AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage’s veto of a bill that would prevent Maine cities and towns from requiring superintendents to live within their school districts was upheld Tuesday by the Legislature.
The bill, L.D. 6, had passed the Legislature easily with a 115-22 vote in the House and a 28-6 vote in the Senate. But after LePage’s veto last week, numerous House Republicans who supported the bill initially – including House Minority Leader Kenneth Fredette of Newport and his assistant leader, Alexander Willette of Mapleton – switched to support the governor’s veto.
The vote to override the veto was 88-56, falling short of the two-thirds of House members needed to override LePage.
City charters in Biddeford, Augusta, Waterville, Lewiston, Brewer and Presque Isle require superintendents to live in their school districts. All sponsors and co-sponsors of the bill are from Biddeford and Augusta.
“I am disappointed with (today’s) results but will sleep well knowing that I put up a good fight for my constituents,” Rep. Matthew Pouliot, R-Augusta, said in a text message after the vote. “I will continue to work to find a solution that helps Augusta schools.”
The original bill would have banned residency requirements altogether, but the amended version passed by the Legislature would have allowed school boards to decide whether they want to retain a residency requirement.
Three Augusta Republicans, Pouliot, Senate Assistant Minority Leader Roger Katz and Rep. Corey Wilson, co-sponsored the bill. Augusta’s interim superintendent, James Anastasio, lives in Gardiner. Officials may want to hire him for the permanent job but the city charter won’t allow them to unless he moves into the district.
“We need to overturn this veto today because we need to be able to continue to attract the best and the brightest,” Wilson said on the House floor.
Rep. Alan Casavant, D-Biddeford, also the city’s mayor and school board chairman, submitted the bill after city residents rejected a charter change in November to eliminate a requirement that the superintendent move to the city within six months of being hired. Biddeford Superintendent Jeremy Ray, hired last year, lives about a mile from the office, but in Saco.
“We need greater flexibility,” Casavant said on the House floor Tuesday. “This is about Biddeford and Augusta trying to achieve educational success but (being) handcuffed by rules that are problematic.”
In his veto message, LePage said the Legislature shouldn’t “put itself above the decisions of local voters.”
“This bill would override the decisions of Maine voters who have intentionally added these requirements to their charters,” he wrote. “That is not something I can support.”
On the floor, Willette called Casavant’s bill an “end run around the vote of the people in Biddeford,” despite having voted to support it earlier this session. Fredette called it “fundamentally wrong” to overrule local voters.
In a statement after the vote, House Democrats criticized the veto.
“There’s no rhyme or reason to the governor’s vetoes,” said Assistant House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan. “The governor continues to undermine the good, bipartisan work of the Legislature.”
Michael Shepherd can be contacted at 620-7015 or at: