Maine's top court has ruled unanimously against Gov. Paul LePage in his dispute with the Legislature over whether he has more time to veto 65 bills already processed into law, delivering a significant blow to a governor already engulfed in withering criticism and scrutiny seven months into his second term. The court's advisory opinion ruled that the governor misread the Maine Constitution when he failed to veto 65 bills within the 10-day period prescribed by law. LePage's legal team argued that the Legislature prevented the governor from returning the vetoes because lawmakers had temporarily adjourned. However, the ruling by six of the seven justices on the Maine Supreme Judicial Court rejected that reasoning. The seventh justice recused himself and did not participate in the proceedings.
Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) is in a world of trouble, which may even lead to his impeachment, after the far-right governor was caught abusing his power to punish the Democratic state House Speaker. An official investigation and civil suit are already underway.
And then there's his other problem, which in policy terms, is just as serious. The Portland Press Herald reported this afternoon:
The entirety of the unanimous, 55-page ruling is online here (pdf).
It's hard to overstate what a disaster this is for Maine's Tea Party governor.
To recap our previous coverage, the procedural aspect of this gets a little complicated, but in practical terms, LePage thought he was giving a "pocket veto" to dozens of bills, by letting them expire without his signature.
But that only works when the state legislature is adjourned and no longer in session. When the governor tried this little gambit, Maine's legislative session was still ongoing.
And 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 dozens of pieces of legislation, some of which he strongly opposes, but he was apparently allowing them to become law -- by accident.
Lawmakers and the state attorney general said those laws had become, well, law, but the GOP governor balked. Now, the state Supreme Court has ruled against LePage, too.
The governor has suggested in recent weeks that he'll refuse to enforce the state laws he considers illegitimate, though that was before today's state court ruling. If LePage's posture doesn't change, it would seem state lawmakers would have additional grounds for his impeachment.