Inside Augusta

Governor Mills issues her first vetoes of the 130th Legislature

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The governor’s office recently posted veto messages for seven bills rejected by Gov. Janet Mills, the first batch of vetoes of the 130th Legislature.

Among the bills vetoed by the governor are L.D. 194, which would have banned entities owned by foreign governments from influencing citizens’ referenda; L.D. 417, which would have banned pretextual traffic stops; and L.D. 1668, which would have developed a plan to close the Long Creek Youth Development Center. 

L.D. 194 banned foreign nationals, defined as a foreign government or firm, partnership, corporation, association, organization, or other entity of which a foreign government controls at least 10%, from making a contribution or expenditure to directly or indirectly influence a referendum in Maine. 

It also prohibited foreign nationals from directly or indirectly participating in the decision-making process of anyone in order to influence a referendum and banned knowingly soliciting, accepting or receiving a contribution from a foreign national or knowingly providing assistance in making a prohibited contribution or expenditure by a foreign national. 

Mills’ objections to the bill include the law’s broad definition of a foreign government, which she believes could apply to several prominent Maine companies that have foreign investors.

“Legislation that could bar these entities from any form of participation in a referendum is offensive to the democratic process, which depends on a free and unfettered exchange of ideas, information, and opinion.” Mills said in her letter vetoing the bill.

Mills also questioned whether the law would stand up to a Constitutional challenge and suggested it would restrict “core political speech,” which the Supreme Court has historically protected on First Amendment grounds.

Finally, Mills stated she believed the bill, if enacted, would deprive voters of information during elections. “I trust Maine voters to sort through competing views as they consider how to cast their vote in any referendum, and I see no need for state government to protect them from information coming from any particular source, in accordance with our already robust disclosure agreements.” Mills wrote.

On June 23, Mills also vetoed L.D. 417, a law that would have panned pretextual traffic stops. 

The law defined pretextual traffic stops as a traffic stop made by a law enforcement officer with the intent of investigating criminal activity other than those related to a traffic stop and for which the officer did not have evidence at the time of the stop. The law would also have limited the questions an officer could ask to the purpose of the original traffic stop and would have made evidence obtained for other purposes inadmissible in criminal proceedings.

Mills’ veto alleges that the definition of a “pretextual stop” created by the law is incorrect. She called the law’s prohibition on stops where the officer has anything in mind other than the immediate reason for the stop “overbroad, unrealistic, and dangerous.”

She also called the law’s prohibition on officers asking questions not related to the original purpose of the stop “dangerous, unrealistic and unworkable” and claimed that “it is not uncommon for traffic stops to result in the discovery of human trafficking, domestic violence, sexual assault, operating under the influence, robbery and other serious crimes, sometimes on the basis of observation and simple questions.” 

On June 21, Mills vetoed L.D. 1668, which directed the Department of Corrections (DOC) to create a plan for closing the Long Creek Youth Development Center by June 30, 2023 and redirect youth incarceration funds to youth community-based integration services not currently offered by the DOC. Some of those services were to include supportive housing, jobs programs, educational programs and healthcare services like mental health and substance use disorder treatment.

Any plan the DOC developed would have been required to include transition plans for the individual youths still committed to the Long Creek facility, a workforce development plan for staff, a process for establishing a community reinvestment fund, and options for moving juvenile services out of the DOC and to another agency serving youth. Recommendations for the reinvestment plans of youth correction funds were to include community-based alternatives.

In a letter explaining her veto, Mills called the bill “fundamentally flawed because it forces the closure of the State’s only secure confinement option for juvenile offenders before safe and appropriate alternatives will be available.” 

She noted that, if the bill went into effect, Maine would be the only state in the nation without a secure facility to detain youths deemed a risk to themselves or others. Mills said responsible juvenile justice reform needs to take public safety into account.

She also pointed to steps her administration has taken to change Maine’s juvenile justice system, including a 32-member Maine Juvenile Justice System Assessment and Reinvestment Task Force. 

According to Mills, the DOC’s expansion of community-based programs under her administration is already working to keep at-risk youth out of the justice system.

“There are currently only 31 youth detained in that facility, while hundreds of others on are on informal adjustment, probation, or otherwise under court-ordered supervision either before or after adjudication, for whom that supervision is made meaningful because of the existence of Long Creek,” Mills wrote. 

Mills also vetoed L.D. 418, a bill establishing a graduated real estate transfer tax. In her veto message, the governor wrote, “First, [the bill] is a tax increase. As Governor, I have remained steadfast in my commitment not to raise taxes on Maine people and businesses, especially at a time when the Maine economy is attempting to recover from the economic impact of the pandemic. Avoiding tax increases is important for positioning the State’s economy to rebound quickly and strongly.”

About Katherine Revello

Katherine Revello is a reporter for The Maine Wire. She has degrees in journalism and political science from the University of Maine. Her writing has appeared in Reason, The Washington Examiner, and various other publications. Got news tips? Contact Katherine at krevello@mainepolicy.org.

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