LePage vetoes bills to study workplace bullying, train students to prevent heart attacks

Gov. Paul LePage
Gov. Paul LePage
Posted June 01, 2013, at 5:51 a.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage on Friday vetoed two bills that would have required public schools to offer training to students to intervene in heart attacks and set up a study commission around psychological and physical harm due to abusive work environments.

Democrats who sponsored the bills reacted with dismay.

LePage wrote in a message to legislators that he opposes LD 1366, An Act to Require Public Schools to Offer Instruction Related to Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and the Use of an Automated External Defibrillator, because it represents an unfunded mandate to public schools. The bill, which passed unanimously through the Legislature, called for schools to implement the training in a way that would not require local funding, which LePage called difficult or impossible.

“If the Legislature truly believes this policy is necessary and requires a state law, then the bill should be resubmitted and funded with a reasonable estimate of the total cost, instead of directing the Department of Education to do the impossible, creating a statewide program at no cost,” wrote LePage. “Training in CPR and AEDs is a noble goal, but it is one that should occur through individual approaches for each community, rather than a state law.”

Rep. Anne Graham, D-North Yarmouth, was disappointed with the veto.

“This bill simply asks schools to make CPR and defibrillator training available to students,” said Graham in a prepared statement. “Plain and simple, it will save lives.”

LePage also vetoed LD 1201, A Resolve Directing the Workers’ Compensation Board to Study the Issue of Addressing Psychological and Physical Harm to Employees Due to Abusive Work Environments, calls for the board to report its findings, including recommendations for legislative action, to the Legislature before Jan. 30, 2014. The bill, which was sponsored by Rep. Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, passed 87-52 in the House and unanimously in the Senate.

In his veto message, LePage wrote that Maine’s worker compensation program already provides benefits to injured employees and that he doesn’t understand what such a study would accomplish.

“I cannot understand what additional policy recommendations could come forward from this study,” said LePage. “If individual legislators have specific ideas, they should bring them forward on their own merits and let the debate occur.”

LePage also said that he has concerns about the “continual march of resolves directing executive branch studies” because cumulatively they consume too much staff time.

“I have written time and again that the Legislature should seek to utilize legislative staff for these efforts, or provide additional funds to agencies to complete these numerous studies,” wrote the governor. “Until that time, I remain strongly concerned with each resolve that reaches my desk.”

House Democratic leader Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, said the veto was part of a pattern of LePage “obstructing the good bipartisan work taking place in the Legislature.”

“This bill won the unanimous support of the committee,” said Berry in a prepared statement. “Members worked in a bipartisan manner to tackle the problem of bullying in the workplace.”

Each chamber of the Legislature would have to achieve a two-thirds vote to override a gubernatorial veto. None of LePage’s eight vetoes so far this session has been overturned.

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