May 23, 2018
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Senate joins House to override LePage veto for the first time

Pat Wellenbach | AP
Pat Wellenbach | AP
Gov. Paul LePage
By Eric Russell, BDN Staff

AUGUSTA, Maine — In a unanimous vote Wednesday, the Maine Senate overturned a veto by Gov. Paul LePage, bringing the governor’s streak of 16 sustained vetoes to an end.

The House of Representative already voted 124-16 on Tuesday to override the veto of LD 1003, a bill that sought to address how schools receive federal funds for certain medical services for special education students.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Peter Edgecomb, R-Caribou, directs the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services to work together with an interagency stakeholder group to refine existing MaineCare policies.

The group will be asked to develop new policies or prepare guidance on billing procedures to “ensure the provision of medically necessary services to students in school-based settings.” Those services include physical therapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy for students with special needs.

“This is a good bill and one that has had bipartisan support from the start,” said Assistant Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond, D-Portland, who serves on the Education Committee. “I am glad that my colleagues overturned the governor’s veto so that Maine students can continue getting the services they need and schools will get paid.”

In his veto letter, Gov. LePage worried that the bill would distract the Department of Health and Human Services from continuing to find solutions to the state’s MaineCare problems and he worried about the bill’s potential cost.

“I have strong objections to the Legislature directing efforts of the executive branch without providing funding for that purpose,” he wrote. “Especially when my departments are already working tirelessly on these issues.

“Another problem with this resolve is that it attempts to force action before we have all the facts. The federal inspector general is currently undertaking an audit of our school-based MaineCare service program and it is unclear what their findings will be. It is possible that we will be required to repay the federal government for past misuses of funds.”

LD 1003 passed through the House and Senate last month under the hammer, which means there was no debate or roll-call vote. In order to override a veto, two-thirds of House and Senate members needed to support the bill.

“Lawmakers overwhelmingly joined together to stand up for Maine children and our schools,” Rep. Richard Wagner, D-Lewiston, said Tuesday. “This is a simple bill that ensures our school districts have access to funds to take care of students with special needs.”

Before Wednesday, the Republican-controlled Legislature had sustained 16 consecutive vetoes by the governor since he took office in January 2011.

Follow BDN reporter Eric Russell on Twitter @BDNPolitics.

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