[¶1] Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce and other entities
[¶2] The pertinent facts are not contested and are drawn from the summary judgment record. See Oceanic Inn, Inc. v. Sloan's Cove, LLC, 2016 ME 34, ¶ 25, 133 A.3d 1021. In July 2020, the required number
Id. § 33.7(b), (g).
[¶3] The City of Portland announced that it would not enforce the emergency provision until January 1, 2022. On December 1, 2020, the plaintiffs, all employers with employees in Portland, filed a complaint seeking declaratory relief against the City of Portland and Jon Jennings, in his official capacity as City Manager of Portland (collectively, the City). They asserted that the initiative was invalid under the Maine Constitution and the Portland City Code and that, if it was valid, it would not take effect until January 1, 2022. Horton and Roberge-Reyes, employees at the Whole Foods store in Portland, were granted intervenor status as defendants and cross-plaintiffs; they filed a cross-claim seeking declaratory relief establishing the effective date of the emergency provision as December 6, 2020, and injunctive relief compelling the City to enforce it.
[¶4] The Chamber moved for summary judgment on its complaint. The Superior Court concluded that the emergency provision was validly enacted pursuant to the Maine Constitution and the Portland City Code. It determined that the home rule provision in the Constitution, in conjunction with statute, granted municipalities greater legislative authority and therefore expanded the scope of direct initiatives. Accordingly, it granted summary judgment against the Chamber on its validity claims. The court then determined that the language of the emergency provision was unambiguous and established an effective date of January 1, 2022. It dismissed Intervenors' cross-claims.
[¶5] The Chamber timely appealed from the judgment declaring that the emergency provision was valid, and Intervenors timely cross-appealed from the determination that the emergency provision becomes effective on January 1, 2022. See 14 M.R.S. § 1851 (2021); M.R. App. P. 2B(c)(1). We granted expedited consideration of this appeal.
[¶6] The Chamber argues that the emergency provision was not validly enacted under the Maine Constitution and the Portland City Code because the initiative is not limited to exclusively municipal affairs. It asserts that the home rule provision of the Constitution is irrelevant because it gives greater power to municipalities as political subdivisions of the State but does not expand the scope of direct voters' initiatives. The City defends the validity of the initiative.
1. The Maine Constitution
[¶7] On appeal from a summary judgment decision, "we review de novo the trial court's interpretation and application of the relevant statutes and legal concepts." Belanger v. Yorke, 2020 ME 24, ¶ 13, 226 A.3d 215 (quotation marks omitted). We review constitutional interpretation issues de novo. Bouchard v. Dep't of Pub. Safety, 2015 ME 50, ¶ 8, 115 A.3d 92. "Constitutional provisions are accorded a liberal interpretation in order to carry out their broad purpose, because they are expected to last over time and are cumbersome to amend." Allen v. Quinn, 459 A.2d 1098, 1102 (Me. 1983). "[T]he constitutional validity of a citizen initiative is evaluated under the ordinary rules of statutory construction." League of Women Voters v. Sec'y of State, 683 A.2d 769, 771 (Me. 1996). Accordingly, such laws "carr[y] a
[¶8] Last year we reiterated the purpose and breadth of the direct initiative power:
Avangrid Networks, Inc. v. Sec'y of State, 2020 ME 109, ¶ 15, 237 A.3d 882 (alterations and quotation marks omitted); see League of Women Voters, 683 A.2d at 771; see also Opinion of the Justices, 275 A.2d 800, 803 (Me. 1971).
[¶9] We begin with some historical context for this case. Effective in 1909, the Maine Constitution was amended to shift some legislative power from the Legislature to the people. See Farris v. Goss, 143 Me. 227, 230, 60 A.2d 908 (1948); Const. Res. 1907, ch. 121, approved in 1908. Pursuant to the amendment, a sufficient number of citizens may directly propose a law by petition to the Legislature, and if it is not enacted, the Legislature must submit the law to the people. Me. Const. art. IV, pt. 3, § 18. The Maine Constitution further provides that this power of direct initiative may be extended to the voters of municipalities:
Me. Const. art. IV, pt. 3, § 21.
[¶10] Pursuant to this authority, the Portland City Council enacted a direct initiative ordinance in 1950. See Portland, Me., Code § 9-36 (May 7, 1991); see also LaFleur v. Frost, 146 Me. 270, 272, 80 A.2d 407 (1951) (discussing the passage of the ordinance in 1950). In relevant part, the ordinance provides that voters may petition the city council to submit to a vote any proposed ordinance dealing with legislative matters on municipal affairs." Portland, Me., Code § 9-36(a).
[¶11] In 1969, the Maine Constitution was amended to add the home rule provision: "The inhabitants of any municipality shall have the power to alter and amend their charters on all matters, not prohibited by Constitution or general law, which are local and municipal in character. The Legislature shall prescribe the procedure by which the municipality may so act." Me. Const. art. VIII, pt. 2, § 1; see Const. Res. 1969, ch. 29, passed in 1969. This authority is manifested in statute: "Any municipality, by the adoption, amendment or repeal of ordinances or bylaws, may exercise any power or function which the Legislature has power to confer upon it, which is not denied either expressly or by clear implication, and exercise any power or function granted to the municipality by the Constitution of Maine, general law or charter."
[¶12] Turning now to this case, we examine two cases that were discussed at length in arguments and in the Superior Court's order: Burkett v. Youngs, 135 Me. 459, 199 A. 619 (1938), and Albert v. Town of Fairfield, 597 A.2d 1353 (Me. 1991). In Burkett, we concluded that a resolve passed by the Bangor City Council addressing appropriations for school funding was not subject to referendum because some of the appropriations were required by state law, and thus the resolve was not a local affair. 135 Me. at 461-67, 199 A. 619. In Albert, we concluded that a municipal referendum was valid where Fairfield voters rejected the Town Council's decision to accept a street as a town way. 597 A.2d at 1354-55.
[¶13] Both cases are distinguishable from the facts and circumstances presented in the matter pending before us. Burkett was decided before the home rule provision was added to Maine's constitution in 1969, and furthermore, in that case, a direct and patent conflict existed between a state funding mandate and the voters' initiative, thus taking the initiative outside the purview of the municipal direct initiative authority. See 135 Me. at 463-66, 199 A. 619; Const. Res. 1969, ch. 29, passed in 1969. Albert is distinguishable because, in that case, the Legislature had, by statute, expressly granted the discretionary power to accept a town way to a municipality. 597 A.2d at 1355. Although both cases are helpful, neither established bright-line, authoritative criteria as a matter of precedent, and neither controls this case. See Albert, 597 A.2d at 1354-55; Burkett, 135 Me. at 463-67, 199 A. 619.
[¶14] We disagree with the Chamber's assertion that the home rule provision is irrelevant to this case. Both the home rule and direct initiative provisions are part of the structure that grants authority to municipalities and voters to legislate with respect to municipal affairs. See Me. Const. art. IV, pt. 3, § 21; id. art. VIII, pt. 2, § 1. The City first gave legislative authority to the voters by enacting its direct initiative ordinance. Portland, Me., Code § 9-36. After the City enacted that ordinance, the State imbued municipalities with more powers by virtue of the home rule provisions. See Me. Const. art. VIII, pt. 2, § 1; 30-A M.R.S. § 3001. The broad sweep of the home rule provision granting the power of "[t]he inhabitants of any municipality... to alter and amend their charters on all matters, not prohibited by Constitution or general law" sweeps in the preexisting right of voters' direct initiatives. See Me. Const. art. VIII, pt. 2, § 1. Accordingly, the rights of municipalities to legislate pursuant to the home rule provisions are coextensive with the rights of the voters under direct initiatives.
[¶15] The Chamber correctly points out that the home rule provision provides authority to municipalities as political subdivisions of the State. See Me. Const. art. VIII, pt. 2, § 1; 30-A M.R.S. § 3001. And, indeed, as the Chamber argues, individual electors are not political subdivisions. As we have explained, however, it is the relationship between the home rule and direct initiative provisions that gives electors the authority to legislate in this instance. The home rule provision of the Maine Constitution grants legislative authority to municipalities with respect to municipal affairs. See Me. Const. art. VIII, pt. 2, § 1. Prior to the enactment of the home rule provision, municipalities had the preexisting
[¶16] The home rule provision expressly limits what municipalities may legislate concerning to matters "not prohibited by Constitution or general law." Me. Const. art. VIII, pt. 2, § 1. In instances where the Legislature has specifically provided that particular subject matters are the sole province of the State, they are then clearly outside the scope of the home rule provision because they are prohibited by Constitution or general law." Id. There may also be instances, however, where the Legislature has impliedly occupied the field in specific subject areas. See 30-A M.R.S. § 3001. Given their fact-specific nature, such instances must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis by examining the language of the ordinance and any statutes enacted by the Legislature.
[¶17] The constitutional grant to electors of the power to legislate by direct initiative and by people's veto uses the language "in regard to its municipal affairs" to limit the scope of the subject matter of a direct initiative, Me. Const. art. IV, pt. 3, § 21, but this language does not prohibit voters from enacting a direct initiative to increase minimum wages beyond that set by statute. The local minimum wage is among the issues encompassed by municipal legislative authority because that authority has not been denied expressly or implicitly by the Constitution or general law. See Me. Const. art. VIII, pt. 2, § 1; 30-A M.R.S. § 3001; 26 M.R.S. § 664 (2021) (establishing statewide minimum wage). Indeed, the Portland City Code presently reflects this understanding. See Portland, Me., Code § 33.1 (Jan. 1, 2016) ("[T]o promote the health, safety and welfare of its citizens and pursuant to and consistent with 26 M.R.S. § 664, the City Council of the City of Portland, Maine hereby establishes the following minimum wage ordinance applicable to all Employers and Employees within the City of Portland.").
[¶18] The fact that an ordinance that is otherwise directed to matters within the geographical confines of the municipality may affect nonresident individuals or entities who have employment or business interests within the municipality does not mean that it loses its characterization as "local and municipal." The key inquiry is whether the ordinance provision is fundamentally local or statewide in its scope. See Me. Const. art. VIII, pt. 2, § 1; 30-A M.R.S. § 3001; Sch. Comm. of Town of York v. Town of York, 626 A.2d 935, 939 (Me. 1993). We conclude that the initiative at issue with its emergency multiplier provision, found in Portland City Code § 33.7(g), falls into the category of local or municipal affairs and was validly enacted pursuant to the Maine Constitution.
2. Portland City Code
[¶19] We review "legal issues concerning the interpretation of the [Portland] City Code ... de novo for errors of law." Friends of Cong. Square Park v. City of Portland, 2014 ME 63, ¶ 7, 91 A.3d 601. Pursuant to the City Code, Portland voters may petition the city council to submit to a vote "any proposed ordinance dealing with legislative matters on municipal affairs." Portland, Me., Code § 9-36(a).
[¶20] As with the Chamber's constitutional argument, its argument that the emergency provision does not relate to "municipal affairs" as provided in the Portland City Code fails. Although Portland's original direct initiative ordinance was adopted before the home rule provisions,
[¶21] Moreover, the ordinance that empowers Portland electors with direct initiative authority is a predominantly procedural provision; it explains how a petition for a direct initiative is to be filed.
B. Effective Date
[¶22] Having concluded that the emergency provision in the initiative is valid, we must also determine its effective date. Intervenors argue that the effective date for new ordinances established by ordinance, see Portland, Me., Code § 9-42 (May 7, 1991), thirty days from the date of the official results, applies to the emergency provision, making the effective date fall in December 2020. Alternatively, they assert that if the language is ambiguous, then it should be read to establish a December 2020 effective date to comport with the understanding and expectations of the parties and voters. They also argue that we should consider the ballot question to construe the plain language of the emergency provision. The Chamber and the City contend that the plain language of the emergency provision establishes an effective date of January 1, 2022.
[¶23] "Interpretation of [an] [o]rdinance is a question of law that we
[¶24] We construe words in an ordinance according to their plain meaning and "construe undefined or ambiguous terms reasonably with regard to both the objects sought to be obtained and to the general structure of the ordinance as a whole." Fitanides, 2015 ME 32, ¶ 13, 113 A.3d 1088 (quotation marks omitted). We seek "to give effect to legislative intent, and if the meaning of the [ordinance] is clear on its face, then we need not look beyond the words themselves." Jade Realty Corp. v. Town of Eliot, 2008 ME 80, ¶ 7, 946 A.2d 408 (quotation marks omitted).
[¶25] Here, the language of the emergency provision is unambiguous on its face and therefore we need not go beyond the text. See Fitanides, 2015 ME 32, ¶ 13, 113 A.3d 1088; Jade Realty Corp., 2008 ME 80, ¶ 7, 946 A.2d 408. The emergency provision in Portland City Code § 33.7(g) provides the timing of the minimum wage increases by cross-reference to subsection b: "the effective Minimum Wage rate established by this ordinance shall be calculated as 1.5 times the regular minimum wage rate under subsection (b) above." Subsection b is further divided into four subsections, the first of which states, "Beginning on January 1, 2022, the regular Minimum Wage for all Employees ... shall be raised to $13.00 per hour." Id. § 33.7(b)(i). Each subsequent subsection begins with the following year and raises the regular minimum wage by $1.00 per hour, with an increase based on the cost of living after a $15.00 minimum wage is reached. Id. § 33.7(b)(ii)-(iv).
[¶26] The newly passed legislation does not explicitly state an effective date for the emergency provision. See id. § 33.7. Nevertheless, the ordinary meaning of the text establishes that the new minimum wage rate comes into effect on January 1, 2022, and increases incrementally thereafter. See id. § 33.7(b); Fitanides, 2015 ME 32, ¶ 13, 113 A.3d 1088. Because the emergency provision cross-references subsection b to establish the effective minimum wage rate for computing the emergency minimum wage, the first effective date is established there. See Portland, Me., Code § 33.7(g). In subsection b, subsection b(i) appears first, and the text provides that the subsection is effective as of January 1, 2022. Id. § 33.7(b)(i). Thus, the effective date of subsection g is also January 1, 2022. Because the emergency provision itself provides an effective date, Portland City Code § 9-42 does not apply.
[¶27] We reject Intervenors' argument that Portland City Code § 33.7(b)(iv) supports an effective date for the imposition of the new minimum wage provisions in December 2020. That subsection begins: "On January 1, 2025 and each January 1st thereafter, the minimum hourly wage then in effect must be increased by the increase, if any, in the cost of living." Id. § 33.7(b)(iv). It then provides that if the state minimum wage is increased above the local minimum wage in effect under the ordinance, "the minimum wage under this ordinance is increased to the same amount, effective on the same date as the increase in the state minimum wage." Id. The most natural reading of this subsection —particularly considering the newly passed legislation's structure establishing
[¶28] Furthermore, the ordinary use of "thereafter" in the first sentence conveys that the preceding subsections must take effect first given that they appear chronologically. See Portland, Me., Code § 33.7(b)(iv). After that sentence, subsection b(iv) provides that the state minimum wage will take effect if it is higher. See id. This schedule most naturally means that subsection b(iv) is not yet in effect, and therefore, it cannot be the source of an effective date before the first effective date of January 1, 2022, in subsection b(i). See Fitanides, 2015 ME 32, ¶ 13, 113 A.3d 1088. This result is neither illogical nor absurd, see Wawenock, LLC, 2018 ME 83, ¶ 7, 187 A.3d 609, because there are valid reasons for delaying application of the emergency provision.
The entry is: