Under the Dome: Inside the Maine State House is a weekly update that provides a high-level overview of recent activity at the Maine State House. If you would like more specific information regarding an item in this newsletter or related to government relations, please contact a member of our Government Relations Practice Group: John Delahanty, Andrea C. Maker or Avery Day.
This Week's Highlights
Governor LePage Issues an Additional Veto
On June 10th, Governor LePage vetoed LD 1044, An Act to Amend the Laws Governing Prosecution of Individuals Possessing a Controlled Substance under Certain Circumstances. This bill would have created a defense from prosecution for those who seek medical attention for another experiencing a drug-related overdose when they themselves are in possession of illegal drugs. This veto was considered in the House on June 11th, where two-thirds of the House voted to override the Governor’s veto. This veto was then considered in the Senate the next day, where supporters of the bill were unable to muster the necessary two-thirds vote to override the Governor’s veto, killing this bill.
Congressman Michaud Explores a Run for Governor
On June 13th, Congressman Michaud announced that he was forming an exploratory committee to consider a run for Governor. Congressman Michaud explained that he will register with the Maine Ethics and Elections Commission within the next 10 days, a move that will allow him to begin fundraising for the election. Congressman Michaud is serving his 6th term in Congress. Before his federal service he served in both the Maine House and Senate, including serving as the President of the Maine Senate. This announcement likely paves the way for a three-way race for Governor, with Governor LePage running as a Republican, Congressman Michaud running as a Democrat and Eliot Cutler running as an unenrolled candidate.
Should this exploratory committee become a full candidacy for Governor, Congressman Michaud’s seat in the Second District would be an open seat next year. This open seat is sure to spark interest by a number of people. In fact, Senator Emily Cain, D-Penobscot, and former Majority Leader of the Maine House announced her candidacy for this seat. House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, R-Newport, issued a statement indicating that he will not be running for this seat. Several other Democrats and Republicans are expected to enter the race for this seat, in the event Congressman Michaud carries through with his Gubernatorial bid.
Biennial Budget Proceeds Through the Legislature
The biennial budget, LD 1509, was completed by the Appropriations Committee late last week and was reported out of Committee this week for consideration in the House and Senate. 17 separate amendments to the budget were prepared but all attempts to amend the budget on the floors of the House and Senate, save a technical amendment offered by the House Chair of the Appropriations Committee, were turned aside. The budget quickly proceeded through both chambers on June 13th, with both chambers voting to enact the bill. Under the State Constitution, the Governor has 10 days, excluding Sundays, to consider this bill. The Governor has indicated that he does not support the budget and he may issue a veto on this bill. While the budget received two-thirds support in both chambers (enough to override a gubernatorial veto), it is uncertain whether the votes will remain to override a veto.
Legislation to Repay Maine Hospitals Sent to Governor LePage
On June 13th, another highly visible bill was finally enacted in the Legislature. LD 1555, which proposes to pay the State’s debt to Maine hospitals, received final legislative approval. The next day, the Governor signed the bill into law. As emergency legislation, the law takes effect immediately, paving the way for the State to issue bonds secured by revenues generated by the liquor business to pay the State’s debt to Maine hospitals. The bill also includes the authority and procedure for the State to issue and award bids for the State's liquor business, as the current contract period expires June 30, 2014.
Medicaid Expansion Legislation Sent to Governor LePage
This week, after advancing the Medicaid expansion language as a standalone bill, the Legislature enacted legislation, LD 1066, to expand Maine’s Medicaid program. The Governor is expected to veto this bill, and if so, then it will be back to the House and Senate for a vote to sustain or override the veto. This bill would take advantage of federal funding to expand Medicaid coverage to more individuals in Maine. This proposal has been the topic of considerable debate in the Legislature, with the Governor and Republicans in the Legislature opposing the expansion and Democrats in the Legislature supporting the expansion. This measure passed both chambers but with less than two-thirds support in each chamber, so it is likely a veto will be sustained and LD 1066 will not become law.