AUGUSTA — In a last-minute move Wednesday, Republican Gov. Paul LePage offered two bills — to fund drug-enforcement expansion and to raise reimbursement rates for nursing homes — for the Legislature to consider when it reconvenes Thursday to take up a long list of veto-override votes.

One of the bills being offered by LePage would fund a $2.5 million proposed expansion of the state’s drug court system by adding two judges and two prosecutors and boosting the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency with 10 more special agents. The bill also includes $750,000 to augment existing drug-addiction treatment programs.

The new proposal is similar to an amended version of a LePage bill, which lawmakers passed, that sought to create 14 new MDEA agents, four new judges and four new prosecutors.

“Although my proposal was widely supported, it died when the Appropriations Committee failed to fund it,” LePage said in a prepared statement issued Wednesday afternoon. “But this issue is much too important to let die. I am pleased that we have found the funding to help combat the drug epidemic that is ravaging our state. We cannot wait any longer. We must act now to crack down on drug dealers and make our streets safe for Maine families.”

The expansion would be funded with money from the state’s unclaimed property fund, which has a balance of about $6 million. The funding is for one year and is meant to establish a baseline for future budgets.

A policy lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine criticized the LePage proposal Wednesday, saying it would do little to solve Maine’s drug problem.

“The governor continues to push a proposal that would scale up an already-bloated criminal justice system while giving a back seat to more effective treatment programs,” Oamshri Amarasingham said in a prepared statement. “For the last 40 years, we’ve thrown millions at law enforcement while spending on treatment and prevention programs has dwindled. A truly balanced approach would mean scaling back law enforcement while increasing treatment and prevention.”

The other emergency bill being proposed by LePage would move funds from the state’s Healthy Maine Partnership programs to increase state Medicaid reimbursement rates to nursing homes.

Rick Erb, chief executive officer of the Maine Health Care Association — an organization that represents 101 nursing homes in Maine — said funding is not adequate.

“It is well-documented that Maine under-reimburses its nursing homes by over $22 million per year already, threatening their viability,” Erb said in a prepared statement. “We believe this to be penny-wise and pound foolish.”

LePage found funding for the measure in another bill he vetoed, LD 1719, which earmarked money from a state tobacco settlement fund for smoking cessation outreach and other pilot programs.

In his veto message on the bill, LePage wrote that the proposed programs could be funded by other sources, including grants.

“It’s time we figure out our priorities; a vote to override this veto is a vote to close nursing facilities,” LePage wrote in his LD 1719 veto message.

A release issued from LePage’s office late Wednesday did not detail how much money the governor was hoping to use from the fund for nursing homes.

While a longer-term fix in the form of higher reimbursement rates is included in the supplemental budget passed by the Legislature earlier this spring, that new funding does not kick in until July 1.

The supplemental budget bill is among the 48 bills vetoed by LePage in the second half of the two-year lawmaking session.

“Our elderly and disabled should not be forced to live in fear of knowing if they will have a place to call home tomorrow,” LePage said in a prepared statement. “I simply will not stand for this, and it’s why I have provided a solution to pay our nursing homes to keep our most vulnerable Mainers safe.”

Thursday was widely expected to be the last day for 126th legislative session, but Wednesday’s late moves by LePage could push lawmakers into the first full week of May or beyond. LePage has threatened to keep lawmakers working all summer if they didn’t put together an adequate budget plan.

His decision Wednesday to introduce new bills threw a monkey wrench in the works for leaders in the Legislature’s Democratic majority. 

Ericka Dodge, a spokeswoman for Senate President Justin Alfond, D-Portland, said Democratic leaders were meeting with LePage’s staff Wednesday afternoon to discuss the proposed legislation.

Democrats have been critical of LePage for not offering a supplemental budget in 2014 and for not engaging more diplomatically in the lawmaking process to broker deals on bills that had bipartisan support, including the earlier version of the MDEA bill.

“After months of not participating in lawmaking and solving our state’s problems, the Governor has put forward an 11th-hour funding source that we are currently vetting,” Jodi Quintero, a spokeswoman for House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, said. “Democrats and Republicans strongly support the policy as evidenced by the the votes in the House and Senate for LD 1811. Democrats have pushed for a balance of treatment and enforcement in our approach to addressing the state’s drug crisis.”

Quintero said the Legislature, in its supplemental budget, has increased funding to nursing homes by $14 million over the next three years. She said $10 million of that comes in the next two years.

“If Republicans stick with their votes, that bill will become law,” Quintero wrote in a message to the Sun Journal. She noted that another bill, authored by state Sen. Margaret Craven, D-Lewiston, that became law earlier this week will provide an additional $4 million to long-term care facilities.

Combined, the bills will draw down more than $24 million in federal funds “to help our poorest seniors, especially in rural areas,” Quintero wrote.

Democrats said the funds LePage is using for the nursing homes are meant to provide cancer prevention.

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Vetoes to be considered

  • LD 347: An Act to Amend Insurance Coverage for Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorders (Lachowicz)
  • LD 440: An Act to Support Community Health Centers through Tax Credits for Dentists and Primary Care Professionals Practicing in Underserved Areas (Jackson)
  • LD 1310: An Act to Improve Access to Dental Care through the Establishment of the Maine Board of Oral Health (Patrick)
  • LD 1431: An Act to Support School Nutrition and Expand the Local Foods Economy (Johnson)
  • LD 1468: An Act to Establish the High-efficiency Biomass Pellet Boiler Rebate Program and the Home Heating Conversion Fund (Jackson)
  • LD 1640: An Act to Enhance the Stability and Predictability of Health Care Costs for Returning Veterans and Others by Addressing the Issues Associated with Hospital Charity Care and Bad Debt (Jackson)
  • LD 1641: An Act to Amend the Workers’ Compensation Laws as They Pertain to Employee Representation (Patrick)
  • LD 1837: An Act to Provide Former Employees of the Maine Military Authority the Ability to Sue for Severance Pay (Jackson)
  • LD 1750: An Act to Amend the Maine Administrative Procedure Act and Clarify Wind Energy Laws (Alfond)
  • LD 1765: An Act to Establish the Criminal Law Revision Commission (Gerzofsky)
  • LD 1824: An Act to Provide Additional Authority to the State Board of Corrections (Gerzofsky)
  • LD 1827: An Act to Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue to Support Maine Small Business and Job Creation (Valentino)
  • LD 1833: An Act to Improve Workers’ Compensation Protection for Injured Workers Whose Employers Have Wrongfully Not Secured Workers’ Compensation Insurance (Patrick)
  • LD 1851: An Act to Delay Implementation of the Maine Metallic Mineral Mining Act and Related Statutory Provisions (Joint Order)
  • LD 38: Resolve, Regarding Legislative Review of Chapter 201: Provider of Last Resort Service Quality, a Major Substantive Rule of the Public Utilities Commission (Hobbins)
  • LD 222: An Act Designating the Chief of the State Police as the Only Issuing Authority of a Permit to Carry a Concealed Handgun (Marks)
  • LD 297: An Act to Require Forest Rangers to Be Trained in Order to Allow Them to Carry Firearms (Dunphy)
  • LD 906: An Act to Permit a School Administrative Unit Discretion Concerning Participation of Students from Charter Schools in School Extracurricular and Interscholastic Activities (Moonen)
  • LD 933: An Act to Establish a Separate Regulatory Board for Dental Hygienists (Sirocki)
  • LD 1120: An Act to Improve Maine’s Tax Laws (Goode)
  • LD 1154: An Act to Establish the Maine Length of Service Award Program (Maker)
  • LD 1185: An Act to Enhance Efforts to Use Locally Produced Food in Schools (McCabe)
  • LD 1194: An Act to Protect Social Media Privacy in School and the Workplace (McClellan)
  • LD 1247: An Act to Expand Coverage of Family Planning Services (Pringle)
  • LD 1345: Resolve, to Study the Design and Implementation of Options for a Universal Health Care Plan in the State That Is in Compliance with the Federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Priest)
  • LD 1367: An Act to Require Health Insurance Carriers and the MaineCare Program to Cover the Cost of Transition Services to Bridge the Gap between High School and Independence (Graham)
  • LD 1463: An Act to Examine Best Practices Relating to Tax Expenditures (Rotundo)
  • LD 1479: An Act to Clarify Telecommunications Regulation Reform (Hobbins)
  • LD 1593: Resolve, to Eliminate Financial Inequality in MaineCare Reimbursement for Community-based Behavioral Health Services (Sanborn)
  • LD 1578: An Act to Increase Health Security by Expanding Federally Funded Health Care for Maine People (Eves)
  • LD 1600: An Act to Require Health Insurers to Provide Coverage for Human Leukocyte Antigen Testing to Establish Bone Marrow Donor Transplantation Suitability (Rankin)
  • LD 1719: An Act to Improve Education about and Awareness of Maine’s Health Laws and Resources (Rochelo)
  • LD 1729: An Act to Increase the Period of Time for the Calculation of a Prior Conviction for Operating under the Influence (Marks)
  • LD 1747: Resolve, Regarding Legislative Review of Chapter 180: Performance Evaluation and Professional Growth Systems, a Major Substantive Rule of the Department of Education (MacDonald)
  • LD 1757: Resolve, to Establish the Blue Ribbon Commission on Independent Living and Disability (Peterson)
  • LD 1761: An Act to Ensure That Large Public Utility Reorganizations Advance the Economic Development and Information Access Goals of the State (Hobbins)
  • LD 1772: Resolve, Regarding Legislative Review of Chapter 200: Metallic Mineral Exploration, Advanced Exploration and Mining, a Late-filed Major Substantive Rule of the Department of Environmental Protection (Welsh)
  • LD 1794: An Act to Cancel the No-bid Alexander Group Contract to Produce Savings in Fiscal Year 2013-14 (Farnsworth)
  • LD 1806: An Act to Implement the Recommendations Contained in the State Government Evaluation Act Review of the Maine Public Employees Retirement System (Rotundo)
  • LD 1809: An Act Concerning Meetings of Public Bodies Using Communications Technology (Priest)
  • LD 1816: An Act to Address Recommendations from the Report by the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability Regarding the Public Utilities Commission (Kruger)
  • LD 1820: An Act to Reduce Abuse of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program through Restriction of Electronic Benefits Transfers (Nadeau — governor’s bill)
  • LD 1821: An Act to Implement Recommendations of the Right to Know Advisory Committee (Priest)
  • LD 1829: An Act to Require the Department of Health and Human Services to Report Annually on Investigations and Prosecutions of False Claims Made under the MaineCare, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Food Supplement Programs (Gattine)
  • LD 1850: Resolve, to Establish the Commission to Strengthen the Adequacy and Equity of Certain Cost Components of the School Funding Formula (MacDonald)
  • LD 1858: An Act to Achieve the Savings Required under Part F of the Biennial Budget and to Change Certain Provisions of the Law for Fiscal Years Ending June 30, 2014 and June 30, 2015 (Rotundo)

The Sun Journal will post the results of each veto-override vote by the Legislature on Thursday. Check www.sunjournal.com for the results and to see how local lawmakers voted.


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