There’s a huge hole in Gov. Paul LePage’s pocket, and a bunch of bills just fell through, handing his opponents and the Legislature huge victories.
LePage has made a major mistake in his understanding of the legislative process and the Maine Constitution that has allowed at least 19 bills to become law without his signature.
The governor attempted to pocket veto the bills, which included a controversial piece of legislation that would provide state support for asylum seekers.
LePage has used racist language and lies to characterize the asylum seekers as “illegal.” Attacking them was central to his re-election campaign and his legislative strategy.
Now, unwittingly it appears, he has allowed a bipartisan bill to become law that allows asylum seekers to receive General Assistance for up to two years.
Somebody messed up. Big.
A pocket veto occurs when the governor holds onto bills after the Legislature is adjourned. The bills are essentially stuck in limbo.
If it’s the second session of the Legislature, the bills are dead. If it’s the first session, the bills remain stuck until the Legislature returns for three days, usually the following year.
But in this case, the Legislature has not adjourned, so according to the Constitution, the bills are now law.
There’s no chance for a real veto to be sustained. The clock has run out.
Here’s the relevant language from Article IV of the Constitution:
“If the bill or resolution shall not be returned by the Governor within 10 days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to the Governor, it shall have the same force and effect as if the Governor had signed it unless the Legislature by their adjournment prevent its return, in which case it shall have such force and effect, unless returned within 3 days after the next meeting of the same Legislature which enacted the bill or resolution; if there is no such next meeting of the Legislature which enacted the bill or resolution, the bill or resolution shall not be a law.”
We may never really understand the governor’s motives, but it appears that he was trying to use the “pocket veto” to avoid potential overrides of traditional vetoes.
While the Legislature is investigating his abuse of power in the firing of Speaker of the House Mark Eves as president of Good Will-Hinckley, the governor is guilty – without question – of not understanding the Constitution and the legislative process.
Perhaps he thinks the rules don’t apply to him, and will try some new maneuver to circumvent the legislative process.
But the Constitution applies to us all – even the governor.