LePage vetoes new restrictions on fireworks and bill to provide insurance coverage for hearing aids

Gov. Paul LePage. BDN photo by Troy Bennett.

Gov. Paul LePage. BDN photo by Troy Bennett

Gov. Paul LePage has used a veto message to call the contents of a bill to restrict the use of fireworks, which passed in the House and Senate last month, “heavy-handed regulations that are far from reasonable.”

LePage also vetoed a bill that as of January 2015 would require private health insurance companies to cover hearing aids for people up to age 26 — as opposed to the current limit of 18 — because he said it would increase insurance costs for everyone.

LD 168, An Act to Establish Reasonable Restrictions on the Use of Fireworks, passed by less-than-veto-proof majorities last month in both the House and Senate, which implies that the bill won’t become law if lawmakers stick to their previous decisions. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Christopher Johnson, D-Somerville, would make the use of fireworks illegal before noon or whenever there is a gubernatorial proclamation that prohibits outdoor fires. Violation of the would-be law could lead to a disorderly conduct charge from law enforcement.

Johnson said he proposed the bill because complaints about the use of fireworks have flooded in from constituents.

“Once consumer fireworks became legal, I heard from more constituents about this one issue than any other,” said Johnson in a written statement. “Many Mainers complained about the disruptive noise negatively impacting children, veterans who suffer from PTSD, family pets and farm animals. … This bill would provide some relief for those troubled by irresponsible fireworks use.”

LePage said the bill is an attempt to roll back a law he and Republicans led to passage in 2011.

“There are fireworks stores around the state that are starting to open their doors. The owners of these businesses have significant financial investments on the line. People depend on the jobs these stores provide,” wrote LePage in his veto letter. “The fireworks industry is important to Maine’s economy and we need to provide it some degree of certainty.”

Also vetoed by LePage Monday was LD 523, An Act to Require Health Insurance Coverage for Hearing Aids for Adults, which passed 24-11 in the Senate in February and unanimously in the House.

“When the Legislature mandates an expansion of health insurance benefits, someone has to pay for the increased benefits,” wrote LePage in his veto letter. “While there will be some people that benefit from the increased coverage, all private health insurance customers must bear the cost.”

Sen. Linda Valentino, D-Saco, said after the bill passed that it would provide relief for some of the 180,000 Mainers who suffer from hearing loss, who pay up to $6,000 for hearing aids.

“Most of us take our ability to hear for granted on a daily basis,” said Valentino. “This measure stops insurance companies from denying care to the young people who need it.”

The Senate will take up both vetoes in the coming days.

Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.