House sustains sixth LePage veto, 2 more await override votes

The State House in Augusta.
The State House in Augusta.
Posted May 22, 2013, at 2:31 p.m.
Last modified May 22, 2013, at 3:58 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage’s sixth veto withstood a House override vote Wednesday and will stand.

After minimal discussion, the House voted 88-55 in favor of overriding LePage’s veto of LD 387. That tally fell short of the two-thirds majority necessary for an override, thereby sustaining the veto. All Democrats and independents voted to override the veto. All Republicans voted to sustain it.

Sponsored by Democratic Rep. Richard Farnsworth of Portland, LD 387 sought to authorize a state study related to providing rental subsidies to MaineCare recipients with intellectual disabilities. In urging support for an override Wednesday, Farnsworth said the study would yield important information about how the Department of Health and Human Services and private providers can better meet the housing needs of developmentally disabled Mainers.

“Without looking into this situation, we have no way of knowing whether these Mainers are getting the care they need and deserve — or whether the state is using its dollars wisely,” Farnsworth said.

In his veto letter, LePage said it’s premature to conduct the study when DHHS is in the midst of consolidating and overhauling services for people with intellectual disabilities. He also objected to the fact that the study would increase the workload at DHHS.

The House still must consider two more pending vetoes. One, issued Friday, would overturn LD 319, a proposal by House Democratic Leader Seth Berry of Bowdoinham to have Maine Revenue Services review Maine’s conformity with a multi-state agreement on sales and use tax collection.

The bill passed unanimously on May 7, but given elevated tension between minority Republicans and Democratic legislative leaders, it’s unlikely Republican lawmakers will oppose LePage’s veto of Berry’s bill. On previous veto override votes during this legislative session, many Republicans reversed their initial support for bills to sustain LePage’s vetoes.

Democrats have increasingly criticized that practice.

“The flip-flop we just witnessed was disgraceful,” Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, said in a prepared statement about Wednesday’s override vote. “Republicans have stood in this chamber to complain about the way services are delivered to Mainers with disabilities. But their rhetoric didn’t match reality today when they turned their backs on a study designed to help that population.”

On Monday, the same day he vetoed Farnsworth’s bill, LePage also vetoed LD 468, a proposal by independent Portland Rep. Ben Chipman to prohibit smoking on all University of Maine system and community college campuses, as well as Maine Maritime Academy.

Arguing that Maine people “are responsible enough to make their own decisions concerning tobacco” in his veto letter, LePage suggested that those who oppose tobacco use should propose legislation that would outlaw it entirely rather than “creating a patchwork of laws and locations where tobacco can and cannot be used.”

Two-thirds majorities in both the House and Senate are required to override a veto.

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