- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 23, 2015

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - The latest on the closing stages of lawmakers’ six-month legislative session:

10:00 p.m.

Lawmakers have sent a bill to Republican Gov. Paul LePage that would allow the roughly 1,000 people seeking asylum in Maine to continue receiving general assistance benefits.

The House and Senate gave final approval to the bill without taking a roll call vote on Tuesday evening.

LePage has sought to eliminate general assistance benefits for certain immigrants, including asylum seekers and stopped reimbursing cities for the cost of providing aid to that group last year.

The bill would ensure that asylum seekers are eligible for assistance for up to 24 months.

It needs two-thirds support in each chamber to overturn an all-but-certain veto from LePage. The vote in the House earlier this week falls about 20 votes shy of that.

___

9:30 p.m.

Maine lawmakers have unanimously overturned Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s veto of a bill that would fix a typo in a 2013 energy law to prevent a cut in funding for efficiency programs.

The House voted 144-0 in favor of overriding LePage’s veto of Democratic Rep. Sara Gideon’s bill on Tuesday. The Senate followed with a 35-0 vote. It will now go into law.

An error in the complex funding formula for Efficiency Maine Trust caused utility regulators to set one source of funding for efficiency programs at $22 million. Lawmakers had intended the funding to be set at about $60 million.

The House voted 80-64 in support of rejecting the governor’s veto of a bill that would have cracked down on the sale of cats and dogs born in out-of-state breeding operations. The support fell short of the two-thirds necessary to overturn a veto, so the bill is now dead.

___

7:20 p.m.

Gov. Paul LePage has vetoed a bill that would prevent energy efficiency programs from losing roughly $38 million.

Democratic Rep. Sara Gideon’s bill was among seven bills the Republican governor vetoed on Tuesday.

The bill seeks to fix an error in a 2013 law that caused the Public Utilities Commission to set one source of funding for Efficiency Maine Trust at $22 million. Lawmakers had intended the funding to be set at about $60 million.

LePage vetoed the bill because lawmakers stymied his effort to give his office more power over Efficiency Maine Trust. LePage said that leaves Efficiency Maine with “no accountability to the people who fund it.”

Among the other bills vetoed by LePage was one that would have cracked down on the sale of dogs and cats born in out-of-state breeding operations.

___

4:45 p.m.

The Maine Senate has rejected the latest effort to expand Medicaid coverage to roughly 70,000 more Mainers.

The Republican-controlled voted 18-17 against the bill on Tuesday. The bill will now likely die.

Republican Gov. Paul LePage has consistently vetoed Medicaid expansion proposals that lawmakers have sent to his desk. He and Republican lawmakers say it would be too costly and that Maine needs to ensure that most needs of the elderly and disabled are first.

Democrats say that Maine is leaving more than $1 billion in federal funds on the table by rejecting the expansion. They say that providing more residents with coverage will ensure they get the preventative care they need to prevent more costly medical procedures down the line.

___

4:15 p.m.

A bill that could open the door to a casino in southern Maine has been defeated by the Republican-controlled Senate.

The Senate voted 20-15 against the bill on Tuesday. The Democratic-controlled House has given initial approval to the measure. The disagreement between the two chambers means the bill will likely die.

Under the bill, the state would establish a competitive bid process and seek proposals for a resort-style casino in York or Cumberland County. It would have to be approved by voters in that county.

The version approved by the House would set the license fee at $25 million. The bidder would have to make a $250 million minimum capital investment.

Opponents said that voters’ repeated rejection of casino proposals shows they aren’t interested in expanding gambling. Maine already has two casinos in Bangor and Oxford.

___

3:15 p.m.

A bill has died that sought to overhaul a Maine business tax credit program that came under scrutiny after a newspaper report.

The Republican-controlled Senate voted 19-15 to defeat the bill on Tuesday.

The bill initially sought to expand the New Markets Capital Investment Program, which aims to encourage business investment in poor communities. But the proposal was changed after a Portland Press Herald report showed that out-of-state investors were collecting millions of taxpayer dollars and providing little in-state benefits.

The version of the bill approved by the Democratic-controlled House late Monday would eliminate the one-day loan scheme used by the investors and require the state’s Government Oversight Committee to review the program. Democrats also sought to amend the bill to ensure that taxpayer dollars could be recouped when the program had been abused.

The bill is now dead.

____

2:30 p.m.

Maine’s House of Representatives has supported a bill to expand Medicaid coverage to more residents, but the bill faces long odds.

The Democratic-led voted 81-64 on Tuesday in favor of the proposal to accept federal funding to expand Medicaid coverage to roughly 70,000 more residents. It heads to the Republican-controlled Senate.

Republican Gov. Paul LePage fiercely opposes expanding Medicaid and has vetoed several similar bills, including a proposal crafted by two Republican senators. He and Republican lawmakers say it would be too costly and that Maine needs to ensure the most needs of the elderly and disabled are first.

Democrats say that expanding Medicaid would pump money into Maine’s economy and create jobs. Democratic Rep. Drew Gattine said that the “politics of health care” is holding Maine back.

About 20 more lawmakers would need to support the bill in the House to override a veto from LePage.

___

1:10 p.m.

The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives has given initial approval to a bill that could allow a casino to be developed in southern Maine.

The House voted 83-62 in favor of the bill on Tuesday. It faces further votes in the House and Senate.

Under the bill, the state would seek proposals for a resort-style casino in York or Cumberland County. It would have to be approved by voters in that county.

The bill establishes a competitive bid process and lays out the minimum license fee and required investment, among other things.

Supporters say the state must establish a comprehensive framework for bringing more casinos to Maine or people will continue to use the citizen initiative process to do so.

But opponents say that a state with only 1.3 million people and already has two casinos doesn’t need more gambling.

A bill that would allow the state’s American Indian Tribes to bring a casino to their communities is expected to die.

___

12:25 p.m.

Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s latest effort to overhaul Maine’s welfare programs appears to be headed for defeat.

LePage’s bill, introduced by Republican Senate President Michael Thibodeau, was rejected by the Democratic-controlled House with a 76-68 vote late Monday. The Republican-led Senate had already approved the bill.

The disagreement between the two chambers means the bill will likely die.

LePage’s bill would prohibit people from using electronic benefit transfer cards outside of Maine. It would also create a work search requirement for welfare recipients, among other things. A similar effort was defeated last session.

Thibodeau said he couldn’t see why Democrats would reject the “common sense reforms.” Democrats have said that the governor’s proposals would hurt people who are struggling to get back on their feet.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide