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Originally published in Compass, September 20, 2012
Same-sex marriage and four bond questions on docket for Nov. 6

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by Jessica Brophy

Maine voters heading to the polls on Tuesday, November 6, will be asked a total of five ballot questions, one social policy citizens’ initiative and four bond issues. The ballot questions as laid out here offer a basic overview of each question. More information is available at the Secretary of State’s website, maine.gov/sos.

1. Do you want to allow the State of Maine to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples?

This citizen’s initiative asks whether the voter wants the state to be allowed to issue same-sex couples marriage licenses.

Included in the law is a “religious exemption” which says no member of the clergy nor any church will be required to perform or host any marriage ceremony in violation of its religious beliefs. The law expressly forbids lawsuits against religious institutions that choose not to perform same-sex marriages, and protects the tax-exempt status of religious institutions who choose not to perform same-sex marriages.

The proposed law includes the following changes: same-sex marriages licensed in other jurisdictions will be recognized by the State of Maine; the words used to describe marriage applicants will be gender-neutral; and the language prohibiting same-sex marriage removed.

2. Higher education bond issue

The first bond issue asks whether the voter wants to approve an $11.3 million bond issue to provide funds for various projects in higher education.

These include $7.8 million for a “freestanding biosafety level 3 laboratory” which includes animal, plant diagnostic labs and insect identification lab and $3 million dollars for the Maine Community College System for capital infrastructure improvements including at least $1 million on machine tool technology.

Also included is $500,000 for Maine Maritime Academy, to be used for capital infrastructure improvements and equipment.

3. Land For Maine’s Future conservation bond issue

This bond issue asks voters to authorize the state to raise and expend $5 million dollars to acquire land for “conservation, water access, outdoor recreation, wildlife or fish habitat, farmland preservation … and working waterfront preservation.” The bond language puts a special emphasis on supporting “deer wintering habitat protection.”

To expend the $5 million dollars, $5 million dollars in matching funds must be raised.

4. Transportation and infrastructure bond issue

This question asks voters to approve a $51.5 million bond issue to improve highways, bridges, local roads, airports and ports, and other projects. Approving the expenditure of $51.5 million would make the state eligible to receive $105.6 million in federal and other funds.

This project includes $41 million for highway and bridge work; $300,000 for LifeFlight; $300,000 for dredging the commercial channel at Searsport (which will leverage $10 million in federal funds); $3 million for port work at Mack Point, $2 million for transit buses; $1 million for the Industrial Rail Access Program; $1.5 million for warehouse facilities in the port of Eastport and $1.2 million for airports.

5. Drinking water and wastewater treatment systems revolving loan fund bond issue
This bond issue asks voters to approve $7,925,000 to be spent over two years for revolving loan funds for drinking water systems and for wastewater treatment facilities. This expenditure would allow the state to secure $39,625,000 in federal grants.