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Maine Attorney General Reports and Opinions 1 (2004)

handle is hein.sag/sagme0003 and id is 1 raw text is: ReoiONAL OMFCMs: 04 1
G. STEVEN ROWE                                       -EL: (207) 941-3070
ATTORNEY GENERAL                        e                                       ( '4.307
PORTLAND. MAINE 04101-3014
TEL: (207) 822-0260
FAx: (207) 822-0259
Telephone: (207) 626-8600                  STATE OF MAINE                          TOD: (877) 428-8800
TOO: (207) 626-8865              OFFICE OF THE ATrORNEY GENERAL                    128 SWEDEN ST., ST. 2
6 STATE HOUSE STATION                       TEL: (207) 496-3792
AUGUSTA, MAIE 04333-0006                     FAx: (207) 496-3291
March 23, 2004
The Honorable Stephen Stanley, Senate Chair
The Honorable David G. Lemoine, House Chair
Members of the Joint Standing Committe on Taxation
12 1  Maine Legislature
3 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04V3N30-E30
Dear Senator Stanley, Representative Lemoine, and Members of the Joint Standing
Committee on Taxation:
This letter responds to your request for a written opinion concerning certain legal
issues presented by L.D. 1893, a citizen initiated bill entitled An Act to Impose Limits
on Real and Personal Property Taxes. Given the time pressures on the Legislature, we
have focused on the issues of major significance. Thus, this should not be read as an
exhaustive analysis of the bill, which presents a number of interpretive as well as
substantive problems.
We have concluded that there is a substantial possibility that a court would find
that key provisions of L.D. 1893 violate Article IX, § 8 of the Maine Constitution, and
that such a finding would require the court to undertake a complex severability analysis.
It is difficult to predict whether the remaining provisions could be given effect, and
arguments can be made on each side of this issue given the specific severability provision
in the bill. However, a court may well conclude that the lawful provisions are not
severable because new language would have to be written into several sections of the bill
for them to be both valid and effective, and a court would have little basis for
determining whether the people would have voted for the initiative without the
unconstitutional features. Finally, if the bill were found to create an exemption from
property tax for a portion of each property's value, the requirement that the Legislature
use state revenues to reimburse municipalities for 50% of the lost revenue would be
triggered. Me. Const. Art. IV, Pt. 3, § 23. While, on balance, we do not think the
valuation system created by the bill should be characterized as an exemption, the
outcome of a legal challenge on this point is not certain.

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