Will LePage’s drug antidote and solar bill vetoes stand?

Good morning from Augusta, where lawmakers will return on Friday to handle a parade of vetoes from Gov. Paul LePage. It’ll be a long day at the State House, with 33 vetoes up for consideration in the House of Representatives and Senate.

We had a full rundown on them yesterday, but the highest-profile bills at stake are proposals to expand access to an opiate overdose antidote and reform Maine’s solar industry.

LePage got national attention for his veto of the bill that would allow pharmacists to dispense naloxone, a drug that can reverse potentially fatal opiate overdoses. In a veto letter, he said it “doesn’t truly save lives,” but “it merely extends them until the next overdose” and normalizes drug use.

But research doesn’t bear that out and the governor was criticized by many, including Milo Police Chief Damien Pickel, who said LePage was “disingenuous” and “doing a disservice” to those who have administered the drug.

The bill only just passed by a two-thirds majority in the House earlier this month, with 48 Republicans and one unenrolled conservative opposing it.

But the bill’s sponsor, Assistant House Majority Leader Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, told the Portland Press Herald she has enough votes to override it. Top party members are reconsidering opposition, including Rep. Jeff Timberlake of Turner, a LePage ally who said on Facebook that he’ll vote to override.

Less likely for an override is the solar bill, which is aimed at modernizing Maine’s solar policy to retain and grow hundreds of jobs. It fell short of a two-thirds majority in the House.

LePage has assailed it, saying in a veto letter that “ever-increasing solar mandates in this bill would be borne by ratepayers with no price cap.” Earlier this week, Gideon said she was nearing a compromise with LePage over the bill, but the deal broke down over the governor’s price cap demand.

On Thursday, a letter from LePage’s former energy director, Kenneth Fletcher, to Senate Republican was circulating, asking Republicans to sustain the governor’s veto.

However, data attached to the letter — provided to the BDN by Jeremy Payne, executive director of the Maine Renewable Energy Association, which supports the bill — indicates that it was drafted by lobbyist Steven Hudson, who represents Solar City, a solar lease company that opposes the bill. Public Advocate Tim Schneider criticized the letter for “fundamental errors.”

So, the lobbying will be heavy for this one. We’ll keep you updated on the vetoes all day on our live blog. — Michael Shepherd

Yes, Maine’s senators are still popular

Maine likes its U.S. senators enough to put their approval ratings in the top four nationally, according to a national poll from Morning Consult released on Thursday.

Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, was the second most popular senator in the country, with 79 percent approving of her in the poll. Independent Sen. Angus King wasn’t far behind in fourth place, registering an approval rating of 74 percent.

Collins was just behind Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who had 80 percent and is running for the Democratic presidential nomination. It updated a similar poll released in November that pegged Collins again in second place. King was 10th in that iteration of the poll.

This version surveyed 62,000 registered voters in every state from January to April, with a margin of error in Maine of 5 percent. — Michael Shepherd

Reading list

Best of Maine’s Craigslist

Michael Shepherd

About Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after covering state, federal and local issues for the Kennebec Journal for three years. He's a Hallowell native who now lives in Gardiner. He graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and is a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.