AUGUSTA, Maine — Legislators will return to the State House on Friday to vote on overriding at least 33 vetoes from Gov. Paul LePage, with bills at stake that would expand access to an heroin overdose antidote and reform Maine’s solar industry.
Those will highlight the last regularly scheduled daily session of Maine’s 127th Legislature, which has overridden 70 percent of the governor’s vetoes since 2015, excluding the ones they’ll consider Friday. Most of them probably will be overturned by the required two-thirds majorities in the House of Representatives and Senate.
Proposals that would allow pharmacists to dispense naloxone, a drug that reverses potentially fatal opiate overdoses, and invigorate Maine’s solar industry by changing how producers get paid could die in the House, where a Republican minority often has sided with LePage.
But other bills that would provide emergency jail funding, raises for state psychiatric workers and mandate fingerprinting for child care workers could survive, alongside more mundane bills that saw widespread support in one chamber or the other.
Eight bills didn’t get two-thirds support in one chamber, and the two most controversial vetoes may not survive an override.
LePage has gotten national attention for his veto letter on the naloxone bill, which said the drug “does not truly save lives” but “merely extends them until the next overdose” and that it normalizes addiction.
Milo police Chief Damien Pickel was among the legions who criticized LePage, who Pickel called “disingenuous” and “doing a disservice” to those who have administered the drug. The governor’s notion is debunked by a 2010 government study citing “a growing body of evidence” that drug consumption doesn’t rise with the availability of the antidote.
But the bill to allow over-the-counter sales of naloxone only passed the House with exactly two-thirds support earlier this month, meaning it could fail if Republicans who backed it waver on an override.
The solar bill passed the Senate unanimously, but it didn’t get two-thirds support in the House, making it unlikely to win an override vote. LePage has assailed the bill, saying it would drive up energy costs. But proponents have pitched it as a way to save and grow hundreds of solar jobs.
Assistant House Majority Leader Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, said Wednesday that she had been discussing a compromise with LePage, but it broke down over his demand for a price cap that she said would “fundamentally change the bill.”
Bills to advance a payment to the Maine Clean Election Fund for the 2016 election and allow ferries to deliver medical samples from islands to the mainland also didn’t get veto-proof support the first time around.
Bills to increase jail funding and give raises to mental health workers, along with nine bills that passed without roll-call votes, could survive.
LePage’s vetoes of proposals to provide $2.5 million in emergency funding to county jails and another $944,000 in raises to workers at Maine’s two state psychiatric hospitals in Augusta and Bangor as a recruiting tool may stand. They passed the House with just 40 and 32 dissenting votes, respectively.
Nine bills vetoed by LePage passed without roll-call votes in both chambers. One of those would close a loophole and make it a felony for a high school teacher to have sex with a student, even if the student is 18 years old.
The governor also vetoed a bill that would force the Department of Health and Human Services to develop rules meeting federal standards for fingerprinting of child care workers, similar to what’s required for teachers, calling it a costly burden for providers. But it passed 28-6 in the Senate and without a roll call vote in the House.
The vetoes get more mundane, too: The Legislature also will consider bills that clarify $75,000 in funding to Androscoggin County and a nearly unanimous bill that would direct the Department of Education to implement a school accountability system.