December 12, 2017
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LePage rips newspapers in veto of bill that would harm newspapers

By Michael Shepherd, BDN Staff
BDN File | BDN
BDN File | BDN
Gov. Paul LePage

AUGUSTA, Maine — A heavier flow of bills moving to the floors of the legislative chambers means more vetoes from the all-time champion in that statistic: Gov. Paul LePage.

The House of Representatives will vote on whether to override another five vetoes today, including one of a bill that would actually hurt Maine newspapers, which sit just below “liberals” on the Republican governor’s list of enemies. (Or, perhaps more accurately, he just sees them as the same thing.)

Yes, the veto — if sustained — actually helps Maine’s newspaper industry, even though he hammered us for “unabashed liberal bias” and “third-rate reporting” in his veto letter.

The bill in question would repeal two antiquated requirements in Maine law: that city clerks post specimen ballots in a newspaper having circulation there before a city election and post several copies of voting instructions and specimen ballots in a voting room.

This information is almost always available online and Maine towns don’t have to do this, so the bill was backed by the Maine Town and City Clerks’ Association, which also cited the cost of the newspaper ads — between $300 and $500 — as a justification for the bill.

The Maine Press Association, which lobbies for newspapers in the state (including the Bangor Daily News) and often fights attempts to roll back the state’s laws mandating printed legal notices, didn’t submit written testimony on the bill.

Its path to passage was a clear one, as it is with most of these types of rote fixes to Maine law. The Legislature passed the bill easily without roll call votes. You wouldn’t be hearing about this bill at all — or even probably notice its impact — without LePage and his trusty veto pen.

“Due to the unabashed liberal bias of Maine newspapers and the third-rate reporting by the so-called ‘journalists’ they employ,” he wrote in his veto letter, “Mainers are increasingly choosing to get their news from other outlets.”

(Newspapers’ problem isn’t so much overall readership as they haven’t been able to supplant a steep drop in print readership and, therefore, ad revenue with forms of online revenue — but I digress.)

However, LePage said “because the vast majority of Mainers do not buy Maine newspapers … it is important that we keep the requirement that specimen ballots be displayed at polling stations” — even though one copy would have to be left in the room under the bill.

He went on to say, “I also think current law should be amended to provide that sample ballots be posted on the internet, rather than in newspapers,” even though that wasn’t at issue here.

So, LePage’s veto begins with a shot at newspapers only to help newspapers preserve a legacy print revenue source in the end. Judging by its easy passage, the veto may well go down today.

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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