AUGUSTA, Maine – The Maine Legislature will leave Augusta for a year without overriding a single Gov. Janet Mills veto during her first term.
Lawmakers in the Democratic-led Maine House of Representatives upheld five vetoes on bills concerning probation and bail, the use of paid leave, a logging industry tax incentive, transmission lines and governance of the University of Maine System on Monday. All of the bills failed to get the two-thirds majority needed in both chambers to sustain a veto.
The relatively few bills addressed Monday was a stark difference from last year, when Mills vetoed 21 pieces of legislation. But the smaller number of vetoes this year signals more of a willingness to let tough bills and ink compromises rather than risk big confrontations.
The governor’s office alluded to that unity last week, saying 97 percent of the bills that reached her desk this session had become law. It was a rebuff of criticisms from last year accusing her of being unwilling to work with progressives. Rallying those factions to her cause may be critical as the Democrat faces former Republican Gov. Paul LePage in her re-election bid this fall.
The only bill that saw any debate would have changed Maine’s probation and bail system. Mills had expressed doubts prior to her veto about how it could affect crime victims and had refused to sign it when it faced a deadline earlier this year.
But Rep. Victoria Morales, D-South Portland, said it was a missed opportunity to keep people who have been incarcerated from accessing care that could change their lives, particularly those seeking substance misuse treatment. The bill died in a 64-54 vote.
“I ask everyone in this body and everyone in every branch of government in Maine to ask themselves, ‘How many lives are we willing to lose?’ before we stand up and decide to change our course of action?” she said.
Other bills saw similar fates. Mills nixed a bill looking to put representatives of University of Maine System’s faculty on its board of trustees, saying it could create conflicts of interest, even though they would not have voting powers. Another measure looking to create a tax credit in the forest product sector died after the governor cited a lack of industry support.
Mills also killed a bill aiming to prevent retaliation against employees using paid time leave, expressing skepticism about the utility of the bill, saying her Department of Labor had recorded no instance of that occurring.