Legislature on cusp of historic decision to clip LePage’s bond-approval wings

Good morning from Augusta, where they’re still not finished. 

The House and Senate adjourned late Tuesday, for you parliamentary procedure geeks, “until the call of the president and speaker.” What we’re looking for, in terms of the end of the session, is adjournment “sine die,” which means “without day,” which means no more sessions scheduled, which in layman’s terms, means “they’re really, really done this time.”

Unless there’s a special session, but let’s not go there. 

The House and Senate plowed through a considerable amount of work on Tuesday, including something north of 50 veto override votes — which consumed several hours of each chamber’s day. They dispensed with several bills, including enactment of a long-debated county jail fix bill, which now go to LePage for consideration. 

Now starts the waiting game with LePage, which is the reason they adjourned the way they did. Here’s why:

Several bills that required funding — about $2 million worth altogether — were enacted Tuesday and sent to LePage. LePage could line-item veto the funding levels in those bills — just as he did 64 times in the biennial budget — which he must do within 24 hours. That brings us through Wednesday afternoon.

If there are line-item vetoes, the Legislature has to consider them within five days and would convene either late Wednesday afternoon or Thursday. 

There is little question that LePage has his veto pen ready for just about every bill that comes across his desk — he has promised to veto every single one, after all — though he does let a few to go into law. It is hard to imaging him vetoing, for example, the historic bill sent to him Tuesday that will allow concealed carrying of handguns without permits, which has long been a goal of the governor’s. 

The Legislature plans to reconvene on July 16 for “veto day,” when the only business is supposed to be vetoes. Ha! The governor used veto day in 2014 to propose two new bills and dealt hard-ball negotiations late into the night which ended in the Legislature rejecting the bills. (Hat tip to Scott Thistle for those two links.) 

So today is a bit of a question mark for the full Legislature, not that in general, any other time isn’t. — Christopher Cousins 

Investigation consideration

The Government Oversight Committee is scheduled to meet at 3 p.m. today to consider two requests from lawmakers for an investigation into LePage’s leveraging of funding for a charter school to force the firing of Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves.

The committee oversees the Legislature’s non-partisan watchdog agency, the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability. Typically, the committee directs OPEGA to investigate and sets a range of parameters for the probe. OPEGA then begins to ask questions and comes back to the committee with preliminary findings and seeking the OK to move ahead.

Watch the BDN for coverage or if you’d like to listen in live, you can do that by clicking here. — Christopher Cousins

High-stakes veto vote upcoming

Among eight new bills vetoed by LePage on Tuesday was LD 1378, which essentially would force the release of voter-approved bonds that LePage is withholding and eliminates the requirement that the governor sign off on bonds unless one of a handful of specific conditions exist.

For months, LePage has refused to release $11.5 million in Land for Maine’s Future bonds that were approved by statewide voters in 2010 and 2012. In an uncharacteristically long detailed four-page veto letter, LePage argued that the bill is unconstitutional and stretches far beyond simply issuing the currently outstanding bonds.

“This is a major departure from our current bonding process that must be carefully considered, not simply passed in a fit of pique at the executive,” reads the letter, which makes a full-fledged legal argument against the bill.

When LD 1378 originally went through the Legislature it achieved two-thirds support, which is required to override a veto, but just by a couple of votes. It passed 102-48 in the House and 26-9 in the Senate. The override of this veto would be a major development that would take bonds away as a bargaining chip for LePage and future governors.

In related news, the Legislature has approved two new bond proposals which are now under consideration by the governor: An $85 million transportation bond and a $15 million bond for senior citizen housing. — Christopher Cousins

Ten bills killed by vetoes

Of the more than 50 veto override votes taken in the Legislature on Tuesday, 10 failed to achieve the necessary two-thirds support for an override and were sustained. Several of them were bills involving medical marijuana, which have been under development for months. The 10 bills, which are now dead, were as follows:

  • LD 111, An Act to Ensure the Defendants Receive Proper Notification in Foreclosed Proceedings
  • LD 471, An Act to Improve Childhood Vaccination Rates in Maine
  • LD 560, An Act Regarding Patient Information Under the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Act
  • LD 752, An Act to Permit Medical Marijuana Cultivation by Incapacitated Adults
  • LD 764, A Resolve to Impose a 2-year Delay on the Use of Standardized Tests to Evaluate Teachers
  • LD 909, An Act to Help Older Adults Age in Place Through Comprehensive Planning
  • LD 920, An Act to Require Mortgage Services to Act in Good Faith in Dealings with Homeowners
  • LD 1059, An Act Relating to Marijuana Testing Facilities
  • LD 1090, A Resolve to Establish a Pilot Project for Medicaid Reimbursement for Acupuncture Treatment of Substance Abuse Disorders
  • LD 1162, An Act to Ensure Safe Drinking Water for Maine Families

Reading list

Maine is (second) best

As the BDN’s Seth Koenig reported Tuesday, Thrillist.com has ranked Maine the second-best state in the country, behind Michigan. (Yeah, Michigan)

Interesting stuff. Here’s how Thrillist justified its ranking, in part:

“Mainers don’t give a damn about your trend forecasts, they’re just going to keep naming their children ‘Wade,’ selling L.L. Bean backpacks to middle schoolers, using the term ‘Down East’ to mean South, and hilariously calling ham subs with American cheese ‘Italians.'”

Taking requests

A lobbyist asked me yesterday if I could throw a soundtrack into the Daily Brief in honor of Chris Squire, the legendary rock bassist who died earlier this week, and I said YES.

Don’t let anyone tell you that the Daily Brief doesn’t have excellent customer service. — Christopher Cousins

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.