AUGUSTA, Maine — A majority of lawmakers Wednesday voted in favor of overriding Gov. Paul LePage’s first veto of the legislative session, but the veto will stand after senators fell one vote short of overriding it.
The House voted 136-6 to override LePage’s veto of LD 49, a measure that would require government agencies and businesses comply with payment agreements they have set up with county registries of deeds.
Later Wednesday, however, senators voted 23-12 to override the veto, falling one vote short of the two-thirds needed. Twelve Republican senators voted not to override the veto.
“As a caucus, we decided that it was important to support Gov. LePage in his veto of this legislation,” Senate Republican Leader Michael Thibodeau of Winterport said Wednesday in a prepared statement.
After the Senate vote, Senate Majority Leader Seth Goodall, D-Richmond, said he was “very surprised” that Republican senators, who had expressed no opposition to the bill, voted not to enact “a good business bill.”
Democrats on Tuesday expressed outrage that LePage would veto a bill they described as a “housekeeping” measure. The bill passed the Legislature’s State and Local Government Committee and both chambers of the Legislature without objection.
House Republican Leader Kenneth Fredette of Newport said his vote to override the governor’s veto was a statement of support for the legislative committee’s work. However, he encouraged his House colleagues to collaborate with the executive branch.
“There will be many tough decisions ahead on many tough issues, and we will have to work and communicate with each other and the chief executive, working to get the important work done for the people of the state of Maine,” he said on the House floor.
In his veto letter, LePage said he objected to signing a bill meant to “clarify how government takes money from its citizens” when the Legislature has yet to act on more pressing matters.
“Those elected to office need to step back and address the real problems facing Maine,” LePage wrote. “This is why the Maine people elected us and why I have vetoed this bill today.”
LePage at the beginning of March threatened to veto all measures that arrived on his desk before lawmakers signed off on his plan to pay off Maine’s $484 million hospital debt using proceeds from a renegotiated state wholesale liquor contract.
He hasn’t followed through on that threat, signing a handful of measures into law and letting others become law without his signature.
Goodall said Wednesday that he thought LePage was attempting to send a message, one that 12 Republican senators agreed with, but that “the important thing is that we’re going to stand by our votes and keep working together with Republicans.”
BDN writer Robert Long contributed to this report.