AUGUSTA — A group of concerned Mainers, including three Republican lawmakers, has launched a citizen petition drive to veto a controversial bill that extends General Assistance benefits to some immigrants for up to two years.

Stavros Mendros, a former Republican legislator and city councilor from Lewiston, filed preliminary paperwork for the petition drive on Friday, according to paperwork provided by the secretary of state’s office. Mendros and four others seek to repeal LD 369, which was sponsored by Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn.

The proposal originally sought to eliminate General Assistance benefits for certain immigrants but was amended to allow the benefits to continue for up to 24 months. General Assistance, which is administered by municipalities but funded jointly by state and local governments, provides emergency aid for housing, medicine and other basic needs.

The citizen veto initiative makes contact with a number of crossroads of controversy. Barring General Assistance for some immigrants — such as asylum seekers and those who are in the U.S. illegally — has long been a goal of Gov. Paul LePage and many Republican lawmakers, including Brakey.

Furthermore, there is disagreement between LePage and others about whether LD 369 is in fact on track to become law without the governor’s signature. It is among 70 bills that were sent to LePage by the Legislature and which LePage did not act upon within his 10-day window to do so.

LePage contends that he has more time to act on the bills — by either signing or vetoing them — because of the way the Legislature adjourned on June 30.

The Legislature, the attorney general and the revisor of statutes’ office consider the 70 bills to be in law, but LePage has said he might take the issue to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. He contends that the Maine Constitution allows him to hold the bills until legislators return to session for three days. Democratic legislative leaders, Attorney General Janet Mills and the revisor’s office are proceeding on the interpretation that the June 30 adjournment was done in such a manner that the three-day window allowed by the Constitution does not apply.

Along with Mendros and Brakey, signing the preliminary paperwork were Rep. Deborah Sanderson, R-Chelsea; Rep. Randall Greenwood, R-Wales; Alicia McClure of Lisbon and Loretta County of Lisbon.

The group has 10 business days after the Legislature’s adjournment to submit a proposed ballot question to the secretary of state’s office. Legislators are scheduled to return to the State House on Thursday. Legislative leaders have said they plan to adjourn formally on that day.

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