- Associated Press - Thursday, July 16, 2015

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - The latest on the Maine Legislature’s last day of the 2015 session:

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6:10 p.m.

Maine lawmakers have completed a contentious legislative session dominated by debates over taxes and welfare.

The House and Senate adjourned Thursday after tackling the last of the items on their to-do list. Lawmakers aren’t expected to return to Augusta until January.

But while they finished their work, the fate of dozens of bills hangs in the balance. Lawmakers rejected Gov. Paul LePage’s attempt to veto 65 bills on Thursday because they say the governor missed his chance to take action on them.

LePage said he plans to take the issue to the Maine Supreme Court. He argues that he’s allowed to veto the bills because lawmakers adjourned last month. Attorney General Janet Mills has rejected his argument.

LePage failed to convince lawmakers to consider his vetoes, but scored a huge victory Thursday when the Democratic House sustained his veto of a bill that would have forced him to release $11 million in voter-approved bonds.

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5:00 p.m.

Maine lawmakers have approved an amended version of Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s last-minute bill regarding land conservation bonds.

The Democratic-controlled House voted 90-52 to amend the bill LePage introduced Wednesday. The version approved by the House Thursday directs the governor to sign and issue the voter-approved Land for Maine’s Future bonds before they expire.

The Senate has also backed the bill. It faces final votes.

LePage has refused to sign off on more than $11 million in bonds for the Land for Maine’s Future program in an attempt to get lawmakers to pass one of his bills. Roughly $6.5 million of those bonds will soon expire, putting several conservation projects in jeopardy.

The bill that LePage introduced Wednesday sought to extend the life of the bonds for one year. But lawmakers have questioned whether that’s constitutional.

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1:30 p.m.

Maine lawmakers have sustained Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s veto of a bill that sought to force him to release voter-approved bonds.

The House voted 91-52 on Thursday, falling several votes short of the two-thirds support needed to overturn LePage’s veto. The Republican-led Senate supported overriding the veto with a 29-5 vote earlier Thursday.

Republican Sen. Roger Katz introduced the bill after LePage refused to sign off on more than $11 million in bonds for land conservation projects. It would have required the governor to issue bonds when they’ve been approved by voters, except for in extraordinary circumstances.

About $6.5 million of those bonds will soon expire unless they’re sold, putting several land conservation projects in jeopardy.

Several lawmakers said that while they don’t support the governor’s decision to withhold the bonds, they don’t believe that this bill is the solution. They said taking away the governor’s ability to decide when to release bonds could hurt the state’s credit rating and put taxpayer dollars at risk.

Katz’s bill is not among the 65 vetoes that LePage delivered to lawmakers on Thursday. Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves of North Berwick says the Legislature won’t take up those bills because LePage missed the 10-day deadline to act on them.

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1:00 p.m.

Maine’s Democratic House Speaker says that Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s 65 vetoes are too late.

LePage delivered 65 veto messages to the Legislature on Thursday but lawmakers say they won’t consider them. Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves said that the bills have already become law, so the governor’s attempt to veto them is out of order.

The governor typically has 10 days to take action on bills or they become law without his signature. But LePage says the 10-day deadline doesn’t apply in this case because lawmakers adjourned last month. Attorney General Janet Mills has rejected his argument.

Shortly after LePage’s staff delivered the veto messages to the Legislature, the Secretary of the Senate returned them to the Revisor’s Office.

LePage told reporters Thursday that if lawmakers don’t consider his vetoes, he will take the issue to the Maine Supreme Court.

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11:45 a.m.

The Republican-controlled Maine Senate has voted to overturn Gov. Paul LePage’s veto of a bill designed to force the governor to release voter-approved bonds.

The Senate voted 25-9 to keep Republican Sen. Roger Katz’s bill alive on Thursday. It faces a final vote in the Democratic-controlled House.

LePage has withheld more than $11 million in land conservation bonds in an unsuccessful attempt to get lawmakers to pass one of his top priorities.

Roughly $6.5 million of those bonds will soon expire, but LePage introduced a bill on Wednesday to extend their life for one year. Lawmakers have not yet acted on that measure.

Katz’s bill seeks to prevent bonds from being used as political leverage and would require the governor to issue them when they’ve been approved by voters, except for in extraordinary circumstances.

Richard Rosen, commissioner of the Department of Administrative and Financial Services, sent a letter to lawmakers Thursday urging them to sustain the veto, calling the bill an “overreaction to a relatively minor, and resolvable, disagreement.”

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11:30 a.m.

Republican Gov. Paul LePage has sent 65 veto messages to Maine lawmakers, even though the state’s attorney general has said that he missed his chance to take action on those bills.

LePage officials delivered the veto messages to the Legislature on Thursday. Lawmakers have returned to Augusta for a one day-session to finish up their work and adjourn for the year.

Lawmakers and Attorney General Janet Mills say that LePage can no longer act on the bills because he held them for more than 10 days. The measures have already been chaptered into law.

LePage claims that he can still veto the bills because lawmakers adjourned last month.

Democrats have said that they won’t consider the vetoes if LePage attempts to return them to the Legislature.

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