any question of construction or validity arising under the ... statute [or] ordinance ... and obtain a declaration of rights, status or other legal relations thereunder." We have held that the Declaratory Judgments Act is "remedial in nature and should be liberally construed...." Hodgdon v. Campbell, 411 A.2d 667, 669 (Me.1980).
It is clear that the Superior Court has jurisdiction to adjudicate the validity of a municipal ordinance; however, "[a]ll courts require the declaratory plaintiff to show jurisdiction [and] a justiciable controversy..." Id. at 670. The Town's failure to comply with 30-A M.R.S.A. § 2108(2) is therefore irrelevant provided the Town can establish the existence of a justiciable controversy. A justiciable controversy is "`a claim of right buttressed by a sufficiently substantial interest to warrant judicial protection.'" Smith v. Allstate Ins. Co., 483 A.2d 344, 346 (Me.1984) (quoting Berry v. Daigle, 322 A.2d 320, 326 (Me.1974)). Justiciability requires two elements: (1) a real and substantial controversy and (2) a plaintiff with standing to raise the issues. 2 Richard H. Field, et al., Maine Civil Practice § 57.1, at 361 (2d ed. Supp.1981).
The Charter Commission, citing Township of Whitehall v. Oswald, 400 Pa. 65, 161 A.2d 348 (1960) and Harford County v. Schultz, 280 Md. 77, 371 A.2d 428 (1977), argues that because the Town asked the court to invalidate its own voluntary act— the enactment of the Charter—no genuine
In the instant case, the degree of adverseness of the parties is greater, and the threat of litigation more concrete, than in either Harford County
We next turn to the issue of standing. The Charter Commission asserts that public officials performing ministerial duties may not challenge the constitutionality of a law under which their performance is sought unless such performance would impair such officials' personal legal rights. Although we have recognized the general rule preventing a ministerial officer from questioning the constitutionality of the law under which his performance is sought, we have also recognized exceptions to the rule "`when the rights of the state or the public interest are involved'" and "when the performance by an officer in compliance with an invalid law may injuriously affect him personally, such as exposing him to a breach of his official bond." Associated Hosp. Serv. of Maine v. Mahoney, 161 Me. 391, 399, 213 A.2d 712 (1965) (citations omitted). Both exceptions apply here. First, there is a clear public interest in managing the Town under a valid charter. Second, the Selectmen had reasonable grounds to believe that enforcing the Charter would require them to breach their "official bond" to uphold the laws of Maine. See 30-A M.R.S.A. § 2526(9) (Pamph.1992). Alternatively, failure to enforce the Charter would likely result in expulsion from office. Charter, Article V(B)(3)(2). The Selectmen have standing to obtain a declaratory judgment. See Board of Educ. v. Allen, 392 U.S. 236, 88 S.Ct. 1923, 20 L.Ed.2d 1060 (1968) (Board of Education had standing to obtain declaratory judgment because members were forced to choose between violating their oath to support the Constitution and likely expulsion from office, as well as a reduction in state funding of school districts.).
OTHER CHARTER PROVISIONS
The Town challenges Charter provisions concerning the Budget Committee, secret ballot voting, recall elections, and the election of the moderator for town referenda, asserting that they are not within the Town's home rule authority because they conflict with mandatory provisions of Title 30-A. The Constitution's grant of home rule charter authority prohibits local legislation that is contrary to general law. The provisions of Title 30-A are part of the general laws of this state. See Albert v. Town of Fairfield, 597 A.2d 1353, 1355 (Me.1991).
At issue is the extent to which the provisions of Title 30-A limit a municipalities' home rule authority. The Statement of Fact accompanying the recodification of Title 30 into Title 30-A (the Home Rule Clarification Act) establishes a three-part test for assessing legislative intent to limit home rule authority in Title 30-A:
L.D. 506, Statement of Fact 32 (113th Legis.1987) (Statement of Fact).
Applying this test, and keeping in mind section 3001's plenary grant of home rule authority
The Town first argues that interposing a Budget Committee between the Selectmen and the Town Manager conflicts with 30-A M.R.S.A. § 2635, a provision of the "Town Manager Plan,"
The Town next claims that the Charter provision requiring every vote at every town meeting to be by secret ballot is inconsistent with Title 30-A M.R.S.A. § 2528(1), which provides: "[w]hen any town accepts this section at a meeting held at least 90 days before the annual meeting, the provisions of this section [governing a town's use of secret ballot voting] apply to the election of all town officials required... to be elected by ballot." We find no direct conflict. The Town may elect the option of establishing secret ballot voting by Charter in lieu of the procedure recommended by the statute.
The Town points to other alleged inconsistencies between the Charter and section 2528. In each case, however, there is an absence of direct conflict between the Charter and the statute, and the Town is unable to demonstrate interference with the purpose of the statute. These provisions are within the Town's home rule authority.
The Town next asserts that Charter provisions establishing recall election procedures allowing the removal of elected Town officials from office for any reason at any time after the official has held office for at least six months, is preempted by clear implication. But Title 30-A is not an exclusive, comprehensive scheme that prohibits regulation in the absence of an express grant, and no statutory purpose is frustrated by the challenged Charter provision. Also, contrary to the Town's contention, it is not clear that municipal officials have been granted a comprehensive right to be free from recall.
The Town finally argues that the Charter provision providing that the moderator for Town referenda will be elected for a one-year term conflicts with Title 30-A M.R.S.A. § 2524, captioned "General town meeting provisions," providing that "all town meetings" shall be opened by the Town Clerk "calling for the election of a moderator by written ballot." Although section 2524 is not identified as a model, its provisions are very general. Further, there is no inconsistency between the challenged Charter provision and any state purpose. Applying the standard of implied preemption and the statutory mandate to construe home rule authority liberally, and keeping in mind the Legislature's acknowledgment that not all "model" provisions were so labelled, we conclude that the Legislature did not intend section 2524 to limit municipal home rule authority. The Charter simply sets out an alternate procedure to reach the mandated goal of electing a moderator.
The entry is:
Act of Jan. 30, 1970, ch. 563, 1971 Maine Laws 59, 66 (codified at 30 M.R.S.A. § 1917) (emphasis added).
Report of the Joint Standing Committee on Local and County Government on the Revision of Title 30, at 11 (Dec.1986). (Legislative Committee Report).
Legislative Committee Report at 13.