Political news

Maine lawmakers voted Friday to override a number of Gov. Paul LePage’s vetoes, but House Republicans held firm on several votes to block enactment of other bills rejected by the governor, including one that would establish a statewide solar energy policy.

That bill generated some wide-ranging debate on the merits of solar energy, but the discussion quickly devolved into a partisan skirmish after House Republican Leader Ken Fredette accused majority Democrats of “parliamentary trickery.”

AUGUSTA, Maine - A proposal to legalize marijuana for recreational use in Maine is going to be on the November ballot.

The Maine Legislature voted Friday to send the proposal to voters. Lawmakers had had the option of either approving the bill as written, or letting it appear on the ballot.

The secretary of state announced earlier this week that referendum supporters had enough valid signatures to meet the threshold for the ballot.

AUGUSTA, Maine - A bill aimed at providing more dental services in Maine's underserved rural areas is dead for the session after the Senate bucked the House and voted to sustain Gov. Paul LePage's veto of the measure.

Earlier, the House voted to override LePage's veto.

The bill would repeal the current requirement for dental therapists to be directly supervised by a dentist. But Sen. Andre Cushing, a Republican from Newport, argued that the move was too risky.

AUGUSTA, Maine - Both chambers of the Maine Legislature have overturned the veto of a bill that earmarks $2.4 million in emergency funding for jails.

The bipartisan bill was overwhelmingly approved in the House, and was approved in the Senate unanimously without a roll call. But it was vetoed by Maine Gov. Paul LePage, who said counties have no incentive to control jail costs when the state steps in to make up the difference.

That bill will now become law over LePage's objections.

AUGUSTA, Maine - The Maine Legislature has overridden Maine Gov. Paul LePage's veto of a plan to boost pay for workers at the Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta and Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Hospital in Bangor.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Roger Katz, a Republican from Augusta, will increase wages by $2 to $4 an hour for mental health workers, nurses, psychologists and other direct care staff.

AUGUSTA, Maine - The Maine House has failed to override Gov. Paul LePage's veto of a bill to modernize state policies on solar power.

A last-minute effort to resurrect the bill on a second vote also failed.

Rep. Sara Gideon, assistant Democratic leader, said Friday the proposal would've spurred job creation. But Rep. Ken Fredette, House Republican leader, said he feared it would kill jobs by raising energy costs while helping only a small number of Mainers.

The proposal is dead after failing to muster a two-thirds vote.

Lawmakers have a wide array of issues before them in what they hope is the last day of this session.

Many are vetoes of bills passed by lawmakers, such as one promoting solar energy, or a measure creating a sales tax exemption for fuel used in commercial agricultural production, aquacultural production and wood harvesting.

House Speaker Mark Eves says most of the day will be spent debating and voting on all of the vetoes, and some are generating more interest than others.

Gov. Paul LePage has vetoed a measure that would license and regulate midwives, claiming the bill is unnecessary, represents an expansion of government and could become an unfunded mandate in the future.

Supporters, including the Republican sponsor, are urging fellow lawmakers to enact the bill over the objections of the governor.

AUGUSTA, Maine - U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were before the Senate Armed Services Committee answering questions about policy in the Middle East and the ongoing conflicts in the region. 

Sen. Angus King questioned Dunford about the status of ISIS in the region.

"Their military capability has been degraded to include their equipment," Dunford said.

"Do we have any information that their morale is declining?" King asked.

BANGOR, Maine - Maine Gov. Paul LePage is backing out of an appearance at Husson University a day after vowing to stop attending ceremonial activities.

The Republican governor was slated to attend an alumni celebration at the Bangor university on Thursday.

The event is happening two days after the governor stormed out of a speaking engagement at University of Maine at Farmington and called student protesters "idiots.''

LePage later apologized and said he would stop attending such events. The Farmington event was a building dedication.

Patty Wight / MPBN

Supporters of a public health clinic that faces closure rallied in front of Portland City Hall Thursday.

SKOWHEGAN, Maine - Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin of Maine and Democratic Rep. Niki Tsongas of Massachusetts are making progress in their effort to make the Defense Department buy U.S.-made sneakers.

Tsongas, a member of the Armed Services Committee, attached language proposed by the two to the National Defense Authorization Act that would require the Pentagon to adhere to a statutory requirement to buy domestically produced sneakers.

Poliquin spent the last 48 hours lobbying more than 30 Republicans on the committee. The amendment passed the committee Wednesday.

Mal Leary / MPBN

Gov. Paul LePage stressed his positions on the need to lower taxes and reduce energy costs at a town meeting in Damariscotta Wednesday night. But he got passionate in his defense of vetoing legislation that would make the lifesaving drug naloxone, also known as Narcan and used to counter drug overdoses, more available.

He told the mostly friendly crowd of about 90 people that the drug, at $70 a dose, is expensive and being overused.

Efforts by Assistant House Democratic Leader Sara Gideon and Gov. Paul LePage to reach a compromise over a bill that would establish a comprehensive solar policy for the state have failed and the governor has vetoed the measure.

In his veto message, LePage said he vetoed the bill because it would increase overall energy costs for Maine ratepayers and because Democrats would not negotiate in good faith on counterproposals.

Not surprisingly, Democrats says that’s simply not true.

PORTLAND, Maine - Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap says supporters of a referendum proposal to legalize marijuana have cleared the hurdle to appear on the November ballot.
Dunlap said Wednesday election officials have certified an additional 11,305 signatures. That brings the number over the threshold of 61,123 valid signatures.
Now the referendum initiative will go to lawmakers, who can either enact the proposal into law or send it to voters.