In Smith v. Town of Pittston, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, sitting as the Law Court, upheld a municipal ordinance adopted by the town of Pittston that prohibited the spreading of septage within Pittston. The majority held that Pittston's ordinance did not violate the Maine Hazardous Waste, Septage and Solid Waste Management Act (Solid Waste Management Act), which “govern[s] the disposal of garbage, sludge, septage and other waste.” The majority interpreted the “home rule” statute as granting sufficient authority to Pittston, as a municipal corporation, to enact the ordinance at issue. The dissent, on the other hand, would have held the ordinance to be incompatible with the state's statutory scheme controlling the disposal of septage. An analysis of the statutory schemes controlling waste management and municipal home rule, along with rules of statutory construction, demonstrates that the majority opinion best reflects legislative intent. However, the role and fate of municipal home rule warrant a different approach to state preemption of local authority. This Note considers the background of municipal authority and the establishment of home rule in the process of ascertaining legislative intent and the overall objectives that the Legislature sought to achieve. Although in this case a statutory construction approach led the Law Court to uphold Pittston's authority, it did so on narrow grounds and by a one-vote margin. The danger of home rule being undermined by implied state preemption calls for more guidance from the legislature and an amended approach to preemption cases.
Smith v. Town of Pittston: Municipal Home Rule's Narrow Escape from the Morass of Implicit Preemption,
Me. L. Rev.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.mainelaw.maine.edu/mlr/vol57/iss2/13