Legislature overrides LePage veto of bill to protect fish spawning areas from mining

Gov. Paul LePage
Scott Thistle | Sun Journal
Gov. Paul LePage
Posted April 08, 2014, at 8:40 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The Legislature on Tuesday overturned a veto by Gov. Paul LePage of a bill that aims to protect delicate fish spawning habitats from motorized mining operations.

After a unanimous vote in the Senate on Tuesday morning, the House voted 119-23 Tuesday evening to override the veto.

The bill, LD 1671, prohibits motorized recreational gold prospecting in certain Maine waterways that contain brook trout and Atlantic salmon spawning habitats. It calls for the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and the Department of Marine Resources to conduct a study before Dec. 1, 2015, aimed at determining to what degree the waterways in question are still critical spawning habitats.

In his veto letter, LePage said the Legislature shouldn’t have the authority to order work for the executive branch.

“When the Legislature gives detailed instructions to executive departments on what work they should do, how and when, it is an overreach of their authority and a clear violation of the separation of powers,” wrote LePage.

There was no debate before the veto override vote in the House.

Another veto by LePage on Monday will stand after the House voted 85-56 in favor of the measure Tuesday night, short of the two-thirds tally needed to override the veto. LD 1060 would have tasked the Public Utilities Commission with adopting rules that require investor-owned electricity utility companies to compensate consumers who generate electricity, such as through solar panels, under the state’s net energy billing program according to the wholesale value of electricity. It also calls for a report to the Legislature by January 2015 about areas of stress or reliability deficiencies in the state’s electrical grid.

LePage said in his veto letter that the bill would result in higher rates for Mainers who don’t generate electricity.

“Solar should be paid at competitive prices and having distributed generation is a positive development for the state,” wrote LePage. “However, these small generators should also pay for the transmission and distribution system and not simply pass costs onto businesses and hard-working Maine families.”

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