Augusta insiders incredulous or elated by LePage’s veto delay

Good morning from Augusta, where lawmakers and observers are scratching their heads over Gov. Paul LePage’s attempt to “pocket veto” nearly 20 bills. Based on commonly accepted interpretations of the Maine Constitution, the move seems destined to backfire, ensuring the bills become law.

The bills include one that guarantees asylum seekers will be eligible for General Assistance benefits for two years. LePage, who’s sought to eliminate such benefits for these legally present immigrants, vehemently opposed the bill — often describing such applicants as “illegal.”

What’s more, had he vetoed it, the bill stood a good chance of dying. While some Republican lawmakers rallied around Sen. Amy Volk, R-Scarborough, who proposed the two-year cap, many in the GOP still opposed the bill, and it never gained the two-thirds support that would have been needed to override the veto that everyone assumed LePage would deliver.

Instead, he let the 10-day window of opportunity to veto the GA bill and 18 others lapse without vetoing or signing them. When the governor doesn’t take action on a bill during that time, the bill becomes law. LePage’s staff indicated that the governor had “pocket vetoed” the bills, whereby his inaction would have led to their death. But that maneuver is possible only after the Legislature has adjourned, which they have not done.

In a news release last night, the ACLU of Maine said there is no question that as a result of LePage’s inaction, the bills are destined to be law.

“The Maine Constitution is clear on this,” wrote Zach Heiden, the group’s legal director. “The governor had 10 days to veto the bills, he did not veto them, and now the bills will become law. We do not have a government of one, and the governor cannot make up the rules as he goes along.”

Democrats on social media were enjoying a bit schadenfreude at the apparent blunder. “There’s a huge hole in Gov. Paul LePage’s pocket, and a bunch of bills just fell through, handing his opponents and the Legislature huge victories,” said David Farmer, a Democratic consultant and former spokesman for Gov. John Baldacci.

Republicans’ silence on the situation last night was deafening, but Lance Dutson — a GOP consultant and former staffer for U.S. Sen. Susan Collins’ campaign who’s been increasingly vocal in his criticism of LePage — weighed in.

On As Maine Goes, the conservative website he runs, Dutson called the move a “substantial screw up.” On Twitter, he pondered the political implications of LePage accidentally allowing the GA bill become law despite being its loudest opponent.

“Thanks to the gov’s screw up, asylum seekers will now receive GA. Love to see the base’s reaction to this,” he said.

— Mario Moretto, BDN


U.S. House passes Poliquin’s amendment to defund new EPA rules

The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a budget amendment by Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine, to defund new EPA regulations on biomass boilers.

The congressman said his amendment was designed to save the Sappi paper mill in Skowhegan from having to spend millions of dollars to comply with the new emissions rules.

“Those 800 hard-working paper makers at the Sappi mill deserve an EPA that works for them, not against them,” Poliquin said. “My amendment prohibits the EPA from reaching beyond some of the biomass emission rules already being enforced by the regional EPA offices and the state environmental authorities.”

The amendment faces further votes. — Mario Moretto, BDN.

Susan Collins wants Margaret Chase Smith chosen as face of new $20 bill

The U.S. Treasury wants to put a woman on the $10 bill and is still considering nominees for the honor.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew is looking for a woman who was “a champion for our inclusive democracy,” and Maine’s senior U.S. senator, Republican Susan Collins, says she knows just the one: Margaret Chase Smith, a former U.S. senator and titan of Maine politics.

But Collins doesn’t want Smith for the $10 bill — the next slated for an update by Treasury. She wants her for the $20 bill.

In a letter sent to Lew yesterday, Collins outlined her support for choosing Smith to replace President Andrew Jackson on the twenty. While she didn’t mention Jackson by name, she did talk at length about Alexander Hamilton, the country’s first Treasury secretary. Collins said Hamilton — as the “architect of American fiscal, banking and monetary policy” and the primary author of the Federalist Papers — should not be taken off the $10 bill.

“I appreciate your attention to this issue and close by once again referencing my role model, Margaret Chase Smith,” Collins wrote. “When she was asked about a woman’s ‘proper place,’ she put it best: ‘Everywhere!’ I would add, ‘and on the $20 bill!”

— Mario Moretto, BDN.

Reading list


Tune in at noon

Today at noon I’ll be joining fellow State House press corps reporter Mal Leary and host Keith Shortall of MPBN for the network’s “Maine Calling” program. The subject is the state budget: What’s in it, what’s not in it, and what it means for Maine people.

You can listen in over the air, or online at mpbn.net.

Oh, and one more programming note: We’re taking a cue from the Legislature and scuttling our previously announced schedule of delivering the Daily Brief at noon. Subscribers will receive the DB in their email inboxes around 10 a.m. each weekday morning. Thanks for reading. — Mario Moretto, BDN.

Mario Moretto

About Mario Moretto

Mario Moretto has been a Maine journalist, in print and online publications, since 2009. He joined the Bangor Daily News in 2012, first as a general assignment reporter in his native Hancock County and, now, in the State House. Mario left the BDN in 2015.