LePage has until end of week to sign bills into law

Posted July 07, 2011, at 3:28 p.m.
Last modified July 07, 2011, at 5:06 p.m.

AUGUSTA , Maine — Gov. Paul LePage faces a stack of bills he must decide whether he will sign, but one he’s sure to put his name on will make it a crime to drive a large commercial vehicle while on methadone.

Lisa Ronan of Gray plans to be in the governor’s office Friday to witness the scheduled methadone bill signing. Her husband, a driver for Atlanta-based UPS Inc., was killed in December 2009 when his work vehicle was struck by a utility truck whose driver was taking methadone, a synthetic narcotic used to relieve pain or prevent withdrawal symptoms from drug addiction.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Anne Graham, makes it a crime for a person with methadone in their system to drive a commercial motor vehicle of 10,000 or more pounds. The North Yarmouth Democrat said Thursday she was prompted to introduce the bill after meeting Lisa Ronan and hearing her story while campaigning last year.

“Lisa asked that I help her never let this type of accident ever happen again to a family,” Graham said when she presented the bill to lawmakers.

Graham said Thursday that when she looked into the matter, she discovered that a prohibition against methadone use by commercial vehicle operators was “conspicuously absent” from Maine law.

“For some reason, that was not there. All this [bill] did was get us to adhere to federal law,” Graham said.

The methadone bill is among roughly 70 that wound up on LePage’s desk after last week’s two-day windup to the 2011 legislative session. The Republican governor had signed about half the bills by Thursday, well within the 10-day deadline to act on the late-approved measures.

Other drug-related bills he has signed make trafficking 300 or more methamphetamine and amphetamine pills a more serious crime, make certain active compounds found in marijuana illegal and prohibit the sale or possession of “bath salts”, which contain dangerous synthetic drugs.

He also has signed bills to simplify Maine’s saltwater recreational fishing registry and allow limited periods in which nonresidents may snowmobile in Maine without being registered in the state, provided their state allows similar exemptions for Maine snowmobilers.

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