Maine Legislative Round Up and Preview for Tomorrow: Vetoes, The Budget, Energy Omnibus Bill and More
With so many bills being taken up in the waning days of the first half of the 126th Legislative session, it is impossible to write each bill up properly- things happen fast and furious in Augusta and quite often, one feels like a ping pong ball bouncing back and forth between the Chambers and wishes for roller skates to cover as much activity, debates, press conferences and news stories as possible!
This is as appropriate a time as any to thank the dedicated staffs in both chambers, the clerks, aides and more for both parties- these people do a tremendous job behind the scenes to ensure that the complicated processes at play in making laws are done in as orderly a fashion as possible, right down to the IT folks running the wireless networking within the building and dealing with the occasional non-working lights on the boards.
So with this in mind, let’s quickly try to cover what we can before the 126th comes back in tomorrow!
First off, we have this handy list from the Governor’s office of bills either signed, allowed to pass without his signature or vetoed- with those vetoes come specific messages to the Legislature. Governor LePage has now issued at least a dozen vetoes this past week alone and as such, the bills each now face more votes in both the House and Senate for override of the veto or to sustain the Governor’s veto.
Yesterday as earlier reported, the Governor as expected vetoed LD 1509, “An Act Making Unified Appropriations and Allocations for the Expenditures of State Government, General Fund and Other Funds and Changing Certain Provisions of the Law Necessary to the Proper Operations of State Government for the Fiscal Years Ending June 30, 2014 and June 30, 2015”. This vote will certainly be “the one to watch” tomorrow, as both chambers sent the bill to the Governor with super majority tallies and failure to pass the bill will result in a statewide government shutdown starting on July 1.
Here is the Governor’s letter.
Another bill that was vetoed at 11:55pm on the last mandatory Legislative session day by statute (June 19) and worth watching for tomorrow is the energy omnibus bill, LD 1559, “An Act To Reduce Energy Costs, Increase Energy Efficiency, Promote Electric System Reliability and Protect the Environment”.
Governor LePage issued the following statement:
“Maine’s energy costs are too high – and it’s killing economic opportunity. Maine families pay more than 24 percent above the national average for electricity. Our businesses pay 14 percent more. Alternatives can help us move to lower the $3,000 or more that Mainers spend on average annually to heat their homes.”
LePage’s energy director Patrick Woodcock added:
“We should be focusing on what could unite the State of Maine and allow our University to compete for an offshore wind project. The current version of this bill chooses the Norwegian oil company Statoil over our University. While it is the PUC’s decision to specifically award contracts, the Governor supports evaluating whether we can utilize the subsidy that will maximize the economic benefits to the State of Maine. The University of Maine should be given that option and if they are chosen by the PUC as being the best option for our economy, the Governor supports this research and development.”
But moments after the veto was signed, the House reconvened and voted 121-11 to override the veto. It next goes before the Senate, who had adjourned for the evening when the bill passed the House and as such, were unable to immediately take it up themselves. Democratic leaders issued statements, which are posted below.
Senate President Justin Alfond:
“This is yet another example of one man standing in the way of progress for the entire state. This in a historic bill with critically important elements that would have helped Maine families and kept Maine’s industrial and commercial facilities competitive. This is a bill that has garnered broad support from people on both sides of the aisle and instead of supporting what’s best for our state, the Governor has yet again resorted to getting in the way of progress for Maine. With this bill, Maine could have seen huge reductions in our energy costs, saved an additional $365 million, and jump-started thousands of Mainers on the path of making cost effective home energy improvements. Unfortunately the people of Maine have suffered the consequences of the Governor’s games.”
Senate Majority Leader Seth Goodall:
“The Governor has made it clear that he is trying to undo a signed agreement between Statoil and the PUC, a contract that would bring millions of dollars and hundreds of jobs to Maine. This isn’t just politics at its worst, it’s business at its worst. The Governor has jeopardized crucial energy policy for Maine and is attempting to close the door on a multi-million dollar investment by an international company.”
It should be noted that the Senate originally passed LD 1559 by a 28-7 vote. Here is the Governor’s veto letter for LD 1559.
Also before the Legislature are the stack of bills (PDF warning) on the special Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee table; ie, the bills deemed to have expenses added to them that before enactment, need to be figured out as far as potential costs and financial impacts. As there are 32 pages’ worth and well over 100 bills, there is no way yet of knowing how many will be dealt with tomorrow or which ones will be set aside for the second half of the session.
So, now we wait!