A standoff between Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) and state legislators came to a head Thursday, when leaders in the statehouse refused to consider 65 pieces of legislation he attempted to return with vetoes. Democrats and Republicans alike say they consider those bills already to be law, as LePage missed the 10-day deadline to properly veto the legislation.
The offices of Maine House Speaker Mark Eves (D) and Maine Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason (R) confirmed to TPM that the legislation had been sent to the revisor of statutes to be chaptered as law.
“We are not going to take them up. We’ve communicated that to the governor, but they won’t be brought up today because they’re already law,” Jodi Quintero, Eves’ spokeswoman, said.
LePage has been engaged in a long-running veto war with Democratic lawmakers, vetoing bills indiscriminately, only to have those vetoes briskly overturned by the legislators of both parties. The current dispute began last week, when the 10 days excluding Sundays that the governor typically has to veto legislation lapsed on about 20 bills.
At first it appeared that LePage was attempting to “pocket veto” that batch of legislation, which would have allowed the legislation to die without giving a legislators a chance to overturn the vetoes. But when it became clear the conditions required for a pocket veto had not been met, the governor’s office said that was never was his intent. Rather, LePage said, he planned to return the bills on July 16 with his vetoes, when state lawmakers were scheduled to reconvene. The governor doubled down on that plan on another 50 or so bills.
A really bad photo of the Senate Secretary returning LePage vetoes because they’re law #mepolitics pic.twitter.com/qVbGqdwPxm
— Steve Mistler (@stevemistler) July 16, 2015
The problem with that understanding of legislative protocol, lawmakers said, was that LePage could only return the bills in that fashion if the legislature had taken the formal adjournment known as the adjournment sine die. The break they took in June was an informal recess, they said, and the 10-day clock LePage had to veto the bills had still been ticking. Last week, Attorney General Janet Mills (D) issued an opinion agreeing with the lawmakers’ interpretation of the state constitution.
Nevertheless, LePage attempted to return the legislation to the legislature Thursday, the Bangor Daily News Reported.
“My goal is to ensure only bills that represent good public policy become law, and I am exercising the power granted to me by the Constitution to do so,” he said in a letter that came with the attempted vetoes. “I hope you will vote to sustain all of these vetoes at your earliest opportunity.”
LePage has said he will take the matter to court if legislators did not consider his vetoes. His office did not return TPM’s request for comment.
Photo illustration by Christine Frapech.