May 28, 2013

State House Notebook: Republicans change votes to sustain LePage vetoes

By Michael Shepherd mshepherd@mainetoday.com
State House Bureau

Republicans in the Maine House of Representatives have held to a trend so far this legislative session: They've sustained Gov. Paul LePage's vetoes, even if it has meant defeating measures they've previously supported, in some cases unanimously.

It happened again Wednesday, when House Republicans backed the governor's rejection of a bill that would study how the state addresses the housing needs of developmentally disabled residents.

A legislative committee endorsed it in a unanimous vote. It passed the Legislature without dissent. All 55 Republicans in the House voted for it, but they all flipped to sustain LePage's veto.

As a result, Democrats have attacked their political courage. In a statement, Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, said "The flip-flop we just witnessed was disgraceful."

In the past, legislative Republicans have stood up to LePage in veto overrides. Notably, at the end of the 2012 legislative session, the Republican-led Legislature overrode his veto of a teacher-training bill.

The same day lawmakers sustained the governor's vetoes of three other bills, including a research and development bond package. But in the House, 20 Republicans voted to override that proposal.

Mark Brewer, a political science professor at the University of Maine, said he wouldn't question Republicans' courage, but "what you can't question is who's in control of the Maine GOP." LePage is up for reelection next year.

"That serves the governor's interests really well, but you've got to question how it will impact these legislators," Brewer said. "They've got to come up for re-election in 2014, too."


A reporter working for an alternative news site was asked to leave the floor of the House during floor debate on the hospital repayment-Medicaid expansion bill Tuesday. Andi Parkinson of the New Maine Times, a Bath-based alternative news site, was asked to leave by House leadership after House Minority Leader Kenneth Fredette, R-Newport, complained of her presence, according to the news site, which said he cited her past writing for a liberal blog.

House Majority Leader Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, and House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, complied and asked Parkinson to go to the gallery, the site said. But after the vote, Berry and Eves apologized to the New Maine Times. Eves told the site that "clearly this was not our finest hour," assuring that it wouldn't happen again.

The press is part of an exclusive group -- composed mostly of members and staffers -- allowed on the House floor during debate. Jodi Quintero, a spokeswoman for Eves, said the speaker is the one who interprets the House rules.

From now on, she said Eves will allow representatives of most online-only news sites to be on the floor, regardless of their partisan bent.

"We want to err on the side of transparency," Quintero said.


A new candidate declared for the 2014 Maine governor's race earlier this month. His motto? "I'm running for governor, but not really."

The hopeful -- 57-year-old independent Lee Schultheis of Freeport -- is running a particularly tongue-in-cheek campaign for the Blaine House. Schultheis' campaign website says the "but not really" piece "is about realistically not expecting to win, but rather wanting to focus on improving the dialogue of our broken political process."

"His primary focus is not on winning the election," a campaign press release said. "In fact, he's really not looking for your vote next November at all."

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