Lawmakers pass new spending despite LePage veto threat

Good morning from Augusta, where just about everywhere you go, people are talking about adjournment. Legislative leaders seem intent on going home by the end of this week, but there’s a lot of legislating left to be done first. House Speaker Mark Eves hinted at the lectern Monday that the session could last into Saturday in an attempt to finish before public school vacations next week.

But that all seems eons away for those of us who know about marathon legislative days and watching the House and Senate debate long into the night.

One thing is virtually certain: When it’s finally over, it won’t be over. There will be vetoes to deal with. Aside from Gov. Paul LePage’s proclivity with the veto pen, the Legislature has begun sending him bills from the Special Appropriations Table, which is where bills that cost money go and more often than not, die because there’s no funding for them.

LePage has said consistently that he’ll support very little this year in the way of new spending. There’s an estimated $55 million revenue surplus over the next year but LePage has said he’ll support spending about $3 million to $4 million of that. House Republicans — who have held together so far, for the most part — are backing the governor, making his veto pen the penultimate power in Augusta (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

Attempts to put together a package of spending bills that everyone agrees on have failed so far, prompting Republicans and Democrats in the Senate to advance the bills to LePage one by one. It’s a bit of political gamesmanship that will force lawmakers to go on the record for or against the bills. Here they are:

  • LD 654, “An Act to Expand the 1998 Special Retirement Plan to Include Detectives in the Office of the Attorney General.”
  • LD 890, “An Act to Ensure a Continuing Home Court for Cases Involving Children.”
  • LD 1022, “An Act to Protect the Future of Harness Racing.”
  • LD 1447, “An Act to Authorize Increased Borrowing by the Maine Governmental Facilities Authority to Support the Maine Correctional Center in South Windham.”
  • LD 1528, “An Act to Modernize and Consolidate Court Facilities.”
  • LD 1612, “An Act to Implement the Recommendations of the Commission to Strengthen and Align the Services Provided to Maine’s Veterans Regarding Enhancements to the Bureau of Maine Veterans’ Services.”
  • LD 1617, “An Act Regarding the Long-term Care Ombudsman Program.”

Here come the vetoes. — Christopher Cousins

But not all vetoes are created the same

The House and Senate turned back veto attempts by Gov. Paul LePage on Monday, including reviving and enacting a bill to increase the statute of limitations on civil actions in homicide cases from two years to six years. As LePage’s veto pen has sped up, so are votes to override or sustain them. Here are some other highlights:

  • LD 1573, which has to do with the certificate of need process that hospitals must undergo before major capital expenditures. This bill waives the CON requirement when there is a change of ownership or control when the entities involved are from the same corporate family. The veto was overridden in the House by a vote of 126-20 and in the Senate, 32-3. Read LePage’s veto message by clicking here.
  • LD 949, which has to do with enacting recommendations of the Commission on Independent Living and Disability. LePage’s veto was overridden by a 146-0 House vote but needs another vote in the Senate. LePage’s veto message is here.
  • LD 1659, which has to do with the Sinclair Sanitary District erecting a cell tower on its property. The veto of this bill was overridden in the House 144-2 and 35-0 in the Senate. Read LePage’s veto message here.

NOTE: Close readers of the Bangor Daily News might recognize that the item above was originally published on Monday as part of a live blog about the Legislature’s activities. With so much going on, we’ve found this to be a good way to keep readers apprised of the blow-by-blow under the dome. Look for live blogs at through the end of the legislative session. You can find today’s by clicking here.

Quick hits

  • Candidates in the 2nd Congressional District race are in the process of releasing their fundraising totals for the first quarter of 2016 and Republican incumbent Rep. Bruce Poliquin says he has retained the advantage. Democratic challenger Emily Cain of Orono reported that she raised $385,000 in 2016, bringing her total to nearly $1.2 million with $785,000 cash on hand. Poliquin did not release details but Brent Littlefield, his chief political consultant, told the Bangor Daily News that he has about $1 million more banked than Cain does.
  • A bill to create a presidential primary in Maine is headed for a vote in the House following unanimous approval Monday in the Senate. LD 1673 clears the way to replace Maine’s caucuses with a primary in March, sort of. It tasks the next Legislature, which convenes in January, with finding a way to fund it. So in reality, the bill does basically nothing until it’s paid for.
  • A bill to fund Maine’s Clean Election public campaign financing system passed in the House on Monday with an 81-to=65 vote — replenishing $500,000 of $1.7 million taken from the fund last year — but the approval could be short-lived despite a November 2015 statewide referendum that called for more funding for the program. The bill now goes to the Republican-controlled Senate and the level of support Monday in the House wasn’t enough to override a veto from LePage. — Christopher Cousins

Reading list

Mick Jagger’s crazy days

It’s been a long week already and it’s only Tuesday. I could use some music this morning but had a hard time finding tonal inspiration so I decided to look through today in musical history.

In 1967, Mick Jagger was punched in the face by an airport official in France while the Rolling Stones were being searched for drugs. The band missed their flight.

It’s not like the Stones ever denied the charges. Quite to the contrary, actually. — 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.