Governor’s Veto Sustained, New Bill Enacted

Today, the legislature failed to override the Governor’s veto of LD 1378, legislation that would have taken politics out of voter-approved state bond issues. While the Senate voted 25-9 to override the veto, the House voted 91 to 52 to sustain the veto – defeating the bill.

LD 1378 Defeated

LD 1378 was introduced by Senator Katz (R-Kennebec County) to address the Governor’s decision to withhold, for a second time in three years, LMF bonds overwhelmingly ratified by voters in 2010 and 2012. The legislation proposed limits to the Governor’s authority for withholding bonds to five fiscally-prudent reasons, while preventing the Executive from withholding voter-approved bonds for political reasons. Earlier this month, the bill was approved in both legislative bodies, 26-9 in the Senate and 102-48 in the House.

In the Senate, the veto was overridden without debate. When the bill moved to the other chamber, the Governor’s staff and House Republican leaders mischaracterized what LD 1378 did and did not do. In the process, they raised questionable Constitutional arguments and suggested unsubstantiated unintended consequences should the bill become law. These tactics led to the successful defeat of the measure.

LD 1454 Enacted

In the wake of LD 1378’s defeat, LMF supporters turned to a second vehicle to address the administration’s unwillingness to make good on its commitments to the program and Maine voters. Representative Jeff McCabe (D-Skowhegan) offered an amendment on the House floor to LD 1454. Introduced by the Governor earlier that day, LD 1454 sought to extend the 2010 LMF bonds (which are set to expire in November of 2015) for eight months, rather than the more customary five year extension.

Representative McCabe’s amendment did a couple things. First, it deleted everything from the Governor’s original proposal. Second, it replaced the bill with a legislative resolve with a series of whereas clauses and the following four sections:

  1. Authorization of board. Resolved: That the Governor shall authorize the Land for Maine’s Future Board to conduct its business in accordance with its authority as outlined under the Maine Revised Statutes, Title 5, chapter 353 regarding Land for Maine’s Future bonds authorized by Maine voters in 2010 but not yet issued.
  2. Borrowing. Resolved: That the Governor shall work with the Treasurer of State to issue the bonds ratified by Maine voters in 2010 before that authorization expires.
  3. Final authorization of projects. Resolved: That the Land for Maine’s Future Board, following its current due diligence protocols, shall grant final authorization for borrowing for any pending project for which the board has given initial approval when that project has met all the requirements outlined in the 2013 Land for Maine’s Future Proposal Workbook and the recipients’ award letters.
  4. Approval by Governor. Resolved: That the Governor or the Governor’s assignees shall sign all necessary financial orders, project agreements and other paperwork requested by the Land for Maine’s Future Board necessary to implement the borrowing authorized by the board pursuant to section 3.

The amended bill was initially approved in the house by a 90-52 vote. Eventually, LD 1454 as amended was enacted in both bodies without debate.

Next Steps

LMF supporters anticipate the Governor will veto LD 1454. Since the legislature adjourned today, the Governor will need to wait until January 2016 to deliver his veto. At the same time, the LMF bonds approved by voters in November of 2010 will expire this November, if the Governor chooses not to borrow the funds over the next few months. Representative Matt Pouliot (R-Augusta) will be introducing a bill in January to extend the 2010 LMF bonds for an additional five years. This extension, if successful, will ensure the bonding authority continues until 2020.

We will continue to encourage the Governor to live up to the promises and commitments his administration has made to Maine people. While we are disappointed with the defeat of LD 1378, we greatly appreciate the bipartisan support for the bill’s override as well as the legislative support for LD 1454 that followed soon after.