- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 8, 2015

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - Republican Gov. Paul LePage sparred with Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday over whether the governor still has the power to veto several bills on his desk or if he inadvertently allowed measures he fiercely opposes to become law.

Usually, a bill becomes law if the governor neither signs nor vetoes it within 10 days. But LePage says that because lawmakers adjourned last month, the state’s Constitution allows him to submit his vetoes when the Legislature meets again for three days.

Democrats say that’s not the case. While they technically adjourned on June 30, it was only a temporary recess and wasn’t an adjournment “sine die,” which means they’ve finished their work and don’t plan to return for the session. The Legislature is scheduled to reconvene next week to consider vetoes from LePage.

Democratic House Leader Jeff McCabe accused LePage of playing “political games.”

“The governor can’t change the rules. He’s not above the law,” McCabe said.

Among the roughly 20 measures in limbo is one that would allow people seeking asylum in Maine to receive municipal welfare benefits. Inadvertently allowing that bill to become law would be a huge blow to the governor, who successfully fought in court to ensure that the state doesn’t have to reimburse cities and towns for benefits provided to that group.

Adrienne Bennett, a spokeswoman for LePage, said Wednesday that the governor has reviewed the issue with his legal counsel and is acting within his authority. LePage told WMTW-TV on Wednesday that the Constitution is very clear.

“Even I can understand it and I’m French,” he said.

Paul Mills, a Maine political historian and the brother of Attorney General Janet Mills, said that he wouldn’t be surprised if the Maine Supreme Court is asked to weigh in on the issue, as it has in the past on similar procedural debates in the Legislature.

One opinion of the justices in 1981 may play into LePage’s favor. In that opinion, the justices argued that the Constitution requires that “the same Legislature must continuously be in session for three days before the period in which the governor may act on the pending bill expires.”


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