AUGUSTA — The Legislature upheld 24 vetoes from Gov. Paul LePage on Wednesday, killing bills that would have encouraged background checks before gun purchases, restarted a state climate-change study and adjusted charter-school law.
The Legislature chose to override only three bills Wednesday night and session-long, so far. Two were some of its most important: the $6.3 billion state budget and a sweeping, omnibus energy bill. The other was a minor bill that would allow registries of deeds to adjust their fee structures.
LePage vetoed 51 bills this session, the Legislature’s website said Wednesday afternoon. That gives him Maine’s single-session record for vetoes, according to information compiled by The Associated Press on Tuesday.
He surpassed Gov. James Longley, an independent who vetoed 49 bills in 1977. Two-thirds of voting members in the House and Senate must vote to override vetoes for bills to become law after a veto.
LePage spokesman Peter Steele declined comment on LePage’s veto strategy Wednesday.
Democrats have attributed his methods to an authoritative approach to governance.
“Most of us in this body, Republican and Democrat, know that you have to work with people and you’re not going to get everything you want all the time,” said Assistant Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, on Wednesday. “That’s just not the way that I’ve seen anywhere work: a business, a workplace and certainly not state government.”
The background-check bill, L.D. 1240, sponsored by Rep. Mark Dion, D-Portland, would have created a civil violation for selling a gun to a person prohibited from owning a gun, such as a convicted felon.
It originally was a sweeping bill that would have mandated background checks before all gun purchases. His bill passed narrowly in the Legislature earlier this month, and the House upheld the veto in a 77-71 vote on Wednesday.
In his veto message, LePage said the bill was focused “on those who would choose to obey the law, and for that reason I believe it misses the target.”
“This is an issue that may need to go straight to our citizens,” Dion said in a statement after the vote. “The governor described my bill as ‘well-meaning,’ but public policy requires more than intentions, it requires action.”
Dion was referring to a potential referendum on the matter: J. Thomas Franklin, president of Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence, a pro-gun control group, said last week that it is considering bringing a citizens’ initiative to ask Maine voters to decide on mandatory background checks in 2014.
The bill that would have restarted the climate-change study, L.D. 825, was rejected 98-50 on Wednesday, falling just one vote short of an override.
In 2009, the Democrat-controlled Legislature, under Democratic Gov. John Baldacci passed a law directing the Department of Environmental Protection to create a climate change report. It was completed and published in 2010, containing 60 recommendations for the state relating to climate change effects.
But implementation of recommendations stalled under the LePage administration, which has argued that the study represents a waste of limited resources, asking the Legislature to take responsibility for any future climate adaptation plan to be taken away from the DEP.
LePage also got his way on charter-school law on Wednesday, with all but one Senate Republican sticking by LePage’s opposition to L.D. 1128, a bill which would force those putting forward charter-school applications to the state hold at least one public hearing on the school in the area that would be affected by the school.
Another charter school bill veto was upheld in the House: L.D. 1349, would have changed the way members of the Maine Charter School Commission are appointed, giving the state Board of Education authority to appoint the four public members of the commission while making the appointments subject to review by the Legislature’s Education Committee before confirmation by the full Senate.
The House voted to override four LePage vetoes of bills that would have studied cancer risks unique to Maine, increased campaign-finance transparency, changed Maine’s compulsory school attendance laws and the registries of deeds bill. But Wednesday night, the Senate upheld all vetoes but the deeds bill.
The chambers also sustained vetoes of other minor bills, including proposals aimed at transparency for sewer ratepayers, make state agencies work in concert to help prevent homelessness and direct fees to an all-terrain vehicle trail-maintenance fund.
Michael Shepherd can be contacted at 370-7652 or at:
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story mischaracterized the result of the vote on L.D. 1240.