The Maine state Supreme Court said Thursday that the 65 pieces of legislation that Gov. Paul LePage (R) missed the deadline to veto should be considered laws. The justices sided with state lawmakers who refused to take up the vetoes in mid-July because the typical 10 day period the governor has to act on legislation had lapsed.
LePage argued that lawmakers had taken a type of adjournment that prevented him from returning the vetoes, and under the state constitution he was allowed to wait until legislators reconvened for more than three days to send back the bills. Statehouse leaders of both parties, as well as most legal experts, had disagreed with the governor’s interpretation of the constitution.
The justices — issuing a 47-page opinion in what is known as a “solemn occasion” that was requested by the governor — said the state constitution was “ambiguous” on the issue, but that “context, governmental tradition and practice, and judicial precedent” had guided their decision.
“Having considered the filings, the factual background and legislative record, the constitutional context of the language at issue, long-held traditions and practices of Maine Governors and Legislatures, and the analysis and precedents of other jurisdictions, each of us is of the opinion that a temporary legislative adjournment does not prevent the return of the bills with the Governor’s objections to the Legislature,” the opinion said. “During such a temporary adjournment, the Governor may return the bills and his objections to the officers and agents of the originating House.”
Six of the seven state Supreme Court justices signed on to the opinion. The seventh had recused himself from the matter.
The question now is whether LePage’s administration will begin enforcing the 65 laws, which — aside from the handful of pieces of emergency legislation that are supposed to go into effect immediately — are set to go into effect 90 days after the legislature adjourned last month.
“This was not about winning or losing; it was about doing things right,” LePage said in a statement Thursday. “We are fortunate to be able to seek legal opinions from the Judicial Branch, and we’re thankful the Justices came to a fast and fair resolution to this issue. We look forward to moving on and continuing to work for the Maine people.”
Read the full opinion below:
This story has been updated to include a statement from Gov. LePage.