A Unanimous Decision
A sequence of events led to the creation of 65 controversial vetoes submitted by Governor LePage, and ultimately to an opinion on the issue from the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. Here’s the sequence:
- June 17 – The statutory adjournment date according to the Maine Constitution.
- June 18 – The day after the statutory adjournment date, the Legislature voted to extend its session. No one made any objections to that vote.
- June 30 – The Legislature adjourned until the “call of” legislative leadership, contemplating a return date of July 16 to deal with any outstanding vetoes that might be submitted on bills enacted in the last days of the Legislature. The constitution provides the Governor a 10 day period following legislative enactment to sign or veto a bill, or to allow a bill to become law without his signature. The Legislature received no vetoes in that 10 day window.
- July 2 – The Revisor of Statutes began chaptering bills into public law without the Governor’s signature.
- July 16 – The Legislature convened to wrap up their final pieces of work, and the Governor submitted vetoes of 65 bills that the Revisor or Statutes had chaptered into Public Laws. The Legislature declined to address the vetoes, claiming that the Governor missed the 10 day deadline.
- July 31 – Following a request by Governor LePage, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court heard oral arguments on whether or not the 65 vetoes submitted by the Governor on July 16 were valid.
- August 6 – The Maine Supreme Judicial Court issued its advisory opinion.
- October 15, 2015 – The effective date of the 65 controversial bills that have become law, unless otherwise specified in the bill.
In the argument before the court, the Governor argued that either the Legislature adjourned on June 18 because they did not correctly extend the Legislative session past that statutory adjournment date, or in the alternative, when the Legislature adjourned on June 30 until the “call of” legislative leadership without announcing a specific date for reconvening, they were temporarily adjourned when the 10 days expired rendering it impossible for him to return the vetoes to the Legislature. The Court’s unanimous opinion found that the Legislature did correctly extend the legislative session past the statutory adjournment date and that the 65 vetoes in question were not properly before the Legislature. Acknowledging that the constitutional language is ambiguous, the Court reviewed the context of constitutional language, past tradition and practices of Maine’s Legislature and Governors, and judicial precedents of other jurisdictions for its reasoning. The Court clarified that a bill is not prevented from being returned by a governor to the legislature when the legislature is temporarily adjourned, whereas an adjournment “sine die” or “without day” which according to the Constitution is the vote that terminates a session, does prevent a bill’s return until the next Legislative session is convened.
Maine Ends Fiscal Year with $60 Million Surplus
An increase in personal and corporate income tax revenues and an unanticipated rise in state sales tax collections contributed to Maine ending its fiscal year on June 30 with a surplus of nearly $60 million. Almost $24 million of this surplus is earmarked for Maine’s “rainy day” fund and some will be set aside to help offset revenue losses from future reductions in income tax rates. Members of the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee interpret this surplus, and the increase in taxable sales, as a sign that the state’s economy is growing.
Maine Co-Op Thriving
A recent audit of the non-profit health insurance co-ops created as part of the Affordable Care Act showed that out of the 23 co-ops, Maine Community Health Options co-op, is the only one that made a profit last year. The audit results also showed that many of the co-ops did not meet 2014 enrollment goals. A major concern raised by the audit information is whether the $2 billion of taxpayer money used to start these co-ops will be repaid.