PORTLAND — Weighing in on whether the governor goofed, eight parties filed legal briefs with the state supreme court on Friday in preparation for a potential showdown over whether 65 bills became law without the signature of Gov. Paul LePage.

The leadership of the Maine House and Senate contend the bills, including some that LePage vehemently opposed, became law because of his failure to act within 10 days of receiving the bills. LePage argued that the 10-day deadline didn’t apply because lawmakers had adjourned, but lawmakers contend they’d planned all along to return.

The Republican governor asked the Maine Supreme Judicial Court to weigh in, saying the potential constitutional crisis represents a “solemn occasion” that merits judicial intervention.

“The governor’s need for answers to his questions is immediate as he has a clear and present obligation to faithfully execute only those laws that are valid,” his legal team wrote.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, House Republicans and several citizens joined legislative leaders, the attorney general and governor in weighing in with legal briefs. Chief Justice Leigh Saufley and five other justices will hear arguments on July 31.

The governor contends he took no action on the bills because he thought lawmakers had adjourned on June 30. In his legal brief, he said he couldn’t return the bills to lawmakers until they reconvened.

But lawmakers returned to session on July 16 and legislative leaders said his inaction allowed the 65 bills to become law because he’d missed the deadline for vetoing them.

Much of the legal argument focused on whether lawmakers had adjourned “sine die,” which means adjourning with no appointed date to resume, under the Maine Constitution.

House Republican leader Kenneth Fredette, who supports LePage’s position, used private funds to hire an attorney to represent his caucus. The legal brief filed on his behalf said legislative enactment “is not a game of chicken or gamesmanship.”

Attorney General Janet Mills said historical precedent demonstrates that a temporary adjournment shouldn’t prevent the governor from taking action and returning the bills to the Legislature.

But Peter Steele, the governor’s chief of communications, said Friday that just because the Legislature has always done things a certain way “doesn’t make it right.”

“The Maine people deserve to know that the proper constitutional process is being followed in Augusta, and we are confident that the Supreme Judicial Court will make the right decision. As the governor has said, this is not about winning and losing. It’s about getting it right,” he said.



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