AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage on Tuesday allowed six bills passed by the Legislature to become law without his signature, but not without renewing his push for fast action on his bill to repay Maine’s $484 million hospital debt.
LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett said Wednesday morning the governor chose not to sign or veto any of the six measures for which he faced a Tuesday deadline. That means five of the six bills take effect 90 days after lawmakers adjourn for the session in late spring or early summer. The remaining bill takes effect immediately because it passed the Legislature as an emergency measure.
LePage promised at the start of the month to veto any legislation that came across his desk, including his own bills, before lawmakers in the House and Senate signed off on his plan to pay back the state’s $484 million hospital debt by tapping into proceeds from a renegotiated state wholesale liquor contract.
While he allowed the six bills to become law, LePage called on Democratic legislative leaders Wednesday to schedule a vote on his hospital debt measure. The Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee started considering the bill Monday and has another work session scheduled for Friday.
In a letter sent to Senate President Justin Alfond, D-Portland, and House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, LePage wrote that hospitals risk missing this year’s construction season from the “continued delay” in receiving their payment.
“The Legislature continues to send bills to my desk, but the major issues facing our state continue to await action,” LePage wrote. “For the good of the Maine economy, the time to pay our bills is now.”
LePage also asked Alfond and Eves to take roll call votes on all bills, rather than passing them unanimously under the gavel.
“As a gesture of good faith, I have let some of the bills become law without my signature,” he wrote. “However, Maine people deserve to know where their representatives stand on the various laws that you continue to enact, especially when there is no action on the issues that really affect hardworking Maine families.”
Jodi Quintero, a spokeswoman for Eves, said Democrats agree the state has an obligation to pay back its hospitals, and the party’s leaders last week laid out a plan to make the back payments.
As for LePage’s request for roll calls on every vote, Quintero said, “The only way to request a roll call in the House is to be a member of the House of Representatives.”
The six bills that will become law, all sponsored by Democrats in the Legislature and passed unanimously, are:
• LD 2: Resolve, Regarding Legislative Review of Portions of Chapter 252: Rules Governing Certification of Seed Potatoes in the State of Maine, a Major Substantive Rule of the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.
• LD 26: An Act to Authorize the Commissioner of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to Change a Fishing Season Opening Date Statewide.
• LD 32: An Act to Expand the Types of Vaccines That May Be Administered by Pharmacists.
• LD 103: An Act to Correct an Inconsistency in Maine’s Apprenticeship Laws.
• LD 112: An Act to Make Changes to the Educators for Maine Program.
• LD 113: An Act to Make Changes to the Maine College Savings Program.
Two additional bills, An Act to Allow the Maine Potato Board to Have Access to Information Regarding the Potato Tax and An Act to Abolish the Trustees of Public Cemeteries for the City of Waterville, passed by the Legislature last week are awaiting action by LePage. The governor faces a March 26 deadline to sign or veto those bills or let them become law without his signature.
Correction: An earlier version of this report incorrectly stated that LD 2 would not take effect until 90 days after the Legislature’s adjournment. This bill takes effect immediately.