An Act To Enact the Maine Citizens' Initiatives Clean Election Act
Sec. 1. 21-A MRSA c. 14-A is enacted to read:
THE MAINE CITIZENS' INITIATIVES CLEAN ELECTION ACT
§ 1131. Short title
This chapter may be known and cited as "the Maine Citizens' Initiatives Clean Election Act."
§ 1132. Definitions
As used in this chapter, unless the context otherwise indicates, the following terms have the following meanings.
§ 1133. Alternative campaign financing option
This chapter establishes an alternative campaign financing option available to ballot question committees. This alternative campaign financing option is available to ballot question committees for ballot questions sent to referendum in 2020 or thereafter. The commission shall administer this chapter and the fund. Nothing in this chapter exempts a ballot question committee from complying with any other applicable laws, including chapter 11.
§ 1134. The Maine Citizens' Initiatives Clean Election Fund established; sources of funding
The Maine Citizens' Initiatives Clean Election Fund is established to finance certified committees and to pay administrative and enforcement costs of the commission under this chapter. The fund is a nonlapsing fund and any interest generated by the fund is credited to the fund. The commission shall administer the fund.
Unspent qualifying contributions received on behalf of a ballot question committee default to the fund if the petition for a ballot question fails to qualify for submission to the voters under chapter 11 or if the ballot question committee is a support group and files the petition for the ballot question with the Secretary of State more than 6 months after becoming a participating committee.
§ 1135. Terms of participation
For any citizens' initiative ballot question, the commission may certify 3 ballot question committees, including the support group and no more than one opposition group and one competing measure group, under this section. The commission by rule shall establish a process for selecting among ballot question committees in the event that more than 3 seek certification under this section.
The executive director shall certify a participating committee complying with the requirements of this section as a certified committee as soon as possible and no later than 5 business days after the committee's final submittal of qualifying contributions and other supporting documents required under this section. The executive director may take additional time if further investigation is necessary to verify compliance with this Act as long as the commission notifies the participating committee regarding the anticipated schedule for conclusion of the investigation. A participating committee or other interested person may appeal the decision of the executive director to the members of the commission in accordance with section 1143.
Funds may be distributed to a certified committee under this subsection by any mechanism that is expeditious, ensures accountability and safeguards the integrity of the fund.
§ 1136. Relinquishment of certification
The commission shall establish by rule procedures for return to the fund of unspent money distributed from the fund if a certified committee chooses to relinquish its certification. As determined appropriate by the commission, the rule may include a requirement that all funds distributed to the certified committee be returned to the fund.
§ 1137. Revocation of certification
§ 1138. Reporting; unspent revenue
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the treasurer or deputy treasurer of a participating committee or certified committee shall report any money collected, all expenditures and obligations of and refunds received by that committee or agent of that committee and related activities to the commission according to procedures developed by the commission. In developing these procedures, the commission shall use existing campaign reporting procedures whenever practicable. The commission shall ensure timely public access to finance data and may use electronic means of reporting and storing information. Upon the filing of a final report, the committee shall return to the fund all unspent money received from the fund. If the committee or agent of the committee receives a refund of an expenditure made for the committee after filing the final report, the committee shall return those funds to the fund within 14 days of receiving the refund.
§ 1139. Required records
§ 1140. Audit requirements
The commission shall audit the activities of certified committees to verify compliance with applicable laws and rules and the mission of the committee. Within one month of a participating committee's filing a declaration of intent to become a certified committee, the committee's treasurer and any other relevant staff shall meet with the staff of the commission to discuss audit standards, expenditure guidelines and record-keeping requirements.
§ 1141. Financial report filings; liability
§ 1142. Distributions not to exceed amount in fund
The commission may not distribute revenues to certified committees in excess of the total amount of money deposited in the fund. Notwithstanding any other provisions of this chapter, if the commission determines that the revenues in the fund are insufficient to meet distributions under this chapter, the commission may permit certified committees to accept and spend contributions, reduced by any seed money contributions, up to the applicable amounts established in rules adopted by the commission.
§ 1143. Appeals
§ 1144. Commission to adopt rules
The commission shall adopt rules to implement this chapter. Rules adopted pursuant to this chapter are major substantive rules as defined in Title 5, chapter 375, subchapter 2-A.
§ 1145. Violations
§ 1146. Study report
By March 15, 2021 and every 4 years after that date, the commission shall prepare for the joint standing committee of the Legislature having jurisdiction over legal affairs a report documenting, evaluating and making recommendations relating to the fund and the administration, implementation and enforcement of this chapter.
Sec. 2. 36 MRSA §5286-A is enacted to read:
§ 5286-A. Contribution to Maine Citizens' Initiatives Clean Election Fund; voluntary checkoff
This bill establishes the Maine Citizens' Initiatives Clean Election Act. It provides a public financing mechanism for committees that are Maine-chartered nonprofits or groups whose principal officers are Maine citizens and are formed to support or oppose a direct initiative of legislation or a people's veto or to support a competing measure to a direct initiative of legislation. The funding process is similar to that provided for clean election candidates under the Maine Revised Statutes, Title 21-A, chapter 14. It provides for limits on the amount of funds that committees seeking public funding may raise and spend prior to qualifying for public funding and the amount of qualifying contributions that a committee must raise to be certified to receive public funding, and it establishes the amounts that certified committees may receive. It also establishes procedures governing financial reporting and accounting, appeals of decisions, penalties for violations and other procedural matters to ensure the integrity of the process. In addition to other available funds, including qualifying contributions raised by committees and voluntary contributions through a tax checkoff program, funding for certified committees is provided by an annual appropriation of $3,000,000.