Legislators fail to override many vetoes

Hand-held phone ban crashes, solar bill goes dark

By Stephen Betts | Aug 02, 2017

Augusta — A bill to prohibit the use of hand-held telephones while driving was killed Aug. 2 when the House failed to garner two-thirds support to override the veto of Republican Gov. Paul LePage.

The House also failed to override vetoes of bills that would have retained incentives for solar power users as well as one to expand MaineCare coverage for adults with mental illness.

The hand-held electronic device ban for drivers -- LD 1089 -- was approved by the House and Senate but vetoed by the governor.

The Senate voted 24-10 to override the veto, exceeding the two-thirds needed. The House, however, voted 81-54 which fell short of the two-thirds.

Police said the law was needed to make it easier to enforce distracted driving laws.

State Sens. David Miramant, D- Camden; and Dana Dow, R-Waldoboro, voted to override the veto. Sen. Michael Thibodeau, R-Winterport, voted to uphold the governor's veto.

In the House, Reps. Anne Beebe-Center, D-Rockland; Owen Casas, independent of Rockport, John Spear, D-South Thomaston; and Walter Kumiega III, D-Deer Isle, voted to override the veto.

Rep. Paula Sutton, R-Union, voted to support the governor's veto.

Rep. Abden Simmons, R-Waldoboro, was absent from the vote.

A bill that was viewed as a key test of support for alternative energy died when the House failed to override the governor's veto of LD 1504.

The bill would have prevented the Public Utilities Commission from enacting on its own, a pending rule, which will gradually phase out a key financial incentive for homeowners who install solar-electric panels.

A statewide environmental organization issued a statement after the bill died.

“Today, too many lawmakers turned their backs on jobs of the future for Maine and bowed to pressure from the Governor's office, Central Maine Power, Emera, and other utility and fossil fuel industry groups from across the nation,” said Dylan Voorhees, Climate and Clean Energy Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “They failed to support the small businesses that are struggling to create and sustain jobs from Kittery to Fort Kent, and they ignored the need and desire to transition to cleaner, renewable energy sources."

Miramant and Dow voted to override the veto while Thibodeau voted to uphold LePage's veto of the solar power bill.

In the House, where the override failed by three votes -- Sutton was the only local legislator to side with the governor. Simmons was absent from the vote.

A bill -- LD 808 -- that would have allowed people with mental health illnesses, who were made ineligible for MaineCare services by a change in regulations adopted by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services last year, to be eligible for coverage died after the House failed to override LePage's veto.

The Senate had voted 24-10 to override with Dow and Miramant supporting the bill while Thibodeau voted to uphold the veto. In the House, all local legislators except Sutton and Simmons voted to override the veto.

The House and Senate did both vote to override the governor's veto of LD 1170, which will raise the age for someone to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21, starting on July 1, 2018. Those who turn 18 before next July 1 will be allowed to continue to buy tobacco products.

The penalty for the first violation of the law would be a $100 to $300 fine that could be offset by community service.

The only local legislators voting against an override were Casas and Sutton. Simmons was absent from the vote.

And on the Legislature's final day of the 2017 session, the House rejected a proposal to expel Rep. Scott Hamann, a South Portland Democrat, for an obscenity-laden social media post he made last month about President Donald Trump.

Hamann has apologized for his tirade and was removed from Legislative committees by the Democratic House speaker. He also resigned his job with a regional food bank.

The proposal before the Maine House on Aug. 2 said Hamann's comments were an incitement to violence against the President and disgraced and dishonored the Maine House.

The proposal was rejected on a 106-24 vote. Among local lawmakers, only Sutton supported the expulsion proposal. Simmons was absent.

Comments (3)
Posted by: Patrick Michael Florance | Aug 03, 2017 09:45

Lepage,Sutton and their ilk have no interest in the future of the State of Maine. Their short sighted views will never allow the State to advance to a future hopefully free of pollution. They should be voted out of office.

Like it or not solar and wind power are the future .


Posted by: Dale Hayward | Aug 03, 2017 09:38

I hope the Governor will be able to sleep any better while hundreds will get killed from talking on their phone while driving. Society needs to be taught as society has not listened to logic and common sense.

Posted by: Steven Cornforth | Aug 03, 2017 08:43

I am very much looking forward to Rep. Sutton's public explanation regarding her vote on these bills.

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