Gov. Paul LePage issued 25 vetoes on Tuesday, setting up a marathon Wednesday round of override votes in the Maine Legislature and endangering bills to raise the state’s tobacco-buying age to 21 and ban cellphone use while driving.
The Republican governor said last week that he vetoed those bills and called them examples of “social engineering,” but the vetoes weren’t official until his office delivered 30 pages of veto messages to the two legislative chambers on Tuesday afternoon.
Two-thirds votes in each chamber of the Legislature are required to override a governor’s vetoes. The cellphone bill failed to pass by that margin in either chamber in June, though it was backed by the Maine State Police, which is overseen by the governor and called current anti-texting laws difficult to enforce.
The anti-smoking bill got two-thirds support in both chambers, with most Republicans voting for it. It’s backed by public health groups who cite statistics saying 95 percent of smokers begin by age 21 and would make Maine the fourth state to raise the age.
Continuing his longstanding tug-of-war with the Legislature over health and human services, LePage vetoed several bills related to public health, including ones that would:
- restore MaineCare services to roughly 8,000 people affected when the state adopted new eligibility rules in 2016;
- ban flame-retardant chemicals linked to cancer in firefighters on newly sold furniture in Maine;
- restore 50 public health nurse positions that were eliminated from the Department of Health and Human Services during the governor’s tenure;
- aim to fight Maine’s opiate crisis by raising the weekly Medicaid reimbursement rate for opiate addiction treatment with methadone to $72 per week from the current rate of $60; and
- establish a testing regime for recreational marijuana under Maine’s voter-approved legalization law.
The governor also vetoed a bill to form a commission to plan Maine’s bicentennial celebration in 2020 because the Legislature removed a $75,000 appropriation to fund the group’s work.
LePage’s veto of a heavily lobbied bill directing Maine regulators to come up with a long-term state solar energy plan will be considered alongside the 25 new vetoes on Wednesday.