AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — The Legislature on Thursday worked to finally finish business for the year, and adjourn, but not without some last- minute drama.
Lawmakers were back in Augusta for a one day session to deal with a handful of vetoes from Gov. Paul LePage. The biggest of those was for a bill that would take away the governor’s ability to refuse to issue new bonds that have been approved by voters, except in some emergencies. The bill is a result of Gov. LePage’s refusal to release $11.5 million in bonds for the Land for Maine’s Future program. LePage held up those bonds as a tactic to pressure the Legislature to approve a separate bill he wanted, but it didn’t work.
In the House and Senate veto override debate on Thursday, Democrats were unified in opposition to the veto. However, Republicans were split, with a majority in the Senate voting to override, while a majority of more conservative Republicans in the House voted to support the governor.
The Senate voted to override the veto, but the House did not, so the bill is now dead. However, lawmakers say they can revisit the LOMF funding issue in January, and can authorize $6.5 million in bond funding currently set to expire in November. The governor submitted a bill on Thursday to do that, but Democrats passed an amendment to require him to issue the LMF bonds. If LePage vetoes that measure, it would presumably be voted on when the Legislature reconvenes in January.
That bond debate wasn’t the only piece of final day drama. LePage also surprised many lawmakers and reporters by handing the Legislature 65 more vetoes of bills he had been holding for several weeks, claiming the Constitution didn’t allow him to deliver the vetoes because the Legislature had adjourned. Democrats and Senate Republicans say it’s too late for the vetoes, and said the bills in question have already become law. The Governor said they have not become law, and he’s expected to ask the Maine Supreme Court to rule on the dispute