Gov. LePage’s massive misunderstanding of the Maine Constitution, his accidental advancement of policies he deeply opposes and his refusal to back down even as he has become a national laughingstock (yet again) are all more than a little hilarious.

The most amazing thing to me, however, is the apparent reason for all of this rigmarole: LePage just wanted to cause some trouble.

In case you’ve been enjoying a beautiful Maine summer and haven’t been paying attention to political media for the past few days, let me catch you up:

First, LePage made a strange announcement this week that he would not sign or veto any of the bills currently on his desk.

After some mixed messages from his office and then a brief refusal to talk to the media, his staff finally proclaimed that the Legislature had adjourned, preventing the return of the bills; therefore, the governor had the right to sit on them and not issue any vetoes until it came back into session.

The Legislature had not made any such adjournment (and was scheduled to return to session July 16 to consider his vetoes) – and so the bills he neglected are now considered to have passed and are in the process of becoming law.

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Among the 19 bills for which he missed the deadline is a proposal to continue to reimburse communities for General Assistance funding for asylum seekers, a policy LePage vehemently (and irrationally) opposes, and one that likely would have gone down to defeat in the House if he had vetoed it in time.

Despite the abject ridiculousness of this maneuver (not even LePage’s Republican allies in the Legislature are backing his interpretation of the Maine Constitution), he has said he will do the same for another 51 outstanding bills, inadvertently allowing them to become law as well.

Here’s that most amazing part: Even if we throw away all precedent, ignore the language of the Maine Constitution and disregard the opinion of every independent legal expert who has weighed in on the question and instead fully embrace every word of LePage’s reasoning, he still would have gained absolutely no policy advantage from this maneuver.

If it were legal, the only thing that withholding these bills instead of vetoing them outright would have allowed him to do is waste a little more of the Legislature’s time – forcing them to return to Augusta for a few more days before considering (and likely overturning many of) his vetoes. That’s all. That’s the entirety of the goal of this ridiculous maneuver.

On Friday, three days after he failed to return the bills, Gov. LePage’s chief counsel finally released their legal reasoning for their decision, something they had been refusing to provide to even Republican leadership in the Legislature.

The memo they produced is fascinating, and at times reads more like a post on a tea party Web forum than a serious piece of legal writing.

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“In their zeal to play ‘gotcha’ with the Governor, the Democrats and their many friends in the media have failed to do their research,” claims LePage attorney Cynthia Montgomery at the beginning of her “legal analysis,” and it goes downhill from there.

The heart of her argument is a claim that “By adjourning on June 30, 2015 … the Legislature deprived the Governor of the opportunity to return (the bills in question) to their house(s) of origin within 10 days of their presentment.”

To refute that statement, we don’t have to go to a constitutional expert or the state attorney general or the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. All we have to do is consult with Gov. LePage from three years ago.

On May 17, 2012, the Republican-controlled Maine Legislature adjourned temporarily, using the exact same process that the Legislature used this year. On May 25, 2012, eight days later, LePage issued four vetoes and returned them to the Legislature. On May 31, 2012, the House and Senate returned and held override votes.

Obviously, nothing prevented Gov. LePage from returning the bills then – and nothing, except for his own hubris, prevented him from taking the same action this time around.

A court ruling will likely soon be issued refuting LePage’s constitutional interpretation, but I hope it doesn’t happen until after Saturday at midnight, when those additional 51 bills become law.

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They represent a number of positive provisions, including L.D. 319, which expands coverage of reproductive health care and family services for Maine women, an economic and humanitarian imperative. It passed the Senate unanimously but failed to attain a veto-proof majority in the House.

LePage’s incompetent overreach may yet do even more unintentional good.

Mike Tipping is a political junkie who works for the Maine People’s Alliance. He can be contacted at:

writebacktomike@gmail.com

Twitter: @miketipping

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