State lawmakers didn’t finish their homework before being dismissed when the legislative session ended last week.

The sudden late-night stalemate over adjournment left dozens of bills in limbo, including one that would have appropriated more than $1 billion in funds for public schools. Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, has pledged that the Legislature will finish its work, although it remained unclear Tuesday how or when that would happen.

By law, the Legislature was supposed to adjourn Wednesday, but with unfinished business the Republican-controlled Senate and Democratic-majority House sought to extend the session by five days. However, the 70-member House Republican caucus, led by Minority Leader Ken Fredette of Newport, derailed that effort.

Fredette has blamed Democratic leaders for the impasse, particularly their effort to add Medicaid expansion to the spending bill.

“The Dems had lumped in Medicaid expansion and we did not support that. We were asking for a division of those spending bills,” Fredette said Tuesday. “The reality is, there was never a spending bill reported out of appropriations.”

SCHOOLS WARNED OF DISRUPTIONS

The Maine School Management Association, which represents superintendents, sent out a notice Tuesday urging members to contact lawmakers and ask them to find a way to vote out that bill.

At stake is more than $1 billion in general-purpose aid for public schools for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The money represents about half of the funding for school districts across the state, most of which are in the process of drafting next year’s budget.

“Explain to your legislators school budgets are being passed now based on the funding promised in the biennial budget and uncertainty will be disruptive,” Maine School Management said in its notice. “It also would put an inordinate burden on local property taxpayers if state funding were altered now.

“While state funding was set last year in the biennial budget, the cost of education, the required local mill rate, and the state and local share are approved every year in some type of budget bill,” the notice said.

A statement from the Department of Education indicated the department would have to wait for the Legislature to act.

“The department will continue to explore options; however, appropriations are the responsibility of the Legislature and legislative leadership must ensure schools receive appropriate funding,” spokeswoman Rachel Paling said in the statement.

TAKING UP DELAYED BILLS IN MAY

Addressing the situation will require calling back the Legislature to deal with unfinished measures such as the education bill, as well as those dealing with federal tax conformity, funding for Medicaid expansion administrative costs and a “red flag” bill allowing police to temporarily seize guns from people deemed a threat to the community. Bills providing funding for opioid treatment, direct care workers and nursing homes also are in limbo.

“I think the point is, all of those bills, including education (funding), could be done right now if (Democrats) hadn’t opted to tie a bunch of garbage to them that we didn’t agree to,” said Rob Poindexter, communications director for Maine House Republicans. “By not voting to extend the session, that’s not a vote to walk away and kill all this.”

Democrats pushed back on the Republican criticism during the stalemate last week, accusing Republicans of being unwilling to compromise and attempting to use the Friday night deadline to extract their policy goals.

The Legislature can reconvene to vote on unfinished bills if the governor calls lawmakers back into session, or if leadership calls them back. Otherwise, they are expected to return no earlier than May 1 to take up bills vetoed by Republican Gov. Paul LePage.

“I assume when we go back in May, we will take up that (education) bill,” said Rep. Victoria Kornfield, D-Bangor, the co-chair of the Legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee.

Staff Writer Eric Russell contributed to this report.

Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or at:

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Twitter: noelinmaine

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