AUGUSTA — State lawmakers approved $100 million in bonds for roads and housing projects, held over a bill seeking a southern Maine casino and muddled through dozens vetoes from Gov. Paul LePage on Tuesday as they worked to wrap up the legislative session.

Advocates for Maine’s medical marijuana program suffered several stinging defeats, meanwhile, when the Republican-controlled Senate failed to override LePage vetoes of several bills that had previously won bipartisan support.

The biggest, most anticipated votes of the day were the House and Senate votes to override LePage’s veto of the state’s $6.7 billion, two-year budget. But LePage’s decision to veto most other bills regardless of sponsor or subject matter – including some requested by his own administration – in order to force lawmakers to muster two-thirds support to override a veto kept lawmakers busy.

The House and Senate had overridden the vast majority of LePage’s vetoes by Tuesday night, many by unanimous or near-unanimous votes. Among the exceptions were several bills dealing with medical marijuana, underscoring the continued unease that some lawmakers – especially within Republican ranks – have toward Maine’s voter-approved program allowing medical use of the drug.

One of the higher-profile bills that fell to a LePage veto would have given hospitals legal protection for allowing patients to use smokeless forms of marijuana – such as edibles or tinctures – if they are certified to use the drug. Nearly two dozen people testified in support of the bill in April, including parents of young children who claim smokeless marijuana is the only medication that helps control their child’s severe seizures or other debilitating or life-threatening illnesses.

Sen. Eric Brakey, the Auburn Republican who sponsored L.D. 35, said right now some parents are forced to make the difficult or potentially life-and-death choice: either admit their child to a hospital that will not allow the administration of the only drug that has proven effective in their case, or keep the child out of the hospital.


“That was the hardest thing today, to have to call (parents) and say we didn’t succeed here,” said Brakey, who added he plans to continue pursuing the issue.

The Maine Senate also sustained – or failed to override – LePage vetoes of bills to allow medical marijuana testing facilities in the state and to prevent the Maine Department of Health and Human Services from retaining personally identifiable patient information on medical marijuana users.

The one bright spot for medical marijuana advocates on Tuesday involved a bill that would allow parents or primary caregivers of children who are certified to use medical marijuana to administer the drug – in smokeless form only – on school grounds. The Senate overrode LePage’s veto by a single vote after the House approved the bill by a wider margin.

Two bond proposals passed the House and Senate with strong bipartisan backing on Tuesday.

The first, L.D. 1415, would ask voters to authorize $85 millions in transportation bonds for road and bridge projects around the state. The second measure, L.D. 1205, would seek voter authorization for $15 million to help pay for affordable housing for senior citizens across the state.

“Maine’s strong credit rating and low interest rates make now the time to invest,” House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, said in a statement. “The bond proposals would help create construction jobs at time when the job growth in the industry ranks 48th in the country.”


Of course, recent events in Augusta have shown that legislative approval or even voter approval of state borrowing does not mean the bonds will be issued. LePage is currently withholding $11.5 million in bonds for the Land for Maine’s Future conservation program and has used the bonds as political leverage in order to pressure lawmakers to support other administration priorities.

On Tuesday, LePage vetoed a bill, L.D. 1378, that would have forced him to issue voter-approved bonds – including those currently pending for the Land for Maine’s Future program – except in specific circumstances.

The Legislature also finalized work on a controversial and high-profile bill that would allow Mainers to carry a concealed handgun without a permit. The bill, L.D. 652, had already passed both chambers but required additional review by the budget-writing committee because it carried a $200,000 price tag.

The bill now heads to LePage, who has been a strong supporter of the so-called “constitutional carry” bill. Yet LePage has vowed as recently as Monday to veto all bills that reach his desk. That has put supporters of eliminating Maine’s concealed carry permit requirement on edge because the measure only passed the Democratic-controlled House by a simple majority, not the two-thirds majority needed to overcome a gubernatorial veto.

Efforts to bring casino gambling to southern Maine faltered once again in the Legislature.

Lawmakers voted to send back to committee a bill to create a competitive bidding process for a “resort-style casino” – featuring a slot machine and table games parlor, a horse racetrack and a hotel – in either York County or Cumberland County, contingent on voter approval. A version of the bill, L.D. 1280, passed the House last week and supporters had hoped to flip one or two votes in the Senate. The decision to recommit the bill killed the issue for the year, although it could be brought up again when the Legislature convenes next year.

Lawmakers had already rejected a bill supported by Maine’s four American Indian tribes that would have authorized a casino on tribal land in either Washington County or Aroostook County.

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