Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) was already having a rough summer, thanks to an abuse-of-power controversy that may lead to his possible impeachment.
But the Portland Press Herald reports that the Republican governor is now also stumbling on how-a-bill-becomes-a-law questions.
About 20 bills, some of which Gov. Paul LePage opposed, appear to be on track to become law because the governor never took action on them within the 10 days he had to do so.Among the bills are one that would allow immigrants seeking asylum in the United States to receive General Assistance welfare benefits for two years, and others that would prohibit the shackling of pregnant women prisoners and reduce criminal penalties for certain drug crimes.
The procedural aspect of this gets a little complicated. As best as I can tell from local news accounts, the governor thought he was giving a “pocket veto” to the 19 bills, letting them expire without his signature.
But that only works when the state legislature is adjourned and no longer in session. Maine’s legislative session is still ongoing – members will be in the Capitol next week to consider how and whether to override a series of other gubernatorial vetoes.
When the legislature is still in session, a bill becomes law automatically after 10 days if a governor doesn’t sign or veto it.
In other words, LePage, in his fifth year as governor, thought he was derailing 19 pieces of legislation, some of which he strongly opposes, but he was apparently allowing them to become law – by accident.
TPM’s report added, “The clerk of the Maine House told TPM Wednesday morning that the legislature, which is nearing the end of the first regular session, has not adjourned. By not vetoing the bills within the required 10-day period, LePage allowed the bills he opposed – some ferociously – to become law.”
The Bangor Daily News, meanwhile, reports that as far as the governor is concerned, the bills are not law because LePage considers the legislature adjourned.
And that sets up a very interesting situation. The far-right governor apparently intends to veto some or all of these 19 bills, sending them back to the legislature. But as far as legislators are concerned, these 19 bills are now already law, making LePage’s vetoes moot.
House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe (D) said last night, “The law is clear, the Constitution is clear: We’re still in session; we haven’t adjourned, so a pocket veto isn’t even an option. So in the meantime, we should celebrate these bills becoming law.”
This is going to get very messy, very soon.