Under the Dome: Inside the Maine State House

Under the Dome: Inside the Maine State House provides a high-level overview of recent activity at the Maine State House. 

Legislature Adjourns “sine die

As the final gavels in the Maine House and Senate came down around 6:00 pm on Thursday, July 16, 2015, the Maine Legislature adjourned sine die, or “without day.”  This vote formally closes the First Regular Session of the 127th Maine Legislature.  The Second Regular Session of this Legislature is slated to convene on January 6, 2016. 

General Effective Date of Nonemergency New Laws

According to the Revisor of Statutes, the general effective date of nonemergency laws passed in the First Regular Session of the 127th Legislature will be Thursday, October 15, 2015. 

Are They Still Bills or Are They Now Laws?    

This year the final adjournment “sine die” has considerable significance as the fate of dozens of bills now rest with the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.  The Legislature maintains it only recessed when it voted to adjourn on June 30th, with the intention of reconvening on July 16th, and therefore the governor had only 10 days to act on about 70 bills that were sent to his desk on June 29th and 30th.  The governor’s choices when a bill is on his desk are to sign the bill into law, veto the bill and send it back to the Legislature, or let the bill pass into law without his signature at the expiration of the 10-day period.  The governor did not act within the 10-day period that ran during the recess, and the Revisor of Statutes has posted these bills as law.  The governor argues that the 10-day period was not running during the recess because the Legislature was adjourned and so the governor could not return bills to them.  When the Legislature reconvened Thursday morning, July 16, Governor LePage returned 65 bills from his desk, each with a veto message.  The Legislature did not act on those vetoed bills, standing behind the earlier decision that, when the governor missed the 10-day action period, the bills automatically became law.  The governor’s office has requested a ruling from the Maine Supreme Judicial Court on the status of these bills – or are they laws? 

Bill to Remove Requirement of Governor’s Signature to Issue Bonds Fails

Among seven vetoes the Legislature did take up on “Veto Day” was LD 1378 which would have released $11.5 million in voter-approved funds for the Land for Maine’s Future program by eliminating the requirement for the governor’s signature on bonds unless specific conditions existed.  While the Senate voted 25-9 to override the governor’s veto, six House Republicans switched their votes, which was enough to sustain the veto, and the bill died.   

Governor Submits Last Minute Bill to Extend $6.5 Million in Conservation Bonds

Come November, $6.5 million of the $11.5 million in conservation bonds being withheld by Governor LePage will expire.  Voters had approved the bonds in 2013, but the governor has refused to release them.  This session the governor held the bonds pending approval of his proposal to expand timber harvesting on Maine Public Lands to fund a heating subsidy for economically disadvantaged Mainers.  This week, the governor drafted a bill that would have extended the expiration date for the sale of the $6.5 million Land for Maine’s Future bonds to June 2016.  But an amended bill was passed by a 90 to 52 vote in the House, and under the hammer in the Senate, with language requiring the release of the bonds instead.  The governor now has until three days into the Second Regular Session of the Legislature to veto this amended bill. 

Application for People’s Veto Submitted

One of the bills passed into law without the governor’s signature earlier this month during the controversial recess period was LD 396 which, as amended, allows qualified asylum seekers to receive General Assistance aid for up to two years.  The law is set to go into effect October 15, the general effective date for nonemergency legislation.  On Monday, conservative activist Stavros Mendros filed an application to place an initiative known as a “people’s veto referendum” on the fall ballot to overturn the bill, should the Maine Judicial Supreme Court rule the Legislature was in session and the governor missed the deadline to veto the bill.   Three Republican lawmakers also signed the application, including Senator Eric Brakely who was the lead sponsor of the bill that, as originally drafted, would have prevented asylum seekers from receiving assistance while awaiting their work permits. 

Governor Returns Most Vetoes in One Session Yet

The first session of the 127th Legislature was notable for a lot of reasons, including the nearly 170 vetoes issued by Governor LePage.  Just as significant, the Legislature overturned approximately 120 of the vetoes.  Governor LePage holds the record for the most vetoes issued by a Maine governor.