AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — The Maine Legislature is finally finishing its work and going home, but only for a few months.
Legislators spent the day Wednesday dealing with 27 vetoes from Gov. Paul LePage. According to his communications office, those are the last of 128 vetoes this session.
Lawmakers sustained some vetoes and overrode others. Among the high profile bills, they sustained the veto of a controversial new solar energy policy, and also sustained the veto of the bill to prohibit the use of hand held cell phones while driving.
Legislators overrode the governor's veto of a bill to ban the sale of tobacco to people under age 21, and also overrode the veto of a bill to require the state to restore more than 40 public health nursing positions in DHHS. Both those measures will now become law.
The vetoes wind up a contentious, seven-month session that lasted a month longer than it was supposed to. Legislators in both parties agree the session was dominated by the efforts to change four major referendum questions passed by voters last November. All those questions were ultimately changed or even repealed, a fact that taints the whole session for Senate Democratic leader Troy Jackson.
"I'm having a hard time seeing what was good this session," said Jackson. "I know there is but the fact we totally messed up all the referendums gives me such heartburn that it's hard to see the good right now."
The session gets a different review from GOP Senate President Mike Thibodeau, who helped lead efforts to repeal the 3 percent tax passed by voters, and also took the ranked choice voting law to the Supreme Court, which determined it was unconstitutional.
"We wanted to honor the spirit of what the voters passed as best we could without doing harm or damage to the economy," Senate President Thibodeau said. "And we’ve been able to do that."
He said the added $162 million in school funding will finally have the state pay 55 percent of K-12 school costs.
Those issues are now finished, and legislators are going home — but only for a few months. They will be back in the fall for a special session to vote on a package of new rules for legal marijuana, which are still being prepared by a special committee.
And in November, they will await the results of a statewide vote on another difficult referendum question, which would expand Medicaid to thousands of people who don't qualify now.