OPINION OF THE JUSTICES


674 A.2d 501 (1996)

OPINION OF THE JUSTICES of the Supreme Judicial Court given under the Provisions of Section 3 of Article VI of the Constitution.

Supreme Judicial Court of Maine.

Answered April 3, 1996.


STATE OF MAINE

In House March 26, 1996

WHEREAS, it appears to the House of Representatives of the 117th Legislature that the following are important questions of law and that this is a solemn occasion; and

WHEREAS, the Constitution of Maine, Article VI, Section 3, provides for the Justices of the Supreme Judicial Court to render their opinion on important questions of law upon solemn occasions; and

WHEREAS, there is now before the 117th Legislature for its consideration Initiated Bill 5, Legislative Document Number 1823, "An Act to Reform Campaign Finance"; and

WHEREAS, the bill may have constitutional infirmities that can not be corrected by revision or amendment; and

WHEREAS, it is vital that the Legislature be informed as to the questions propounded in this order; now, therefore, be it

ORDERED, that, in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution of Maine, the House of Representatives respectfully requests the Justices of the Supreme Judicial Court to give the House of Representatives their opinion on the following questions of law:

Question 1. If Initiated Bill 5 becomes law, would those provisions related to the socalled "Maine Clean Election Fund" unconstitutionally interfere with the Legislature's authority to appropriate state funds or violate the constitutional principle that one Legislature may not bind future Legislatures?

Question 2. If Initiated Bill 5 becomes law, would it violate the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution or of the Constitution of Maine by providing public money to certain candidates and not to others based upon factors not under the control of the candidates?

Question 3. If Initiated Bill 5 becomes law, would it place an unconstitutional financial burden on qualifying or running for public office by requiring candidates for the Senate and the House of Representatives to raise certain amounts of money from certain numbers of voters in order to qualify for public financing?

Question 4. If Initiated Bill 5 becomes law, would those provisions that impose new limits on campaign contributions by individuals, committees, corporations and associations violate the First Amendment of the United States Constitution or the Constitution of Maine, Article 1, Section 4? The House of Representatives is particularly concerned about this question in light of the decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, in December of 1995, in Carver v. Nixon, 72 F.3d 633, that found campaign contribution limitations imposed by Proposition A in Missouri violated the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

/s/ SPONSORED BY: [Signature] (Representative NADEAU) TOWN: Saco

OPINION OF THE JUSTICES

To the Honorable House of Representatives of the State of Maine:

In compliance with the provisions of section 3 of article VI of the Constitution of Maine we, the undersigned Justices of the Supreme Judicial Court, have the honor to submit the following response to the questions propounded by the House of Representatives on March 26, 1996.

When this Court receives a request for an advisory opinion from either house of the Legislature or from the Governor, we first determine whether we have the constitutional authority to answer the propounded questions. Opinion of the Justices, 623 A.2d 1258, 1261 (Me.1993). Our State's Constitution obliges us to give our opinion "upon important questions of law, and upon solemn occasions, when required by the Governor, Senate or House of Representatives." Me. Const. art. VI, § 3. We answer only questions concerning matters of present concern, i.e., what we have previously referred to as "things of live gravity." Opinion of the Justices, 623 A.2d at 1261.

The House of Representatives had before it an initiated bill, L.D. 1823, the purpose of which was twofold: 1.) to create an alternative, publicly-financed campaign election fund and 2.) to reduce the caps on election contributions in 21 M.R.S.A. §§ 1015(1) and (2). Pursuant to article IV, part third, section 18, clause 2 of the Constitution of Maine, an initiated bill, unless enacted without change by the Legislature at the session at which it is presented, must be submitted to the electors. Me. Const. art. IV, pt. 3, § 18.

We are informed that L.D. 1823 has expired for purposes of legislative action. The concurrence of both houses was required in order to present the bill to the Governor. Me. Const. art. IV, pt. 3, § 2. The failure of both chambers to agree to the passage of the bill results in the submission of the bill to the electorate pursuant to Me. Const. art. IV, pt. 3, § 18.

Therefore the question of enactment of L.D. 1823 is no longer before the Maine Legislature and consequently a solemn occasion no longer exists. In sum, the House does not require guidance in the discharge of its obligations as there is no further action that it may take. Because we are not presented with an important question of law upon a solemn occasion, we must refrain from issuing an opinion that is neither useful to the Legislature nor within the constitutional grant of our advisory power.

Dated at Portland, Maine, this third day of April, 1996.

Respectfully submitted:

DANIEL E. WATHEN DAVID G. ROBERTS CAROLINE D. GLASSMAN ROBERT W. CLIFFORD PAUL L. RUDMAN HOWARD H. DANA, JR. KERMIT V. LIPEZ

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