June 19, 2018
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LePage can still pretty much count on House GOP as his greatest allies

Troy R. Bennett | BDN file
Troy R. Bennett | BDN file
By Michael Shepherd, BDN Staff

The State House calendar has taken on greater significance as the Legislature moves into the last month of the session, when lawmakers actually start voting on bills in earnest instead of talking about them in news conferences and committees.

And just as during the past three years, Gov. Paul LePage can rely on a firewall from House Republicans — at least to a point — as he starts issuing vetoes and trying to defeat Democratic attempts to blunt his agenda and advance one of their own.

The House of Representatives sustained two of three LePage vetoes on Tuesday, including bills aiming to phase out the use of plastic shopping bags and protect Maine’s electrical grid. Those bills only passed in close, mostly partisan votes. But in both cases, LePage won more Republicans on the override votes.

LePage also won enough support from House Republicans to turn back a bill that would force the governor to release a $15 million senior housing bond approved by voters in 2015 that he has held up.

It faces further action, but 57 Republicans voted against the bill on Tuesday, including three named by the Maine Affordable Housing Coalition as supporting the bond: Stedman Seavey of Kennebunkport, John Picchiotti of Fairfield and Robert Foley of Wells.

Of course, this support has its limits. While House Republicans are aligned with LePage, he often uses his veto power in ways that can disrupt well-laid plans.

One example of that was a bill to move Baileyville’s town line because the Washington County town accidentally placed part of a business park in Baring Plantation. The veto was crushed on Wednesday in a 141-4 vote after a unanimous override in the Senate.

We’re going to see plenty more of examples of this on both sides through June, including on Wednesday, when the House will consider a bill to authorize the construction of a Maine Turnpike Connector to Gorham.

LePage wrote in his veto letter that he doesn’t think it should be a toll highway and that it should be managed by the Maine Department of Transportation, perhaps through bond money.

The problem? Maine Turnpike Authority Director Peter Mills said in March that the DOT can’t afford it. It’s also popular locally, and among the bill’s co-sponsors are two House Republicans — Heather Sirocki and Karen Vachon, both of Scarborough. Watch this one closely.

This item was originally published in Daily Brief, a free political newsletter distributed Monday through Friday by the Bangor Daily News to inform dialogue about Maine politics and government. To read more of today’s Daily Brief, click here. To have the Daily Brief delivered daily to your inbox, click here.


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