Under the Dome: Inside the Maine State House 6.28.13

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

Veto of Biennial Budget Overridden, Paving Path for End of Legislature

The big Augusta story this week was Governor LePage issuing a veto of the biennial budget, LD 1509, and the Legislature’s response. Due to his concerns regarding a number of issues with the budget, the Governor finally vetoed the Budget on June 24th. This outcome was expected and the Legislature was scheduled to return on June 26th to consider this veto. By noon on the 26th, both the House and the Senate had debated the Governor’s veto and both bodies voted to override, meaning the budget became law over the Governor’s objections. This was the first time during the 126th Legislature that the Legislature had successfully overridden a veto.

With the budget in place, the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee could then turn to outstanding legislation that requires funding in order to be enacted. There were over 100 bills on the “Special Appropriations Table.” The Committee decided which of these bills would be funded and which would be carried over to the next legislative session, decisions that occupied the rest of the day on June 26th. The Legislature then returned on the 27th to take final action on these bills needing funding. By the end of the day on the 27th, action on almost all bills was complete, though a few bills remain outstanding.

The Legislature will meet for what should be one last day on July 9th. Both the House and Senate will consider any further vetoes issued by the Governor between now and the 9th and both bodies will complete action on any remaining bills still pending before the Legislature.

Governor LePage Breaks Record for Number of Vetoes in a Single Legislative Session

This week, the Maine media reported that Governor LePage has vetoed 51 bills this legislative session. This is a new record for vetoes in a single session and it is very likely that more vetoes will be forthcoming before the Legislature finally adjourns. Of the 51 vetoes issued thus far, the Legislature has only overridden three. This includes an override of the veto of the biennial budget, an override of the veto of the omnibus energy bill, with which, as discussed below, the Governor agreed, and an override of the veto of a bill increasing fees charged by county registries of deeds for recording documents. The Governor’s active role in reviewing enacted bills this session has provided an interesting study in divided government.

Legislature Overrides Governor’s Veto of the Omnibus Energy Bill

This week, the Legislature overrode the Governor’s veto of the omnibus energy bill, LD 1559. This is a wide-ranging, bi-partisan proposal combining elements of a number of bills before the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee that relate to, among other things, reforms of the Efficiency Maine Trust and a proposal to reduce energy costs by contracting for natural gas pipeline capacity.

The Governor did manage to accomplish part of his energy agenda through this bill. One of the reasons the Governor vetoed the omnibus energy bill was because it did not include language regarding offshore wind power that the Governor wanted to advance. While the Senate ultimately overrode the Governor’s veto of the omnibus energy bill, Republicans in the Senate would not agree to the override until the Governor’s offshore wind power concerns were addressed in a separate bill. Once this issue was resolved, with the Governor agreeing, the Senate approved the override of the veto of the omnibus energy bill by a unanimous vote.