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Maine Legislature Returns to Consider LePage Vetoes

House of Representatives chamber in the Maine State House on July 29, 2015 in Augusta.

House of Representatives chamber in the Maine State House on July 29, 2015 in Augusta. Shutterstock

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

Lawmakers are expected to come back into session on Monday to consider dozens of recent vetoes by Gov. Paul LePage on bills ranging from Medicaid expansion to banning "conversion therapy."

Maine’s legislature is expected to be back in session Monday to consider Gov. Paul LePage’s recent vetoes of dozens of bills, which included start-up funding for the state to move forward with Medicaid expansion and a measure to pay for a pilot program to treat homeless opioid addicts.

Last fall, Maine voters approved the plan to expand Medicaid, as many states have under the Affordable Care Act. An estimated 70,000 people would be covered, according to the Portland Press-Herald. The newspaper reported that advocates last week urged eligible people to go ahead and sign up, saying patients desperately need the insurance.

LePage has been steadfast in opposing Medicaid expansion, since the fall vote arguing a funding source needs to be identified. Last week, the Bond Buyer reported that the governor is floating a hospital tax to pay for expansion.

“Since Maine hospitals stand to benefit the most from the expansion of Medicaid, this is a more than reasonable means of financing that program’s expansion costs,” the Bond Buyer quoted a LePage spokeswoman saying in a statement. A lobbyist for the state hospital association says they would oppose any tax.

To overturn any of LePage’s vetoes requires a two-thirds vote from both the state House and Senate. Over his two terms, the audacious Republican has vetoed more than 500 bills.

LePage’s veto letter said the opioid program as crafted by the legislature would direct funding to a particular provider, saying money spent on treatment needed to benefit larger groups of people than this small pilot program.

Rep. Drew Gattine, a Democrat who sponsored the bill, was quoted by the Press Herald as calling the veto “heartless,” saying the homeless people who would benefit from the program needed more help than traditional treatment. He said he hoped the legislature would override the veto.

On Friday, LePage added to his already considerable veto list, including rejecting bills to rework the state’s medical marijuana law and a ban on "conversion therapy," which would have prohibited licensed therapists from trying to change a patient's sexual orientation or gender identity. The Bangor Daily News notes that LePage said in his veto letter that the conversion therapy measure would “call into question a simple conversation." The governor also questioned whether the ban would violate religious liberty. 

During an emotional debate about the measure in April, bill sponsor Rep. Ryan Fecteau, who is gay, told fellow lawmakers that he had been urged into conversion therapy by an adviser in college, a suggestion that was extremely psychologically damaging, the Press Herald reported. Medical professionals supported the proposed ban, saying conversion therapy—which often uses shame to try to persuade people to reject their LGBTQ identities—isn't rooted in science, as sexual orientation can't be altered.

In his veto letter and on Twitter, LePage also complained that legislators had not moved forward on a different bill to ban "female genital mutilation," which the Press Herald noted is already prohibited under federal law. 

Laura Maggi is the Managing Editor of Government Executive's Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C. 

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