AUGUSTA (AP) — Republican Gov. Paul LePage blasted Democrats this week for failing to approve a bill designed to ensure uniformed military recruiters have the same access to the state’s public schools as other college and career recruiters.

The governor said Friday in his weekly radio address that “the Democrats’ blatant rejection of this bill sends a message to all military service members – past and present – that they are not welcome in Maine’s public school system.”

“The disdain is evident, and it is a sad day for Maine when we cannot come together in agreement to support our troops,” he said.

LePage said his administration was informed that several schools in southern Maine allow recruiters only minimal access.

Several Democrats, including House Speaker Mark Eves of North Berwick and Senate President Justin Alfond of Portland, supported the bill. But it failed by a handful of votes in the House this week because some Democrats said it’s unnecessary.

Federal law already requires that public schools provide military recruiters the same access as college and career recruiters, they said. They also took issue with Republicans’ claims that uniformed recruiters aren’t allowed in Maine schools.

“I’m very disappointed that this bill was used as a political tool to try to divide us,” Rep. John Schneck, D-Bangor, a Vietnam War Navy veteran who voted against the bill.

“As far as I can tell, the ‘problem’ the bill addresses doesn’t exist. No factual evidence of a problem has ever been produced,” he said in a statement earlier this week.

LePage called on Maine resiednts to “find out where politicians stand on this important common-sense bill before they cast their next vote,” suggesting plans to reintroduce the bill next session.

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