In quick, but thorough, fashion, Maine’s Supreme Judicial Court dismissed Gov. Paul LePage’s efforts to get a do-over on 65 attempted vetoes.
LePage’s efforts are a clear-cut example of hubris and overreach, and the court had no choice but to deliver a sharp rebuke.
The justices needed less than a week to weigh the arguments and render a unanimous decision in a 49-page opinion, released today.
At issue was the governor’s ill-advised attempt to veto 65 bills after the constitutional time clock ran out. Whether by mistake or in a malicious attempt to expand executive authority and waste the time of the Legislature, LePage missed the deadline to veto the legislation.
The Legislature carried on according to the Constitution and precedent, and treated the bills as new laws.
The governor sought counsel from the Supreme Court, hoping for another chance. He didn’t get it.
In a written statement released after the decision, LePage tried to strike a chaste tone, a hard pivot from his typical bombastic style.
“This was not about winning or losing; it was about doing things right. We are fortunate to be able to seek legal opinions from the Judicial Branch, and we’re thankful the Justices came to a fast and fair resolution to this issue. We look forward to moving on and continuing to work for the Maine people.”
He struck a similar note earlier this week in Brunswick, saying: “The court is facing a very monstrous decision, and I pray that they make the right decision, which, in my mind, is to send it back to the Legislature.”
The court certainly made the right decision, ruling that the Legislature – not the governor – correctly interpreted the Constitution.
While the court gave deference to the governor’s arguments and took them at face value, there was never a legitimate question of the meaning of the Constitution, precedent or law.
The governor pushed things too far and he has suffered a humbling defeat, reflected by the language in his statement.
With the voice of the court ringing in his ear, the governor says he’s ready to “move on and continue to work for the Maine people.”
That means he’s going to have to dutifully and fully enforce 65 laws that he despised enough that he was willing to risk a Constitutional crisis to try to veto.
Such a change in attitude would be out of character for LePage. It will be up to the Legislature to ensure that the laws it passed are enforced properly by the executive branch.
The immediate argument is over, and LePage lost. But I would watch carefully to make sure we’re really “moving on” – or, if instead, the fight is just moving to a new arena and a time and date of the governor’s choosing.