Allies of the Central Maine Power Co. keep stretching their “retroactivity” argument across the political spectrum as the Nov. 2 referendum approaches. A political group funded by the energy company and its affiliates has put the retroactive parts of the ballot question at the center of its closing argument, telling voters that the law — which would retroactively allow the Legislature to approve or disapprove of permits for transmission lines and certain other projects on public lands — could have broader political implications.
The latest example is a mailer sent to Democratic voters arguing former President Donald Trump attempted to use retroactive laws to repeal the Affordable Care Act and not mentioning the $1 billion corridor at all. It mirrors messaging aimed at Republicans this month arguing retroactive laws could be used to target gun owners. A future Legislature could do anything, but Question 1 only affects infrastructure.
Corridor backers have said publicly that they are aware that the referendum will not have a direct impact on other issues, such as guns, but see the passage of the question as a “slippery slope” that could lead lawmakers to pass more retroactive laws in the future.
But the messaging around the health care law highlights the fragility of that argument: If the concept has been used on high-profile issues before, how would a referendum allowing the Legislature to retroactively decide on permits be the impetus for a new rash of retroactive laws?
Anti-corridor advocates have held fast to their message the same as the campaign winds down, highlighting the effects of construction and distrust in CMP. They have benefited from a significant cash infusion in the final weeks of the race, with energy companies rivaling CMP pouring another more than $9 million into the race in the first three weeks of October.
The corridor is front and center in opponents’ late advertising, while CMP is making a more abstract point about the way their project would be challenged if Question 1 passes. Interestingly, that decision by corridor backers breaks from arguments that the editorial boards of the Bangor Daily News, Portland Press Herald and Sun Journal made to endorse a no vote, largely highlighting the value of the corridor itself.