Wednesday May 22, 2013 | 08:18 PM

Legislative Republicans are establishing a trend: They'll sustain Gov. Paul LePage's vetoes, even if it means defeating measures they've previously supported, in some cases unanimously. 

The latest example happened Wednesday when Republicans in the House backed LePage's rejection of L.D. 387, a bill that would study how the Department of Health and Human Services and other MaineCare providers address the housing needs of developmentally disabled residents, who receive state subsidies through MaineCare. 

The Health and Human Services Committee passed the measure unanimously. So did 55 Republicans in the House, who changed their minds after LePage vetoed the measure last week. 

LePage, in his veto message, noted that the bill would cost the department $200,000. The Human Services Committee should be familiar with that estimate; Ricker Hamilton, of DHHS' Office of Disability and Aging Services, provided the same projection during his testimony.   

At some point in the committee process, lawmakers unanimously agreed that the department could perform the study with no additional costs.

LePage disagreed, noting in his veto message that "redrafting bills to reduce the workload and claim that it will be provided 'within available resources' does not change the fact that additional work requires additional resources."

He added, "We can no longer simply pile more initiatives up without recognizing they have costs."

Hamilton told the committee that the study would be useful, but not free. 

"The analysis described by this resolve would benefit the Department, its providers, and consumers. Having a detailed picture of our Section 21 consumers would enhance the Department's ongoing efforts to provide support to persons with intellectual disabilities or autism in a comprehensive, cost-effective manner," he wrote. "Some of the data needed to complete this analysis is currently available to the Department." 

He added, "Based on the best information available at this time, OADS estimates that this work required by this resolve would cost the Department approximately $200,000."

It's not clear if the department changed its mind during the subsequent work sessions or if the committee decided the study could be done with existing resources. However, once LePage made up his mind, Republicans in the House quickly changed theirs.

The move ticked off Democratic Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook.

“The flip-flop we just witnessed was disgraceful," Gattine said in a statement. "Republicans have stood in this chamber to complain about the way services are delivered to Mainers with disabilities. But their rhetoric didn’t match reality today when they turned their backs on a study designed to help that population."  

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Steve Mistler covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald. He spends a lot of time in the hallways of the State House.

Steve can be reached at 791-6345 or smistler@pressherald.com.
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