A weeks-long standoff between Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) and the state legislature had its day in court Friday. The state Supreme Court heard arguments as to whether the governor missed the deadline to veto 65 bills that lawmakers say are now law due to his delay.
The discussion revolved around thorny, complex issues of procedural mechanics and constitutional balance of power between the executive and legislative branches. Over the course of about 45 minutes, LePage's counsel Cynthia Montgomery and the attorney representing Maine's House and Senate each had 15 minutes each for their opposing arguments, with Montgomery given the opportunity for rebuttal at the end. Additionally, an attorney representing a few House Republicans as well as counsel for the attorney general each had a few minutes to make their cases, with the former favoring LePage's view and the latter challenging it.
The justices were clearly seeking to streamline the arguments being presented in front of them, perhaps knowing both the short-term impact of their decision on dozens of pieces of legislation, as well as the long-term precedent they could set in navigating what has become a constitutional crisis. Their questions touched on both broad understanding of the executive branch's veto powers and LePage's specific motivations in waiting to submit his vetoes. They were mostly patient to weed through the convoluted specifics of the case, but at times were willing to call out what appeared to be suspicious reasoning.
"Why, in a extremely difficult session, would the governor chose the time to [run] a test case?" one of the justice's challenged LePage's counsel.
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