LePage: Gambling proposals must be approved by voters

Gov. Paul LePage threatened Tuesday to veto two gambling bills if they wind up on his desk, saying that voters, not lawmakers, should have the final say.

Both citizen-initiated bills have won initial approval. A bill to allow racinos in Biddeford and Washington County won a 94-49 vote of support in the House on Monday.

The other bill, to allow a casino with slots in Lewiston, won a 78-61 endorsement in the House. Both measures await further votes in the House and Senate.

Their defeat would send the bills to voters in November. Passage would let the gambling enterprises go forward without statewide votes.

LePage said in an interview Tuesday that supporters of the bills need to do what past gambling promoters have done: Get voters’ approval first.

“If you want a casino in Maine, you’ve got to do what Oxford did, you’ve got to do what the racino did. You go to the people and get permission,” LePage said, referring to Black Bear Entertainment’s successful initiative to build a casino in Oxford and the voter-approved racino proposal that brought Hollywood Slots to Bangor.

Other gambling proposals, including one in 2003 in Sanford and another in 2008 in Calais, were rejected by voters.

“Maine people voted for one casino and one racino, and that’s what they’re getting,” LePage said. “I think the Legislature, quite frankly, has got a lot more important things to do.”


In initial vote, House rejects bill cutting transgender rights

The House, in an initial vote late Tuesday night, opposed a bill that would eliminate the ability of transgender people to sue for discrimination if they are denied use of their preferred restroom. Lawmakers voted 81-61 against L.D. 1046.

In debate before the vote, Rep. Ken Fredette, R-Newport, the bill’s sponsor, said he is trying to provide more balance to the current law.

Fredette served on the Maine Human Rights Commission when it found unlawful discrimination in two cases concerning bathroom use. Both rulings led to lawsuits, though one case was resolved out of court.

“The process that has been working so far gives absolute rights to the transgenders and it gives no rights to the non-transgenders,” said Fredette. “I have worked hard to create a consensus around a very difficult issue.”

House Minority Leader Emily Cain, D-Orono, spoke against the measure.

“We do not need a consensus approach to human rights,” Cain said. “Passing this bill in any form would be a step backwards for Maine and would put an obstacle in front of many people across the state of Maine who are simply trying to go to work, go to school and participate like everyone else in our communities.”

Fredette said he’s sensitive to how his proposal would affect people but still thinks it is necessary.

The bill faces further votes in the Senate.


LePage signs ‘long overdue’ Gold Star license plate bill

Gov. Paul LePage has signed a bill authorizing Gold Star Family license plates, making Maine the final state to do so.

LePage said Tuesday that the measure honoring Maine military members who have made the ultimate sacrifice is “long overdue.”

Several family members of fallen military personnel joined the bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Bradley Moulton of York, and Secretary of State Charlie Summers as LePage signed the bill, saying the license plate “pays tribute to the families saluting our fallen heroes.”

In 2009, a similar bill failed because of the cost. John Mixon, a Vietnam veteran from Ogunquit, is funding the current effort through his organization, Run for the Fallen. Emily Knight, a Wells High School senior, designed the license plate. 3M is donating materials.


LePage vetoes bill banning foreign timber harvesters

Gov. Paul LePage issued his second veto Tuesday, sending back to lawmakers a bill that would prevent foreign workers from harvesting timber on state land.

In his veto message, LePage said L.D. 340 violates the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment, specifically the equal protection clause. A similar bill was vetoed by Gov. John Baldacci in 2003.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, characterized LePage as anti-business in a press release.

“It’s unfortunate that a governor who says he’s all about jobs is actually more interested in giving jobs to Canadians rather than to Maine workers,” said Jackson, who is a logger.

The bill would prohibit the state Department of Conservation from contracting with businesses that use foreign-bonded workers.

It passed the House without a roll call vote. After a close vote in the Senate, it passed 32-3 on a final vote.

The veto will be sent to the Senate first for consideration, and if it there’s a two-thirds vote to override, it will go to the House.

Last week, the House upheld LePage’s first veto – a bill dealing with health insurance contracts.