Court rules against Gov. Paul LePage; 65 bills are law

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PORTLAND — The Maine Supreme Judicial Court has found that a set of 65 bills that Republican Gov. Paul LePage was contesting have become law.

The opinion came just six days after the court heard lawyers for LePage and the Legislature’s caucus leaders make their case, with one side arguing LePage had missed his veto deadline and the other suggesting the Legislature was adjourned, preventing the vetoes.

“Having considered the filings, the factual background and legislative record, the constitutional context of the language at issue, long-held traditions and practices of Maine governors and Legislatures, and the analysis and precedents of other jurisdictions, each of us is of the opinion that a temporary legislative adjournment does not prevent the return of the bills with the governor’s objections to the Legislature,” the justices wrote in their unanimous finding. “During such a temporary adjournment, the governor may return the bills and his objections to the officers and agents of the originating house.”

In a statement issued shortly after the court’s opinion was released, LePage said he was focused on “following the mandates of the Maine Constitution.”

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“This was not about winning or losing; it was about doing things right,” LePage said in the prepared statement. “We are fortunate to be able to seek legal opinions from the judicial branch, and we’re thankful the justices came to a fast and fair resolution to this issue. We look forward to moving on and continuing to work for the Maine people.”

House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, consistently said the bills in question were law because LePage missed his veto deadline.

On Thursday, Eves called LePage’s efforts to have the high court overturn the laws “legal gymnastics.”

“The decision affirms these bills are law,” Eves said in a prepared statement. “The governor must enforce them. The ruling also reaffirms the Constitution, historical precedent and honors the separation of powers in our democracy that protects against partisanship and abuse of power.”

Eves was also quick to note the decision had a major impact on the lives of some 13,000 Maine women who would now receive expanded access to health care because the bills were finally law.

“The decision is a victory and a huge win for Maine women, families, seniors and veterans, who will see great benefits from the laws we passed,” Eves said.

Also weighing in on the matter Thursday was Maine Attorney General Janet Mills. Mills previously issued an opinion the bills in question had already become law.

“The Office of the Attorney General is pleased with the full and complete responses to the Governor’s questions elucidated in the unanimous, 47-page opinion today,” Mills said in a prepared statement. “The opinion of the justices is on all fours with all the research conducted by our office and with the opinion of the Attorney General of July 10, 2015. We are also pleased that the court ruled expeditiously so as to avoid any further unnecessary debate and confusion.”

Mills went on to say the court’s answers were “clear, unambiguous and completely consistent with (LePage’s) own past practice and with that of every other governor in recent memory.” 

Meanwhile, a newly formed group of Republicans, Get Maine Right, who are critical of LePage’s confrontational leadership style, also issued a statement.

“As he has stated, the governor’s aim with these vetoes was to waste the Legislature’s time,” the group’s co-founder Lance Dutson said in a prepared statement. “We hope that this ruling will result in a different pattern of conduct from this administration, one that more closely resembles the tradition of Maine Republican statesmanship that so many of our elected officials have exemplified. The time for political games, inflammatory rhetoric and irresponsible governing is over.”

Among the laws in question were those that allow cities and towns to provide General Assistance welfare benefits to asylum-seeking immigrants for up to two years, and one that would allow women on the state’s low-income health insurance program, MaineCare, to receive the same preventative care required of private insurers under the federal Affordable Care Act, including cancer screenings, annual exams, Pap tests, birth control and STD testing.

The new laws also include ones that would provide about $12 million in state funding for county jails over the next two years and one that would form a citizen task force to review the services provided by the Maine Bureau of Veterans Services.

sthistle@sunjournal.com

July 31 Oral Arguments before the Maine Supreme Court

Maine Supreme Judicial Court opinion on Gov. LePage questions

Documents and briefs filed with the Maine Supreme Court:

List of 65 laws subject to Maine Judicial Supreme Court ruling Thursday

LD 25 – “An Act To Protect the Privacy of Citizens from Domestic Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Uses”

LD 63 – “Resolve, To Require the Department of Health and Human Services To Provide Supplemental Reimbursement to Adult Family Care Homes and Residential Care Facilities in Remote Island Locations”

LD 78 –“An Act Regarding Limitations on Certain Storm Water Fees”

LD 86 – “An Act To Improve Retirement Security for Retired Public Employees”

LD 93 –“An Act To Amend the Laws Governing Pine Tree Development Zone Benefits for the Town of Berwick and the City of Sanford”

LD 113  –“An Act To Reduce the Penalties for Certain Drug Offenses”

LD 140 – “An Act To Expand Access To Lifesaving Opioid Overdose Medication”

LD 155 – “Resolve, To Establish the Commission To Study Difficult-to-place Patients”

LD 164 – “An Act To Establish the Maine Length of Service Award Program”

LD 170 “An Act To Remove the 180-day Active Duty Requirement for the Property Tax Exemption for Vietnam Veterans”

LD 186 – “An Act To Reverse Jail Consolidation”

LD 210“An Act To Provide for Special Restrictions on Dissemination and Use of Criminal History Record Information for Class E Crimes Committed by an Adult under 21 Years of Age”

LD 222 – “An Act To Reduce Commercial Shellfish License Fees for Persons under 18 Years of Age”

LD 231 – “An Act To Ensure That Schoolchildren with Dyslexia Receive the Assistance Needed”

LD 234 – “An Act To Adjust Appropriations and Allocations from the General Fund and Other Funds for the Expenditures of State Government for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 2015”

LD 260“Resolve, To Create a License Plate To Recognize the Centennial of the United States Navy Reserve”

LD 261“Resolve, To Initiate the Procedures To Request the United States Congress’s Joint Committee on the Library To Replace a Statue in the National Statuary Hall Collection”

LD 299“An Act To Protect Children in Municipal and School Facilities by Requiring Boiler Inspections”

LD 319“An Act To Strengthen the Economic Stability of Qualified Maine Citizens by Expanding Coverage of Reproductive Health Care and Family Services”

LD 369 – “An Act To Align Municipal General Assistance Programs with the Immigration Status Policies of the Department of Health and Human Services”

LD 418“Resolve, To Study the Use of Social Impact Bonds as a Funding Mechanism for Public Education Programs in Maine”

LD 431 – “An Act To Strengthen the Laws Prohibiting Stalking”

LD 500“Resolve, To Create a Working Group To Develop Solutions To Meet the Needs for Municipal Volunteer Personnel”

LD 512 – “An Act To Implement Certain Recommendations of the Criminal Law Advisory Commission Relative to the Maine Criminal Code”

LD 522 “An Act To Clarify a Recently Enacted Law Designed To Expand the Number of Qualified Educators”

LD 582“An Act To Establish a State Educational Medicaid Officer”

LD 721“Resolve, To Establish the Commission To Strengthen and Align the Services Provided to Maine’s Veterans”

LD 722“An Act To Strengthen Penalties for Abuse of General Assistance”

LD 727“An Act To Allow the Retrofit of Underground Oil Storage Tanks”

LD 729“An Act To Add Acetylfentanyl and Methylfentanyl Derivatives to the List of Schedule W Drugs”

LD 756“An Act To Enhance the Address Confidentiality Program Regarding Property Records”

LD 767“An Act To Create Jobs in Aroostook and Washington Counties”

LD 787“An Act To Provide Tax Credits for Adult Day Care and Respite and Hospice Care”

LD 831“Resolve, To Reduce MaineCare Spending through Targeted Prevention Services”

LD 840“An Act To Collect and Report Data on the Implementation of Proficiency-based Diplomas and Standards-based Student Learning”

LD 853“An Act To Allow Secondary Schools To Grant Certificates of Academic Proficiency”

LD 870“An Act To Provide for Cooperation between Municipalities with Tax Increment Financing Districts”

LD 905“Resolve, To Study Allocations of the Fund for a Healthy Maine”

LD 921“An Act To Strengthen the Right of a Victim of Sexual Assault or Domestic Violence To Take Necessary Leave from Employment and To Promote Employee Social Media Privacy”

LD 941“An Act To Improve Tax Expenditure Transparency and Accountability”

LD 983 “An Act To Clarify Wine Auction Licenses”

LD 1013“An Act To Prevent the Shackling of Pregnant Prisoners and Pregnant Juveniles”

LD 1039“An Act To Amend the Polygraph Examiners Act”

LD 1040“An Act To Enhance Funding Opportunities for the Youth Conservation Corps”

LD 1042 – “Resolve, To Create the Task Force on School Leadership”

LD 1044“An Act To Ensure That Collection Facilities Can Participate in the Architectural Paint Stewardship Program”

LD 1085  – “An Act To Implement the Recommendations of the Right To Know Advisory Committee Concerning Receipt of a Request for Public Records”

LD 1108“An Act To Protect Children and the Public from Vapor from Electronic Smoking Devices”

LD 1145“An Act To Improve Maine’s Involuntary Commitment Processes”

LD 1160“An Act To Make Possession of a Firearm with an Altered or Obscured Serial Number a Class C Crime”

LD 1166“An Act To Protect Taxpayers by Regulating Personal Services Contracts”

LD 1185“An Act To Establish the Municipal Gigabit Broadband Network Access Fund”

LD 1202“Resolve, To Ensure the Stocking of Inland Waters in the State”

LD 1205“An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Support the Independence of Maine’s Seniors”

LD 1246“An Act To Strengthen Laws Regarding the Manufacture and Sale of Methamphetamine and Other Drugs”

LD 1277“An Act To Establish a Magnet School for Marine Science, Technology, Transportation and Engineering”

LD 1303 “An Act To Stabilize and Streamline the Department of Environmental Protection’s Ground Water Oil Clean-up Fund and Maine Coastal and Inland Surface Oil Clean-up Fund”

LD 1332“An Act To Attract Entrepreneurs to the State”

LD 1348 – “An Act To Protect Older Adults from Financial Exploitation”

LD 1350“Resolve, To Increase the Reimbursement Rate for Direct-care Workers Serving Adults with Long-term Care Needs”

LD 1372“An Act To Encourage the Redevelopment of Upper Floors of Buildings in Downtowns and on Main Streets”

LD 1381“An Act To Correct Errors and Inconsistencies in the Laws of Maine”

LD 1391“An Act Regarding the Treatment of Forensic Patients”

LD 1449“An Act To Amend the State Election Laws”

LD 1451“An Act To Fund the Agreement with Certain Judicial Department Employees”

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