Maine Governor Loses Court Battle on Vetoes

     AUGUSTA, Maine (CN) – The 65 vetoes signed by Maine Gov. Paul LePage as part of a mission to eliminate income taxes came too late, the state’s highest court ruled.
     LePage, a Republican, had signed the vetoes last month after vowing at a May 29 press conference to veto every bill filed by a Democrat until the Legislature took up his tax plan.
     The Legislature in turn overturned a record number of the governor’s vetoes, forcing the governor to seek help from the judicial branch.
     The first matter before the court was whether the Legislature had properly extended its session on June 18.
     The 127th legislative session was scheduled to end on June 17. On that date the legislature introduced its intention to extend the session, but the vote formalizing the extension did not take place until June 18.
     LePage claimed that, because the vote to extend the session took place after the original June 17 session end, that the following day’s vote was illegitimate, which would mean that LePage could legally wait to deliver his vetoes until the next time that the Legislature met for at least four consecutive days.
     The court opined last week that the session extension was valid, because the process was begun on June 17 and, constitutionally, the legislature has the right to set its own schedule.
     “There was no procedural objection by any member of the Legislature to the extension of the session at the June 18th vote, nor does any legislator now challenge the validity of the extension,” Chief Justice Leigh Saufley wrote for the court.
     After the June 18 extension, the Legislature worked until June 30 when a temporary adjournment was called until July 16.
     LePage said the temporary adjournment suspended his 10-day time limit to deliver vetoes until legislators returned to work.
     “This triggered the constitutional provision that I could hold the bills until the Legislature reconvened for three consecutive days,” the governor said in a letter to the court. “The Legislature reconvened on July 16, providing the earliest opportunity to return the bills since the Legislature’s adjournment. I promptly returned all 65 vetoes to their respective houses of origin on that date.”
     Saufley and her colleagues decided Thursday, however, that only a final adjournment or an adjournment sine die halts the 10-day time limit which did not occur on June 30.
     Therefore the vetoes that LePage submitted are invalid and each of those bills will become law 90 days after their legislative approval, if not sooner in the case of emergency legislation.
     “This was not about winning or losing; it was about doing things right,” LePage said in a statement on the ruling. “We are fortunate to be able to seek legal opinions from the Judicial Branch, and we’re thankful the Justices came to a fast and fair resolution to this issue. We look forward to moving on and continuing to work for the Maine people.”

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