Lawmakers will return to Augusta next week to consider overriding a handful of vetoes by Gov. Janet Mills and to try to advance bills that were passed by both chambers but still need funding approval.

An announcement on Wednesday morning from the presiding officers – Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, and House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross, D-Portland – said that lawmakers will return to the State House next Friday to “conduct business and consider the objections of Gov. Mills.” The Legislature would need the support of two-thirds of its members to override any vetoes.

Spokespeople for Jackson confirmed that lawmakers also plan to take up some of the dozens of bills that are awaiting funding on what’s known as the special appropriations table, where more than 240 bills are competing for about $11 million in remaining funds. Those bills have passed both chambers but still need funding before being sent to Mills to be signed or vetoed.

A spokesperson for Mills said the governor will not call for a special session and urged lawmakers to take up only her vetoes, rather than trying to pass additional bills.

“The governor continues to be seriously concerned that the Legislature is pushing the state budget to the breaking point,” spokesperson Ben Goodman said. “She strongly advises the Legislature to exercise fiscal restraint by only considering vetoes when they return on May 10. She will closely monitor their actions moving forward, including any attempt to pull potential budget gimmicks like raiding special revenue accounts or striking fiscal notes from bills.”

The plan to take up additional bills is at odds with a 1977 opinion by a previous attorney general, who argued that lawmakers were limited to overriding vetoes and could not pass any other bills without extending the session or calling a special session, which is unlikely to happen.


State law required lawmakers to finish business by April 17 this year, but an additional day is allowed so lawmakers can try to overturn or sustain on any gubernatorial vetoes issued after adjournment.

The question of whether lawmakers can take up additional business on what is known as “veto day” was raised at least once before.

In 1977, then-Attorney General Joseph Brennan opined that lawmakers would need to call a special session to take up business other than vetoes after the statutory adjournment date. A special session would require action by the governor or by a majority vote of each political party or a two-thirds vote of the entire Legislature.

So far, neither Mills nor Republican leaders, who are in the minority in both the House and Senate, have expressed support for a special session.

A spokesperson for Attorney General Aaron Frey said last week that he was advising lawmakers on the issue, but declined to provide additional information, saying “we can’t provide legal advice to the public.”

Jackson spokesperson Christine Kirby said lawmakers are able to conduct additional business because of past precedent and the adjournment order passed on April 17 states that the presiding officers would call back lawmakers “when there is a need to conduct business or consider objections of the governor.”


Kirby said the adjournment order Brennan reviewed in 1977 was narrower, stating only that lawmakers would return “for one legislative day for the purpose of considering possible objections by the governor.”

It’s unclear which bills might be considered for funding approval. Lawmakers serving on the budget-writing committee are likely to meet at some point next week to decide which bills should come off the table, Kirby said.

Bills awaiting funding include those that would guarantee insurance coverage of non-prescription birth control, provide additional resources for schools to teach African American studies, increase property tax relief for low-income seniors and bolster the tracking and storage of sexual assault kits, among others.


Mills will be unable to formally veto any legislation that comes out of the Legislature on the final day, and any bills that she decides not to sign will not go into effect after 10 days as they normally would. Unless the same Legislature returns for a special session, any unsigned bills will automatically die.

Senate Minority Leader Trey Stewart, R-Presque Isle, believes lawmakers can pass additional spending bills on veto day, but he pointed to additional hurdles to enact them. Any amendments to bills coming off the table would need to be approved with a two-thirds vote of the Legislature, he said.


Stewart said Senate Republicans would oppose any effort to extend the session. “We do not support a special session,” Stewart said.

Lawmakers are sure to take up a handful of vetoes issued by Mills this session, including her rejection of bills to ban bump stocks and other rapid-fire devices that make semi-automatic firearms shoot more like machine guns, a proposed minimum wage for agricultural workers, labor agreements for clean energy projects and higher income taxes for wealthier residents.

Mills has vetoed 49 bills since taking office, all of which have been sustained, including two bills this session that would have banned noncompete agreements between employers and employees and ended the state’s three strikes law for repeated retail thefts.

Mills has vetoed six other bills since lawmakers concluded their business in the early morning hours of April 18.

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