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.

127th Legislature Adjourned Sine Die on April 29, 2016
The second regular session of the 127th Legislature adjourned sine die at 6:00 p.m. on Friday, April 29, 2016. The Legislature faced 32 vetoes returned to them by Governor Paul LePage during the short recess leading up to “veto day.” Twelve of the Governor’s vetoes were sustained while the Legislature overrode 20 of them. The general effective date for all non-emergency laws passed in the second regular session is Friday, July 29, 2016.

Significant Legislation Decided on Veto Day at the State House
Among the vetoes sustained by the Legislature on Friday, April 29, was a bill that would have expanded solar energy investment in Maine. House Republicans stood with the Governor to block the House’s override of the bill, despite the arrival of dozens of solar energy advocates at the State House that day. The Legislature also failed to override the Governor’s veto of a bill that would have advanced $500,000 to the Maine Clean Election Fund for participating candidates to use in the upcoming fall election. The Legislature did, however, override the Governor’s veto of a bill expanding Naloxone access to individuals without a prescription. The bill was supported by advocates, victims, and families in the addiction recovery community and was overridden 132-14 in the House and 29-5 in the Senate. Now that the Legislature has officially adjourned sine die, all bills that were left on the table — including one to expand Medicaid coverage, one to raise the minimum wage to $10 an hour, and one to establish a battery stewardship program in Maine — are dead. While new legislation relating to those issues could be introduced at the start of the next Legislature, all matters will begin as new legislation and start at the beginning of the process.

Federal Judge Dismisses Speaker Eves’ Lawsuit Against Governor LePage
On Tuesday, May 3, U.S. District Court Judge George Z. Singal dismissed House Speaker Mark Eves’ case against Governor LePage. The case, which started last year, concerns the Speaker’s dismissal from a post at Good Will-Hinckley resulting from threats by the governor to withhold funding from the nonprofit organization. Judge Singal, in a 44-page decision, found that Governor LePage was protected by immunity in his role as governor. In his decision, the judge concluded that the Governor’s threats to withhold funding from Good Will-Hinckley for hiring Speaker Eves were an “attempt to ensure that a public expenditure would be utilized to achieve a policy goal related to charter schools for at-risk youth” rather than a government threat against a private entity. Speaker Eves has filed an appeal to the dismissal, which will be heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston.

Attention Turns to Elections and Fundraising
Within days of adjournment sine die, invitations started to arrive from various fundraisers for traditionally-funded candidates and Political Action Committees, or “PACs.”  Both incumbent legislators and new candidates running for election to the Maine House or Senate are activating their campaigns and turning their attention to Maine’s primary election on Tuesday, June 14, and general election on Tuesday, November 8. Candidates for the Maine Legislature have the choice to receive public funds for their campaigns by qualifying to run as “Clean Election Candidates,” or to seek funding in the traditional manner, by raising funds from private individuals and entities. PACs raise funds from the private sector and allocate the money to the campaigns of traditionally-funded candidates. PACs may also make independent expenditures on behalf of, or in support of, publically funded candidates. All these programs are regulated by the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices, which requires and monitors the regular reporting of income and expenses.