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For Immediate Release
March 20, 2002
Contact: Dan A. Gwadosky
207-626-8400

Court Upholds Secretary Gwadosky's Ruling on Tax Cap Petitions

A decision was issued today by Superior Court Justice Thomas Humphrey that upheld Secretary of State Dan A. Gwadosky's determination that an insufficient number of signatures were submitted to advance a citizen initiated referendum entitled "An Act to Impose Limits on Real and Personal Property Taxes" circulated by the Maine Taxpayers Action Network.

The Court affirmed Secretary Gwadosky's decision to invalidated 3,054 signatures collected by a circulator calling himself James H. Powell on the basis that he was not a Maine resident and was using a false identity. The Court held that "There is sufficient record evidence to support the Secretary's determination that the unknown circulator had no intention of staying in Maine and was not a resident."

"I am pleased that the court affirmed our interpretation of Maine's Constitutional requirement that petition circulators must be Maine residents," stated Secretary Gwadosky. "The citizen initiative process is an important part of our democracy. In order for the people of Maine to have faith in the process, those who circulate petitions must follow the Constitutional provisions. Requiring circulators to be Maine residents upholds the integrity of the citizen initiative process."

Additionally, the Court made specific reference to the Secretary's ruling that the circulator calling himself James H. Powell was not the person he purported to be. The Court affirmed the Secretary of State's authority to make an inquiry on this issue and stated "Of necessity, the identity and residency of a circulator is part of that validation process. If the circulator is not the person he purports to be in his sworn statement on the petition, then he has lied under oath about his own identity and has deprived the Secretary of State of fundamental information critical to the petition validation process."

Secretary Gwadosky had ruled on February 4, 2002, that insufficient valid signatures had been filed by Maine Taxpayers Action Network, a petition group circulating "An Act to Impose Limits on Real and Personal Property Taxes". The petition had been approved for circulation on October 14, 2000 and petitions were filed for certification with the Secretary of State's Office on October 12 and 15, 2001.

The petitioners' appealed the Secretary's ruling that invalidated the petition. Specifically, the Secretary excluded a number of signatures collected by a circulator who the Secretary determined was not a Maine resident (as required by the Maine Constitution) and was also determined not to be the individual, he purported to be, fraudulently using the identity of another.

This is the third attempt by the Maine Taxpayers Action Network to file a petition on this issue. Attempts in 1996 and 1998 were not successful in obtaining the necessary signatures to place the legislation before the Maine Legislature and ultimately before Maine voters.

The direct initiative process is set forth in the Maine Constitution and allows citizens to propose bills for consideration by the Legislature through the petition process. Petitioners seeking to utilize this democratic process must collect signatures of Maine voters that represent 10% of the total number of votes cast in the last gubernatorial election. Currently, this figure is 42,101.