State Budget Passes Despite Governor Veto
As was anticipated, Governor LePage vetoed the state budget on Monday. By lunchtime on Tuesday both the House and the Senate voted to override the veto, taking the final actions needed to pass into law the $6.7 billion budget, avoiding a government shutdown by 13 hours. The Legislature also overrode the Governor’s veto of the Highway Fund.
Legislature Adjourns – until July 16
The Governor continued his streak of vetoing bills, but after overriding 50 vetoes this week alone, and passing to be enacted several bills that are now with the Governor for consideration, the House and Senate adjourned late Tuesday evening “until the call of the president and speaker”. Legislative leadership waited until 11 pm last evening to learn whether or not the Governor had line-item vetoed funding in bills that had come off the Special Appropriations Table, and had he done so, they were going to re-convene today at 4 pm. No such vetoes arrived. The Legislature plans to re-convene on July 16 to consider any vetoes from the Governor and any other business that may come before it. For example, in 2014 the Governor proposed two new bills on veto day, causing the legislature to work late into the night when they ultimately rejected the bills. The First Regular Session of the 127th Legislature will not formally end until all business is concluded and they adjourn “sine die”.
Effective Date for New Laws Enacted
Other than bills that were passed as emergency bills, which become effective upon passing into law, or new laws that contain specific effective dates, all general laws become effective 90 days after the Legislature adjourns sine die. Should July 16 become that date, then the effective date would be October 16, but to be certain, we will need to wait for the date when the gavel is brought down for the last time this session. The Revisor of Statutes provides the official dates general laws become effective.
Bill to Release Land for Maine’s Future Bonds Among Those Vetoed Tuesday
Among the bills to be considered on “veto day” will be LD 1378, which would release $11.5 million in voter-approved funds for the Land for Maine’s Future that are being withheld by Governor LePage, and would also eliminate the requirement that the Governor sign off on any future voter approved bonds unless specific conditions exist.
Two New Bond Bills Approved by Legislature
Come November, Mainers may be asked to vote on a transportation bond and on an affordable housing for seniors bond as LD 1415 and LD 1205 were passed this week. LD 1415 seeks authorization for $85 million in road and bridge projects, and LD 1205 seeks authorization for $15 million to provide affordable housing across the state for senior citizens. These bond proposals may be vetoed by the Governor, but if the Legislature continues its trend and votes to override the vetoes, they will appear on November’s ballet.
Assistance for Portland Asylum Seekers
The City of Portland created the Community Support Fund last week after the Legislature decided to provide reimbursement for General Assistance costs associated with legal residents only. This new Fund will provide housing, food and medical care vouchers to asylum seekers residing in Portland who are currently receiving General Assistance. This program will not provide assistance to any new asylum seekers, and is planned to only be funded for one year.
Governor’s Actions to be Investigated
Earlier this month, Governor LePage wrote a letter to the Board of Directors for the Good Will – Hinckley school in an attempt to exert his influence to keep the school from hiring House Speaker Mark Eves as its new president. Despite the Governor’s letter, the school made the decision to hire Speaker Eves. However, after the Governor allegedly threatened to withhold more than $500,000 in annual state funding for residential programs at the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences, a charter school for at-risk youth operated by Good Will-Hinckley, the school rescinded its employment offer, effectively firing Eves. Official requests from legislators in both parties were submitted to the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability (OPEGA), asking for an investigation into Governor LePage’s actions to determine if they constituted an abuse of power. Despite Governor LePage’s attorney’s claim that the Government Oversight Committee, which oversees OPEGA, lacks the authority to do so, on Wednesday the Committee voted unanimously to begin an investigation. The Committee has directed OPEGA to undertake an investigation that is narrower in its scope than requested by the legislators and is to gather “the facts” and not draw conclusions.
Governor LePage Campaigns for Governor Christie
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced his candidacy for President earlier this week and his first campaign stop was Portland, Maine on Wednesday morning. Governor LePage became the first Republican governor to endorse a Republican presidential candidate in the next presidential election. Governor Christie and Governor LePage became friends during Governor LePage’s 2014 campaign.