Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Central Maine town approves anti-corporate personhood ordinance

A central Maine town has followed in the footsteps of neighbors in Shapleigh and Newfield, and voted to approve a new ordinance that denies the rights of persons to corporations. Town meeting voters in Monroe passed the ordinance on June 14.

Other towns have passed--or tried to pass--similar ordinances in response to concerns that corporate water extraction threatened community wellbeing. AfD's Defending Water for Life has provided organizational support to several of these campaigns. And while no corporation currently has its eyes on Monroe's water, resident Seth Yentes said it was good to be proactive. The ordinance is "giving us a foundation to jump off of if somebody wanted to come in and extract water from our town... It's really about local control and democracy and I think it's a great idea."

The "Town of Monroe Local Self-Government Ordinance," as the new law is called, flies in the face of years of court opinions that have bestowed various constitutional rights on the corporate form. The Maine Municipal Association cited these precedents when solicited by town officials, and determined that that the ordinance overstepped the bounds of local governance. The legal issues with the ordinance would "create serious doubt as to its validity and enforceability if approved by the voters," according to the MMA.

Some voters questioned whether the ordinance would discourage or put too many restrictions on business, or would cost the town if it came to the point that Monroe had to defend the law in court. Defenders of the ordinance emphasized that it does not restrict any legitimate business from coming to Monroe. They also stressed that if the new law was challenged in court, costs of defending it would be far less than its detractors feared

You can read local coverage here.

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