PPH reports “In the latest twist of a historically bizarre legislative session, the LePage administration insisted Wednesday that lawmakers’ use of the word “adjourn” last week rather than “recess” gave the governor additional time to hold the 19 bills. Yet the nonpartisan state office responsible for publishing Maine statutes began writing the 19 bills into law on Wednesday despite the governor’s claims.
LePage’s maneuver, which is further fraying already tattered relations with some legislative leaders, appears to hinge on the question of whether the Legislature “adjourned” last week or “recessed.”
Under Maine’s Constitution, the governor has 10 days – excluding Sundays – to either sign or veto a bill passed by the Legislature. If he fails to act by the end of that 10-day period, the bill becomes law without the governor’s signature.
And here’s where the issue gets tricky.
The Constitution states that if the Legislature adjourns and then reconvenes, the governor has three days to send down a veto after lawmakers reconvene. Legislative leaders insist that they did not adjourn on June 30 but “recessed” until July 16 in order to take up a slew of vetoes expected to come from the governor.
But LePage’s office is pointing to an order passed by the Legislature on June 30 that states the Legislature will “Adjourn until the call of the Speaker and President.”
“As allowed by the Maine Constitution, the Governor will submit the vetoes when the Legislature meets again for three days,” LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett said in an email to reporters.
In other words, LePage could wait until the Legislature has met for three days – officially, at least – before he sends the vetoed bills to the House and Senate chambers for reconsideration.
Paul Mills, a Maine political historian and the brother of Democratic Attorney General Janet Mills, told The Associated Press that he wouldn’t be surprised if the Maine Supreme Court is asked to weigh in on the issue, as it has in the past on similar procedural debates in the Legislature.
One opinion of the justices in 1981 may play into LePage’s favor. In that opinion, the justices argued that the Constitution requires that “the same Legislature must continuously be in session for three days before the period in which the governor may act on the pending bill expires.”
“It’s really kind of unexplainable,” said Lance Dutson, a longtime Republican strategist consultant who has been a vocal critics of LePage’s actions lately. “I can’t imagine that this is anything but a major screw up on the part of the administration. And their explanation today is absurd.”
Read more HERE.
BDN reports “LePage ups stakes in legal fight over adjournment. The next time the Legislature is in session for three days, he’ll deliver the bills he wants to veto,” LePage Communications Director Peter Steele said. Meanwhile, House Speaker Mark Eves, a Democrat from North Berwick, as well as Republican and Democratic senators, have asked Attorney General Janet Mills to weigh in on the issue. Read more HERE.
BDN Editorial – “Maine could end up in court to cover for LePage’s incompetence.
At this moment, LePage and his staff could choose to act with integrity. They could admit they erred and concede that the Constitution — as it has been applied throughout the state’s history — and rule of law do, in fact, apply.
Instead, they have raised an artificial legal question concerning what it means for the Legislature to adjourn — arguing for a definition no one with deep knowledge of Maine government (who isn’t working for LePage) accepts.” Read more HERE.
BDN reports “Attorney general rejects LePage’s argument for holding bills. Gov. Paul LePage’s contention that the Legislature is adjourned and that he has the right to hold 70 enacted bills until lawmakers reconvene was rebuffed on two fronts late Friday afternoon, including an opinion from Democratic Attorney General Janet Mills.
LePage argues that the Legislature adjourned on June 30, meaning that he does not have to submit bills for lawmakers’ consideration until three days after they have returned. Legislative leaders say they did not adjourn, they are in recess — meaning LePage missed the 10-day window to act on bills, which now would become law without his signature.
LePage also was rebuffed Friday afternoon by Grant Pennoyer, executive director of the Legislative Council, which oversees a range of legislative functions, including the Revisor of Statutes.
LePage, through his chief legal counsel, Cynthia Montgomery, asked Pennoyer on Friday that the revisor’s office stop chaptering 19 bills he is holding into law. The revisor’s office started moving the bills into law this week after LePage’s 10-day window to sign, veto or let bills go into law without his signature elapsed.
“The governor’s opponents wish to rush through the procedural hurdles associated with implementation of the laws and declare them valid,” wrote Montgomery. “Having the revisor’s office completely ignore the governor’s position is not only overtly partisan conduct on the part of the revisor’s office, it is also unnecessary as the governor intends to seek a legal solution to this matter.
The issue is whether the Legislature adjourned for the session on June 30. LePage argues that it did, despite the Legislature’s vote to adjourn “until the call of the chairs.” If the Legislature is technically adjourned, LePage has until three days after legislators reconvene to issue vetoes on some or all of the 70 bills that remain on his desk.
With Mills’ opinion buttressing legislative Democrats’ stance, LePage’s only remaining recourse seems to be the Law Court.” Read more HERE.
Governor Paul LePage legal memo, click here.
A.G. Janet Mills’ Opinion, click here.
Legislative Council’s letter to Cynthia Montgomery, LePage’s Chief Legal Counsel, click here.
Letter from the Maine Office of the Revisor’s of Statutes, click here.
SP 556 “ADJOURN UNTIL THE CALL OF THE SPKR AND PRES”, click here.
To note: When you click “Bill Text” this comes up:
Cannot find requested paper, no information available at this time for Session 127, paper SP0556, LD 0. Also, there is NO Roll Call.
SP 556 – Bill Text, click here.
Related: Do Maine Legislators Understand The Constitution? Click here.