Five more LePage vetoes withstand override votes

Gov. Paul LePage
Gov. Paul LePage Buy Photo
Posted June 17, 2013, at 5:53 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Five more vetoes issued by Republican Gov. Paul LePage survived legislative votes Monday, keeping intact his streak of avoiding any overrides from the Democrat-controlled 126th Legislature.

So far, Democratic lawmakers have been unable to overturn 17 LePage vetoes this session.

In two votes in the House and three in the Senate on Monday, legislators failed to muster the two-thirds majorities needed to override vetoes LePage announced Friday.

Monday’s votes attempted to overcome LePage’s opposition to bills that addressed everything from Canadian loggers on state lands to loan forgiveness for a doctor who is now practicing in Maine. Other legislation vetoed by LePage and sustained Monday by the Legislature included measures that would have created study groups to examine hospital charity care, licensing for recreational therapists and state license requirements for nursing home administrators.

In his veto messages, LePage said the Department of Health and Human Services already is working to revise rules for nursing homes certifications and charity care. He expressed concern that a study would impede that work. He also reiterated a common complaint that the Legislature’s calls for studies unnecessarily add to the workload for state departments.

In a 21-14 vote, the Senate failed to override the veto of a bill to provide loan forgiveness for a neurology-psychiatry practitioner. Other doctors working with underserved populations in Maine are often able to obtain student loan forgiveness from the Finance Authority of Maine.

The bill, offered by Sen. Margaret Craven, D-Lewiston, was designed to help a specific doctor who changed course of study to address the needs of patients in Maine, including soldiers and other military members or veterans who are dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“I am so very disappointed that the chief executive decided to veto this bill,” Craven said. “Because I know he supports education, he supports keeping our young people here in Maine and again I hope you would revote the same vote you took last week [unanimously without a roll call].”

But like several override votes this session, the Senate split along party lines with most Republicans supporting LePage’s vetoes as Democrats voted to override them — even after unanimous support from the Senate earlier.

“We lament daily about young professionals leaving our state,” Craven said. “This bill would have provided loan forgiveness for a highly specialized professional to provide services to an underserved population — children with developing brains, seniors with Alzheimer’s and veterans returning from service with traumatic brain injuries.”

The bill, LD 1093, would have changed state rules to allow loan forgiveness for doctors who practice neurology-psychiatry in Maine.

In his veto message, LePage said he opposed the bill because it aimed to help a single individual and that while the field of treatment was important, it was not one eligible for loan forgiveness during the time the debt was incurred.

The logging bill would have required the state to hire Maine residents for logging jobs on public lands. The measure is a perennial priority for Sen. Troy Jackson, D-Allagash. LePage vetoed a similar measure last session because he said it violates state and federal constitutions.

“I support Maine loggers working Maine lands,” LePage wrote in this year’s veto message. “However, we must abide by our oaths to uphold the constitutions of this state and the United States. It may not be popular or easy but upholding your oath is the right thing to do.”

Monday’s votes to sustain the vetoes mean the bills are dead and will see no additional votes in the Legislature this session.

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