AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage vetoed nearly two dozen bills Monday, including one that was spurred by Maine’s failure to investigate the deaths of more than 130 developmentally disabled Medicaid patients.

The 23 vetoes delivered Monday to the Legislature will add to the record number of bills – well over 500 – that Gov. Paul LePage has tried to reject during his tenure, and likely won’t be his last because more legislation is awaiting his attention.

LePage is continuing his historic use of the veto pen as he attempts to block legislation dealing with everything from Medicaid expansion to needle exchange programs and the way moose hunting permits are allocated. The 23 vetoes delivered Monday to the Legislature will add to the record number of bills – well over 500 – that LePage has tried to reject during his tenure, and likely won’t be his last because more legislation is awaiting his attention.

The veto of funding for Medicaid expansion drew the most attention, but other bills will likely generate significant debate when lawmakers return next Monday to vote on whether to uphold or overturn the vetoes. For instance, LePage vetoed a budget measure that would increase reimbursement rates for “direct care” employees who work with Mainers with intellectual disabilities and the elderly – reimbursements that care providers say are needed to avoid layoffs and potential facility closures.

One of the vetoed bills, L.D. 1676, was a response to a federal audit last year that raised concerns about oversight of deaths and abuse involving developmentally challenged Medicaid patients in the care of community-based providers.

The Office of the Inspector General found that the Maine Department of Health and Human Services neglected to investigate 133 deaths and properly report critical incidents – including sexual assaults, suicidal acts and serious injuries – over a 2½-year period between 2013 and 2015. DHHS officials subsequently attributed the issues to “significant transition” within the department at the time and said improvements were subsequently made.

The audit prompted several legislative proposals, including L.D. 1676, which would require the state Attorney General’s Office to examine all cases of death or serious injury involving the developmentally disabled in the system and refer cases to the Maine Elder Death Analysis Review Team.

In his veto message, LePage said the death review team already examines deaths and serious injuries caused by suspected abuse or neglect, and that DHHS staffers meet quarterly with providers to review death and injury cases.

“DHHS welcomes oversight that will improve our system of care and prevent any possible death or serious injury, but this bill does not achieve that goal,” LePage wrote in his veto letter. “Instead, it invests significant resources into the Office of Attorney General, in a duplicative manner, and is ultimately not an efficient use of our limited resources.” The veto message did not mention the 2017 audit findings.

Bill sponsor Rep. Dale Denno, D-Cumberland, said the final version of the legislation adds three positions in the Attorney General’s Office because the death review team said it is not equipped to handle all of the cases.

“There needs to be some oversight and there needs to be a second look” at these cases, Denno said Monday evening. “This is too serious.”

His bill breezed through the Senate but did not have a veto-proof, two-thirds majority in the House during one vote.

LePage also vetoed a stripped-down version of a bill that, as originally introduced, would have allowed police to seek court orders to temporarily confiscate guns from individuals deemed to pose an imminent threat to themselves or others. The bill was altered considerably during the legislative process to prohibit individuals from possessing firearms or other dangerous weapons while they were undergoing court-ordered, outpatient treatment for mental illness or have been deemed to pose a risk of serious harm.

In his veto message, LePage appeared to echo concerns raised by advocates for gun owners’ rights on the original, more sweeping bill about someone being denied the Second Amendment rights without proper due process.

“Unlike the statute for involuntary commitment, which requires evidence of a person’s mental illness and dangerousness to be proved by clear and convincing evidence, this statute does not specify the same high evidentiary standard,” LePage wrote. “Once made, these factual determinations are not reviewable on appeal. Ultimately, the statement of a single doctor that the person is probably mentally ill and dangerous is all that is needed to deprive the individual of a constitutionally protected right.”

Maine Political Report



The 23 bills vetoed by LePage also included measures to:

• Provide $75,000 in state funds for needle-exchange programs to reduce the likelihood of disease transmission among drug users. LePage said such needle-exchange programs “send a message of passive consent for these dangerous and destructive activities.”

• Reopen and fund the Downeast Correctional Facility, which LePage ordered emptied in February.

• Prohibit the state from revoking the driver’s licenses of individuals who fail to pay fines for non-moving violations.

• Provide $75,000 in state funds to the Maine Bicentennial Commission. LePage said the the commission “deserves to be properly funded” and criticized the Legislature for not making it more of a priority.

• Create a Maine Coastal Risks and Hazards Commission to study issues tied to storm surge and climate change.

• Issue some moose hunting permits directly to hunting lodges rather than to individual, non-resident moose hunters.

Kevin Miller can be contacted at 791-6312 or at:

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