AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage on Friday signed into law a bill allowing bars to open three hours earlier this St. Patrick’s Day.

The action lifts the state’s ban on sales of alcohol between 6 and 9 a.m. on Sundays when St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Sunday, as it does this year.

The St. Patrick’s Day bill, L.D. 216, won unanimous approval in committee and preliminary votes in the House and Senate before it became ensnared in a political standoff over LePages’s plan to repay Maine’s hospitals $484 million in overdue Medicaid reimbursements.

Bar owners and the Maine Restaurant Association fought for its passage. Dick Grotton, CEO of the restaurant association, expressed frustration last week that the measure had become so political.

Passage of the bill was uncertain as recently as Tuesday, after it failed to get enough Republican support to pass as an emergency measure and Democratic House leaders tabled it.

On Thursday, the bill finally passed in the House of Representatives, by a vote of 105-32. The Senate passed the bill 29-6.

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