AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage vetoed four bills on Tuesday afternoon, including one designed to strengthen child abuse prevention programs on the very day LePage proclaimed April to be Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month.
LePage wrote in a veto letter delivered to the Legislature Tuesday afternoon that LD 1685, A Resolve to Strengthen the Protection of Children from Abuse and Neglect, would create a study group to perform a task the Department of Health and Human Services is already capable of doing. The bill, which passed unanimously in the Legislature, called for the completion of a report by November of this year that outlines ways to strengthen the protection of children from abuse and neglect.
Rep. Dick Farnsworth, D-Portland, who sponsored the bill, said he hopes DHHS can be as quick and efficient as the working group would have been.
“This could have been a great opportunity to show how we, the legislative and executive branches, are working together to achieve a common goal of increased vigilance around issues of abuse and neglect,” said Farnsworth in a prepared statement. “The committee will be watching the department to ensure we are working toward the same ends.”
LePage did not lay out a timeline for DHHS to perform the work in his veto letter.
“I am in favor of efforts to make Maine children safe from abuse and neglect,” wrote LePage. “However, it makes no sense for the Legislature to demand work from the Department of Health and Human Services through a resolve when the department has volunteered to conduct the work in a reasonable timeframe. … Not every solution needs to be a legislative enactment.”
LePage also vetoed LD 1597, An Act to Clarify Provisions in the Medical Marijuana Act, which would allow elected officials to visit medical marijuana grow sites for the purpose of being educated about cultivation, but only by invitation. In current law, only medical marijuana caregivers, emergency services personnel or repair workers can access the facilities and only under the primary caregiver’s supervision. LD 1597 passed unanimously through the Legislature earlier this month.
“It seems hypocritical for us as elected officials to exempt ourselves from the law, especially when most of those elected would not need specialized knowledge of medical marijuana to perform their job duties,” wrote LePage in his veto letter.
Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, who sponsored the bill, said it would have provided valuable opportunities for elected officials to learn about the medical marijuana industry.
“The governor’s veto essentially strips elected state and local officials of the ability to see for themselves the facilities that they’re charged with overseeing,” said Gattine in a prepared statement.
LePage called LD 1365, An Act to Promote New Models of Mobility and Access to Transportation, “unnecessary and unwieldy” in his veto letter. The bill, which passed unanimously in the Legislature, sought to replace the state’s Interagency Transportation Coordinating Committee with a new public transit advisory council — including government and elected officials — for the purpose of developing regional transit plans.
Rep. Sharon Treat, D-Hallowell, who sponsored the bill, said its failure would put at risk the state’s efforts around economic development and measures to help elders stay in their homes for as long as possible.
“This is about planning for the future,” said Treat in a written statement. “Rather than just looking inward to state government as the governor would have us do, this measure brings all kinds of Mainers to the table to plan for next-generation transit.”
LePage also vetoed a bill, LD 1717, A Resolve to Support Homeless Youth Shelters, because he said funding for the shelters is adequate and that they are currently operating at less than full capacity. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Margaret Craven, D-Lewiston, sought to alter the funding formula for the shelters based on regional allocations from two years ago and redirect unspent funds from a contract with the now-closed Halcyon House emergency shelter in Skowhegan to New Beginnings emergency shelter in Lewiston.
“Just because a shelter closes, we cannot close our eyes and ignore the ongoing need that exists for Maine youth,” said Craven in a written statement. “With homelessness the highest it’s been in years, we should be looking to give these kids a chance at getting back on their feet.”
LePage wrote in his veto letter that enactment of the bill could lead to funding shortages in some areas of the state.
“This resolve requires the department to allocate funding in a way that prevents it from responding to changing needs. … The money should be spent where the need is greatest,” wrote LePage.
The bills now move back to the House and Senate, where two-thirds majority votes are necessary to override LePage’s vetoes.