Commentary

LePage to Maine lawmakers: Stop ‘social engineering’ society

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Gov. Paul LePage vetoed two overreaching proposals on Tuesday, blasting the bills as attempts at “social engineering” society in Maine.

One of the bills, LD 1170, would raise the legal age to purchase tobacco in Maine from 18 to 21. The other, LD 1089, would ban the use of hand-held devices while operating a vehicle.

While both measures passed the legislature with bipartisan support, the Governor’s vetoes have been well-received by the people of Maine, regardless of party ideology, understanding that government doesn’t need to make decisions for responsible adults.

Despite the bills having well-intentioned components to improve public health and safety, many in Maine, including the governor, do not believe it’s the legislature’s job to impose its will on Mainers in this way.

For example, there’s no doubting that distracted driving is dangerous. However, receiving a $75 or $150 fine for answering a call from your wife to pick up a gallon of milk on your way home from work is a step too far. It also epitomizes the out-of-touch mindset that government knows what is best for its citizens. Rather than educating the public on the dangers of tobacco and distracted driving and letting people make their own informed decisions, government steps in to make the choice for them.

That doesn’t sound like the way life should be.

It is illegal to text and drive in Maine and many other states, but law enforcement professionals testified in Augusta earlier this year that the existing law is difficult to enforce, making it necessary to ban the use of any hand-held device while driving.

LePage pushed back on this assertion during a Tuesday morning appearance on WVOM radio, saying Maine should fix the existing law rather than add new burdensome regulations to the books.

LePage was particularly critical of the tobacco bill during the radio interview. The Governor said at age 18, Mainers are responsible enough to make their own decisions, and if they are old enough to go to war and die for their country, they’re old enough to purchase tobacco.

“If you go in my office, I have a whole lot of pictures and some flags of deceased young men under 21. I’m not going to strap a gun to their soldier to go fight a war if they can’t go buy cigarettes,” LePage said.

“I’m tired of living in a society where we social engineer our lives. Let our children grow up and be good adults. Let them make their own responsible decisions,” he added.

The state legislature in New Jersey recently approved a similar proposal that was signed by Gov. Chris Christie, an ally of LePage’s, but LePage did not follow suit.

LD 1170 passed with enough initial votes to override the governor, earning two-thirds majority in the House at 113-34 and passing the Senate 31-4. The Legislature will reconvene in Augusta on August 2, where it could overturn both of LePage’s vetoes.

About Jacob Posik

Jacob Posik, of Turner, is a policy analyst for the Maine Heritage Policy Center. He can be reached at jposik@mainepolicy.org.

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