House overturns LePage veto of Maine foods bill, sustains veto of higher ed bill

Posted Jan. 14, 2014, at 1:06 p.m.
Gov. Paul LePage
Kevin Bennett
Gov. Paul LePage Buy Photo

AUGUSTA, Maine — The House of Representatives voted by a thin margin Tuesday to override Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s veto of a bill that would encourage schools and state government agencies to purchase food produced in Maine.

LD 1254, An Act to Increase Consumption of Maine Foods in All State Institutions, was vetoed by LePage on Friday along with four other bills that the 126th Legislature passed in the waning days of its first session last year.

After brief floor debate Tuesday, the House voted 94-46 to override the veto, topping the necessary two-thirds majority by one vote.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Craig Hickman, D-Winthrop, requires schools and state agencies to ramp up how much Maine-produced food they purchase between now and 2035, unless they vote to opt out of the requirement. The bill passed last year in the House by a vote of 101-42, then won unanimous support in the Senate.

In his veto letter, LePage called LD 1254 an unfunded mandate that could prove difficult for Maine food producers to satisfy, though Hickman, a farmer, sees it differently.

“When Maine food producers realize there’s a market for their food, they will rise to the occasion,” said Hickman shortly after Tuesday’s House vote. “If they get the contracts, they’ll increase production. that’s what this is all about.”

For the bill to survive LePage’s veto, it will also have to garner two-thirds support in the Senate, which has not yet scheduled a vote and isn’t set to reconvene until Thursday morning.

In a separate vote on Tuesday, the House sustained LePage’s veto of LD 963, An Act to Expand Access to Early Postsecondary Education, by a vote of 88-54. LePage said in his veto letter that he supports the bill but wants to resubmit it this year with the intent of ensuring that it is adequately funded. The bill passed unanimously through both the House and Senate last year.

The House and Senate took no action Tuesday on the other three bills LePage vetoed Friday.

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