Inside Augusta

Lawmakers sustain all five of Gov. Mills’ vetoes

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When the legislature returned to Augusta for veto day on May 9, lawmakers failed to override a single one of Gov. Mills five vetoes.

Mills issued veto letters for LD 1919, LD 844, and LD 1358 on Friday, May 6. She vetoed LDs 170 and 1820 on April 26.

LD 1919 created a tax credit for timber harvesting businesses intended to help grow the industry. Beginning in January 2023, companies would have been able to claim a $7,500 refundable credit for new qualified employees covered by the Employment Security Law and who earn an amount equal to or greater than the most recent per capita income for the county in which they work. The credit would have decreased each consecutive year.

In her veto letter, Mills said she reviewed the bill’s public hearing testimony and work session discussion and it was “apparent there is no consensus among industry leaders” the tax incentive would have positive results.

“I am concerned about the creation of a new sector-specific program that lacks broad support within the very sector it is supposed to help,” Mills wrote. 

Mills also noted that the tax incentive, which had a fiscal note that included a $138,115 General Fund appropriation in fiscal year 2022-23, would require “costly and time-sensitive” administrative resources, including funding and new staff. She wrote the investment would be worthwhile if there was evidence the bill would achieve its desired outcome.

The House vote to override the veto failed 60 to 62, failing to meet the two-thirds majority vote required by the state constitution. Had the House voted to override the veto by a two-thirds majority, the bill would have moved to the Senate. Because a veto override requires a two-thirds majority vote in both chambers, LD 1919 was placed in the legislative files and is now dead.

Mills also vetoed LD 1338, which added statutory language to the state’s paid time off law prohibiting employers from retaliating against employees for the use of earned paid leave.

Mills said the bill was “unnecessary” because the Maine Department of Labor (DOL) has not documented any allegations of retaliation for the use of earned paid leave. She also said she supports another provision within the bill that requires the DOL to review its existing provisions related to retaliation for use of earned paid leave, and will direct the agency to do so.

“LD 1338 would burden employers with unnecessary requirements as they continue to overcome the hardships and workforce challenges they have experienced because of the pandemic. This is not the time to impose additional burdens without evidence of improper behavior or a comprehensive review of existing provisions of law,” Mills said in her veto letter. 

The House vote to override LD 1338 also failed to meet the two-thirds majority required.

Mills also vetoed LD 844, which would have amended the Maine Bail Code to limit conditions of pretrial release to the least restrictive combination of conditions. The bill also amended probation conditions.

Mills said the limitations on bail conditions the bill created were “unworkable” and would “deprive judicial officers of important tools for protecting the public safety and ensuring the appearance of the defendant at trial.” 

Mills objected to a measure in the law that prohibited judges from requiring participation in treatment programs as a condition of probation.

“The purpose of having a condition of probation that required participation in treatment is to encourage rehabilitation and reduce recidivism. It would be a serious mistake to eliminate the consequence for failing to comply with a probation condition that a person engage in a treatment program,” Mills wrote. 

Mills further objected to another measure in the law that prohibited judges to require payment of a fine as a condition of release. Mills suggested an individual’s inability to pay a fine could be addressed through a payment plan.

The House vote to override the veto of LD 844 failed 54 to 64. The vote to override the veto of LD 170 also failed. LD 170 would have created rules for nonessential transmission lines to receive construction approval from the Public Utilities Commission. Finally, the House also sustained the veto of LD 1820. The measure would have added University of Maine System staff and faculty members to the university system’s board of trustees.

The legislature took action Monday on unfinished legislative matters, including LD 965, which the legislature finally passed on April 25 and subsequently recalled from the governor’s desk. The bill prohibits an employer from requiring an employee to enter into a contract waiving their right to report or discuss discrimination. It also prohibits an employer from requiring an employee to enter a settlement agreement limiting their right to participate in an investigation into violations of employment or discrimination law.

The House voted to indefinitely postpone a Senate amendment to a committee amendment of the bill, which both chambers previously adopted. The House then voted to adopt a new amendment, which clarifies that the bill applies to unlawful discrimination and further defines the bill’s provisions related to settlement, separation or severance agreements.

Following adoption of the new amendment, both chambers voted to finally enact the bill, which will once again be sent to Mills’ desk for signature.

The House also voted to remove LD 1942 from unfinished business. Rep. Kathleen Dillingham (R-Oxford) unsuccessfully moved to take the bill from unfinished business when the House first met. 

When the chamber returned later in the day, following a break to allow bills to move to the Senate, Dillingham again made a motion to remove the bill from the table. Dillingham’s second motion was successful, with House members voting 55 to 57 to take up the bill. After debate in both chambers, the bill was finally enacted before adjournment. 

A bill intended to correct errors in recently enacted legislation was also introduced during the session and finally passed by both chambers. LD 2041, which was amended in both chambers, was introduced without reference to committee. The bill was printed on May 9.

As an emergency bil, it required a vote of approval from a two-thirds majority in both chambers. It passed in the House by a vote of 102 to 0 and in the Senate by a vote of 31 to 0.

There was some question about whether the legislature had the authority to take up the bill. Maine statute stipulates that the legislature can meet for one day after adjournment “for the purpose of considering possible objections of the Governor to any bill or resolution presented to the Governor by the Legislature.”

In the Senate, Sen. Rick Bennett (R-Oxford) made a motion to suspend the chamber rules and remove LD 1626, a sweeping tribal sovereignty bill opposed by Mills, from the special appropriations table.

Under the chamber rules, only a member of the Committee on  Appropriation and Financial Affairs can remove a bill from the table. Bennett’s motion to suspend the rules failed by a vote of 9 to 23.

On May 6, Mills also announced she had completed a review of legislation passed by the 130th legislature. According to Mills, 969 bills became law and 27 were vetoed between the legislature’s first and second sessions. Mills made a brief appearance in both the House and the Senate to congratulate members on the work they accomplished this session.

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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