November 21, 2018
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Maine Legislature returns Monday to finish special session business

Robert F. Bukaty | AP
Robert F. Bukaty | AP
The State House is surrounded by fall foliage Monday, Oct. 23, 2017, in Augusta

The Maine Legislature will return to the State House on Monday afternoon to conclude the 2017 special legislative session.

The House and Senate are scheduled to convene at 4 p.m. but the docket is uncertain. Lawmakers are awaiting a deadline for the end of the day Friday to learn whether Gov. Paul LePage vetoes controversial laws concerning ranked-choice voting and a sales and regulation system for recreational marijuana. Both of those bills are legislative efforts to alter citizen initiatives passed by voters in November 2016.

The ranked-choice voting law would be a likely death knell for the concept. After months of disagreement, the bill enacted last month delays its implementation until December 2021. If the law can’t be brought into compliance with the Maine Constitution by then, the system, which lets voters rank candidates for a series of tallies designed to produce a majority rather than plurality winner, would be fully repealed. LePage opposes ranked-choice voting and has not disclosed his opinion about the bill.

The marijuana regulation bill, which a special legislative committee worked on for months, does not affect the fact that marijuana is legal for Mainers older than 21 but sets up a broad framework for regulating, selling and taxing marijuana products. LePage has not said how he will act on the bill but is widely thought to be considering a veto.

Neither outstanding bill had enough initial support to override a gubernatorial veto.

LePage has already signed four other bills passed by legislators when they met for the Oct. 23 special session.

Republican Senate President Mike Thibodeau of Winterport wrote in a memo to lawmakers that if LePage doesn’t veto either of the remaining two bills, the Legislature will adjourn sine die, officially ending the special session and sending most lawmakers home until the next regular session in January.

However, extended debate over the vetoes, amendments or new policy proposals from LePage could extend the special session.

Grant Pennoyer, executive director of the Maine Legislature, estimated that the cost of the two-day special session, because it had days in two separate weeks, is approximately $84,000.

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