(4 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)
The cocksure Tea Party governor of Maine, Paul Lepage, decided he would play games with what he thought were his veto powers under Maine’s constitution by using a pocket veto of 65 bills.
On Thursday, LePage delivered vetoes of 65 of those bills (the rest he returned unsigned) and urged the Legislature to consider his vetoes. Both House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, and Senate President Michael Thibodeau, R-Winterport, said they would not let the vetoes hit the floors of their respective chambers.
LePage argued that because lawmakers left Augusta on June 30, he had been prevented from returning the vetoes before the 10 days had expired. The Maine Constitution states that if a Legislature adjourns, the governor may hold bills until three days after they return.
The House and Senate passed a temporary adjournment order on June 30 to give LePage time to act on the bills. Top lawmakers and Attorney General Janet Mills, a Democrat elected by the Legislature, said that temporary recess was not adjournment, and thus did not give LePage more time to act.
Gov. LePage’s problem was that he was using his interpretation of the constitution, not what it really said. So off to the Maine Supreme Court he went. Briefs from both sides were submitted and oral arguments were heard last Friday
Today that court disagreed with the governor and those 65 bills are now law:
Gov. Paul LePage erred in his end-of-session veto gambit, and in so doing lost the ability to veto 65 bills that he opposed.
In an advisory opinion released by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court on Thursday (pdf), the justices said that the bills in question became law without the governor’s signature, and that the Legislature should not be required to consider his attempted vetoes. [..]
In making its decision, the court relied in part on decades of precedent in which Maine governors had returned vetoes to the Legislature while it was in recess.
“History demonstrates that Maine governors, for nearly forty years, have routinely returned bills with their vetoes during temporary absences of the Legislature that came at the end of the session – after an “adjournment” but before the Legislature adjourned sine die,” the court wrote.
“These examples demonstrate that temporary adjournments of the Legislature near the end of a legislative session-whether until a date certain or until the call of the leadership, and whether beyond a ten-day period-have not prevented governors from returning bills with their objections to their Houses of origin within the constitutionally-required ten-day timeframe.”
LePage on Thursday thanked the court for its ruling.
Indeed, too clever by half.