The Maine Constitution clearly delineates the three branches of state government: legislative, executive and judicial. “No person or persons, belonging to one of these departments, shall exercise any of the powers properly belonging to either of the others …,” the document says.
Yet, the Legislature has repeatedly allowed Gov. Paul LePage to rewrite bills that had passed both the House and Senate, sometimes unanimously. They have also sustained the governor’s veto of four bills, most of which received unanimous approval from the Legislature or committee of jurisdiction.
Why have 186 legislators abdicated their law-making responsibility to the governor?
One of two things is wrong here. Either the Legislature is being sloppy and too-quickly passing legislation that is flawed or the governor and his staff aren’t paying attention during the legislative process and belatedly raising objections that could have been addressed months or weeks ago, as is typically the case.
Neither should be ignored.
When a piece of legislation is passed by the Maine House and Senate, it goes to the governor’s desk for either his signature or veto. A third option, which is spelled out in the state Constitution, is to reject the bill and let his objections be known to the Legislature. The governor suggests changes to the legislation in question and then it recalled by the chamber where it originated.
As of Friday, 18 bills had been recalled by either the House or Senate after objections were raised by Gov. LePage. Of those reconsidered so far, the governor’s changes were adopted 13 times. Three previously approved bills were indefinitely postponed.
If there is a trend in the recalled bills, it is that the governor doesn’t like fees or study groups.
At the same time, the governor has vetoed a handful of bills, some of which were passed unanimously.
The large number of recalled bills — Gov. John Baldacci recalled 20 during his eight years in office — “is a function of Paul LePage’s attention to detail,” said Senate President Kevin Raye.
“It’s not the fault of the legislative committees,” he said Friday. Rather, the governor “has a different perspective.”
Fine, but since when should 186 elected officials change their minds to fit the different perspective of one?
The bills that have been recalled and vetoed went through a process that included public hearings and debate with a chance for amendments. By demanding changes after a bill has passed, that process is turned on its head. Members of the governor’s staff testified in favor of some of the bills, without raising the objections that governor did when he refused to sign them.
“It would have been helpful to know that there was resistance from the executive branch so that we could address those problems,” said Democratic Rep. Mark Eves of North Berwick, who had one of his bills vetoed by the governor Friday. “If we’re looking to run the government more efficiently, this is not the way to do it, at least on the legislative front.”