AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - Maine Attorney General Janet Mills said Friday that the roughly 20 measures that Republican Gov. Paul LePage has held for more than 10 days have become law, siding with Democrats in their fierce dispute with the governor over whether he still has the power to veto certain bills on his desk.
Typically, bills become law if the governor doesn’t take action on them in 10 days. But LePage has argued that because lawmakers adjourned last month, the Constitution grants him the authority to veto the bills and return them to the Legislature when it returns for at least three days.
Mills said in her opinion that that scenario applies only when lawmakers adjourn with no intention of returning. The Legislature has been planning to reconvene on Thursday to finish its business for the year and attempt to override any outstanding vetoes from the governor.
Among the measures that Mills says are now law is one vehemently opposed by LePage that would allow immigrants who are seeking asylum in Maine to qualify for municipal welfare benefits.
The debate over the vetoes is far from over. LePage clashes frequently with Mills, a Democrat, and likely will disregard her opinion and ask the Maine Supreme Court to weigh in on the issue. His office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday following the release of her opinion.
LePage’s administration urged the nonpartisan Revisor’s Office earlier Friday to stop writing into law the bills in dispute until the debate over whether he can still veto the measures is resolved.
“Having the Revisor’s Office completely ignore the governor’s position is not only overly partisan conduct on the part of the Revisor’s Office, it is also completely unnecessary as the governor intends to seek a legal solution to this matter,” his chief legal counsel, Cynthia Montgomery, said in a letter Friday to Grant Pennoyer, executive director of the Legislative Council.
But Pennoyer responded that the Revisor’s Office will continue to process the bills into law and “perform its administrative responsibilities in an absolutely nonpartisan manner” unless it receives a legal opinion from the attorney general or the state’s Supreme Court telling it to do otherwise.
An additional 51 bills will become law this weekend if LePage doesn’t act on them by the end of the day on Saturday, Democrats say. They say LePage is scrambling to come up with a way to kill bills he opposes because he missed the 10-day deadline.
“The governor has been twisting himself into knots trying to push an argument that doesn’t pass the straight-face test,” said Democratic House Leader Jeff McCabe. “The constitution is clear: These bills will be law if the governor fails to act.”
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