- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 30, 2014

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - Dozens of bills spiked by Gov. Paul LePage will get another shot this week when lawmakers return to Augusta on the heels of a session filled with partisan wrangling that will continue into the November elections.

On Thursday, the Democratic-controlled Legislature will consider at least 48 bills recently vetoed by the Republican governor, ranging from one that would close a $32 million hole in the state budget to a measure that would force his administration to rewrite contentious regulations for metallic mineral mining.

Bipartisan support is necessary for the bills to survive, so many of the politically-charged proposals are destined to die. But Democratic leaders, who claim LePage is wielding his veto pen as a campaign tool, say they’re confident they can preserve some bills that initially sailed through the Legislature with the backing of both parties.

“Republicans will have one day where they’re going to have to make the decision: Do they follow the governor and his campaign and his strategy to get re-elected … or do they stick by their votes, stick by their committee work and stick with their constituents?” said Democratic Senate President Justin Alfond of Portland.

Bills need two-thirds support of present-and-voting lawmakers in each chamber to survive a veto.

Among the measures that initially received veto-proof support in the House and Senate is one that would fix the $6.3 billion state budget and move hundreds of developmentally disabled residents off a waiting list for Medicaid services. Only eight lawmakers voted against the measure.

One measure likely to go into law would encourage the creation of food hubs, where small farmers can aggregate their products for distribution. Another would expand private insurance coverage for treatment for autism spectrum disorders to more children.

LePage opposed that bill because it would raise health insurance premiums, including plans on the federal exchange under the Affordable Care Act.

“It is perplexing that any legislator would promote individuals seeking inexpensive coverage through the exchanges while simultaneously voting for a bill like this, which makes that coverage less affordable,” he said in his veto letter.

If history is any indication, a vast majority of LePage’s vetoes will be upheld on Thursday.

LePage has vetoed 74 bills this session and a total of 181 since taking office in 2011, more than any other governor in recent history. The Legislature has overturned the governor’s veto only 13 times since Democrats took over in 2012.

Democrats say LePage is an obstructionist who fills his veto letters with campaign rhetoric. But the Republican governor’s administration contends that many of the bills sent to his desk are politically motivated.

“Many of these bills could result in unintended and negative consequences or are fiscally irresponsible,” his spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett said in an email.

Republicans have touted their ability to sustain several attempts by Democrats to expand Medicaid under the federal health care law. They’ll likely get another chance on Thursday when the Legislature considers two more Medicaid expansion proposals LePage vetoed this week.

Other bills that face a long shot include one that would cancel the administration’s contract with the Alexander Group, which is reviewing Maine’s Medicaid program.

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