After once being in doubt, the bill to replace a missing ‘and’ receives unanimous support from lawmakers.
AUGUSTA — The Legislature overrode several more vetoes by Gov. Paul LePage on Tuesday, including a unanimous vote in both chambers to overturn his rejection of a bill that corrects a one-word clerical error potentially worth nearly $38 million for an energy-efficiency program.
The bill reinserts what has become known as the missing “and” in a law that funds an Efficiency Maine program. It was made necessary in 2013 when the Legislature passed a massive energy bill that authorized a surcharge on electricity ratepayers. The funds were used to finance a program that subsidized energy-efficient light bulbs and helped more than 3,000 businesses convert to energy-saving equipment last year.
But a single “and” was inadvertently left out of the bill’s language. The Maine Public Utilities Commission voted in March to interpret the language literally, meaning program funding would be capped at $22 million rather than the $59 million envisioned by the Legislature.
The bill’s fate was in doubt early in the legislative session when it was caught up in a power play between the Legislature and LePage, who opposes the surcharge on ratepayers. LePage slammed advocates of the bill in his veto message, saying that they used the proposal for political purposes instead of giving him the ability to appoint the director of Efficiency Maine.
Nonetheless, lawmakers in the House voted 144-0 and the Senate voted 35-0 to overturn the governor’s veto. The bill, L.D. 1215, will now become law.
The bill was one of at least six vetoed by LePage on Tuesday. The governor has vetoed more than 100 bills this session as he follows through on a promise to reject proposals by Democrats and Republicans. LePage originally promised to veto bills sponsored by Democrats, whom he blames for blocking a proposal that would eliminate the state income tax by 2020. He has since extended his veto directive to Republican-sponsored bills, saying last week that Republicans conspired with Democrats to pass the state’s next two-year $6.7 million budget.
The governor also has issued 79 line-item vetoes in the biennial budget and in the two-year highway and transportation budget. The Legislature has overridden all of the line-item vetoes.
The vetoes have come in a flurry as lawmakers rushed Tuesday to finish their work for the session. The total number of the vetoes that have been sustained and overridden was not entirely clear Tuesday evening. However, as of Friday, lawmakers had overturned 41 and sustained 22. There have been at least 50 additional vetoes since Friday and the total is expected to rise as bills enacted Monday and Tuesday reach the governor’s desk.
The governor has 10 days, not including Sundays, to veto, sign or allow bills to become law without his signature. The governor often has taken the full 10 days before vetoing legislation and he has vowed to do the same with the state’s two-year budget plan.
The vetoes also mean that lawmakers will have to return for at least two more session days. The first is expected to take place June 30, while the second is likely to occur after the Independence Day holiday.
Not all bills have been rejected by the governor. On Monday the LePage administration announced that seven bills had become law without the governor’s signature.
L.D. 335, a bill designed to curtail the flow of out-of-state “puppy mill” dogs to Maine, was defeated after the House sustained the governor’s veto. The bill would have made Maine the first state in the nation to prohibit pet stores from selling dogs and cats that were not born and raised by that shop. The legislation is a response to longstanding concerns about inhumane conditions in some large-scale breeding operations, so-called “puppy mills,” located outside the state. Opponents countered that the proposal would hurt pet stores.
Steve Mistler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at: