In January of 1993, elector petitions in support of the imposition of term limitations on the members of the Maine Legislature and several executive officers were submitted to the Legislature. The Legislature rejected the measure, and pursuant to the citizen initiative procedure of the Maine Constitution,
In February and March of 1996, several incumbent members of the Maine House of Representatives attempted to file primary petitions as required by 21-A M.R.S.A. § 334 (Supp.1995)
On February 20, 1996, the incumbent legislators,
Because there is no dispute as to the material facts at issue, and because our answer to the certified questions will be determinative of those portions of the pending matter that have been certified to us, the statutory requirements for our acceptance of these questions have been met. Finding that the exercise of our jurisdiction is proper, we now respond to each question.
Constitutionality of Popularly Initiated Term Limits
The power granted to the Legislature of the State of Maine is plenary and subject only to those limitations placed on it by the Maine and United States Constitutions. "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." Me.Const. art. IV, pt. 3, § 1. The power of the Maine Legislature is distinct from that of our nation's Congress, which enjoys only those powers granted to it by the United States Constitution, such that "powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." U.S. Const. amend. X.
Legislative power in this State is defined by limitation, not by grant. "The Legislature of Maine may enact any law of any character or on any subject unless it is prohibited, either in express terms or by necessary implication, by the Constitution of the United States or the Constitution of this State." Baxter v. Waterville Sewerage Dist., 146 Me. 211, 215, 79 A.2d 585, 588 (1951). See also Ace Tire Co. v. Municipal Officers of Waterville, 302 A.2d 90, 96 (Me.1973) (legislature has plenary power "except as it may have been circumscribed expressly or inferentially by the constitution of the state or nation"); Town of Warren v. Norwood, 138 Me. 180, 192-93, 24 A.2d 229, 235 (1941) (power of legislature is "absolute and all-embracing except as expressly or by necessary implication restricted by the Constitution").
Our Constitution gives the people of this State the power to enact legislation through the initiative process. Me. Const. art. IV, pt. 3, § 18. When the people enact legislation by popular vote, we construe the citizen initiative provisions of the Maine Constitution liberally in order to facilitate the people's exercise of their sovereign power to legislate. Allen v. Quinn, 459 A.2d 1098, 1102-03 (Me.1983). See also Opinion of the Justices, 275 A.2d 800, 803 (Me.1971) ("Our primary consideration, therefore, must be that by the initiative amendment the people, as sovereign, have retaken unto themselves legislative power and that a particular undertaking by them shall be liberally construed to effectuate the purpose."). The exercise of initiative power by the people is simply a popular means of exercising the plenary legislative power "to make and establish all reasonable laws and regulations for the defense and benefit of the people of this State...." Me. Const. art. IV, pt. 3, § 1.
Since by the initiative process the people of Maine are exercising their legislative power, the constitutional validity of a citizen initiative is evaluated under the ordinary rules of statutory construction. Opinion of the Justices, 460 A.2d 1341, 1345 (Me. 1982). Thus, the Term Limitation Act of 1993 carries a heavy presumption of constitutionality, and the burden of overcoming that presumption rests on the challenger. Common Cause v. State, 455 A.2d 1, 17 (Me.1983). "Before legislation may be declared in violation of the Constitution, that fact must be established to such a degree as to leave no
Term limits have in the past been placed on executive officers by constitutional amendment in Maine. See, e.g., Me. Const. art. V, pt. 1, § 2 (governor); Me. Const. 1819 art. V, pt. 4, § 1 (state treasurer) (repealed in 1951 by Amendment LXX). The decision to proceed by constitutional amendment in enacting term limits for the governor and the treasurer does not provide compelling evidence that the framers of our Constitution intended amendment of that document to be the only means of imposing qualifications on those who would serve in the legislature.
The plaintiffs suggest that we look to the ruling of the Supreme Court of the United States in U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, ___ U.S. ___, 115 S.Ct. 1842, 131 L.Ed.2d 881 (1995), and apply to our own Constitution the Court's holding that the United States Constitution is the exclusive source of qualifications for legislative office. We decline the invitation. The decision in Thornton concerned the particular history of the federal constitution, not that of our state, and we find no evidence compelling an application of the same analysis to both documents.
We therefore answer Question One by concluding that limits on the number of consecutive terms that may be served by Maine legislators may be enacted by legislation.
Effective Date of the Term Limitation Act of 1993
Also presented to us is the question of the effective date of 21-A M.R.S.A. §§ 551-554 (Supp.1995). Entitled "Limitation on Terms," section 553 lists the number of terms that each officeholder may serve before being subjected to the provisions of the Act.
"It is fundamental that we look to the purpose for which a law is enacted, and that we avoid a construction which leads to a result clearly not within the contemplation of the lawmaking body." Greaves v. Houlton Water Co., 143 Me. 207, 212, 59 A.2d 217, 219 (1948). The "Transition Statement" included in the Historical and Statutory Notes attached to 21-A M.R.S.A. § 553 states that the provisions of the Act prevent any legislator who has served the requisite number of terms by December 3, 1996, from serving in the 118th Legislature:
This Transition Statement was included in the referendum sent to the electors on November 2, 1993, after the Legislature declined to enact the initiated petition. 1993 I.B. 1, § 2. The Transition Statement serves to "grandfather" any office holder who is in the middle of a term when the Act takes effect on December 3, 1996. Such a provision would be unnecessary and illogical if, as the plaintiffs contend, the first state legislators would not be disqualified pursuant to terms of the Act until the year 2004.
Additional evidence in support of our interpretation is found in the Attorney General's explanatory statement that was attached to the referendum question pursuant to 1 M.R.S.A. § 353 (1989).
We answer Question 2 in the affirmative.
"State Representative. A person may not serve more than 4 consecutive terms as a member of the state House of Representatives." 21-A M.R.S.A. § 553(2).