AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage moved Friday to call the Maine Legislature in for a long-anticipated special session on Oct. 23, when lawmakers plan to take up a bill regulating marijuana legalization and conflicts around ranked-choice voting.
The proclamation issued by the Republican governor called them back for two other reasons: The legality of a first-in-the-nation food sovereignty bill challenged by the federal government and a possible budgeting oversight that LePage has said could defund a state mapping agency.
The Legislature can consider any issue during a special session and regulating Maine’s new recreational marijuana market and solving constitutional questions around ranked-choice voting — two laws passed by voters in 2016 — are expected to be the focal points.
Earlier this year, lawmakers delayed retail marijuana sales until 2018 to develop oversight and taxation guidelines. A legislative committee endorsed a sweeping regulatory bill on Thursday that would place a 10 percent tax on retail marijuana sales and a 10 percent tax on wholesale sales between growers and sellers.
Ranked-choice voting may be a more pressing matter. In a May advisory opinion, the state’s high court said it was unconstitutional in general elections for state offices.. Republicans want to repeal it, but Rep. Kent Ackley, I-Monmouth, has submitted a bill that would allow it to go forward in primaries and federal elections.
LePage made an August call for a special session after the U.S. Department of Agriculture said the food sovereignty bill — which allows municipalities to regulate food systems — must be changed to mandate that state officials continue to conduct meat and poultry inspections.
And the governor flagged a funding issue affecting the Maine Office of Geographic Information Systems and the Library of Geographic Information in August. On Friday, LePage said the funding “will dry up before November” if the Legislature doesn’t act, putting it and the state’s ability to provide GIS services “in extreme jeopardy.”
But lawmakers have disputed that. On Friday, Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, the co-chairman of the Legislature’s budget-writing committee, said the agency is underwritten with a $110 million information services fund and that it “doesn’t really seem to be an emergency issue,” but he wants to hear more from the administration on it.