AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage’s streak of 16 consecutive vetoes with no overrides ended Wednesday when the Maine Senate voted 35-0 to uphold a bill that requires state agencies to seek federal funds for schools.

The Senate vote followed a House override, 124-16, on Tuesday.

With no debate, the Senate voted unanimously to override the governor. The bill, L.D. 1003, now will become law. It requires the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services to work together to refine the state’s MaineCare rules so Maine can qualify for more federal funding to pay for the medical needs of special education and other disabled students at local schools.

In his veto letter, LePage said the bill would distract the Department of Health and Human Services from its other duties. It was the governor’s 17th veto since taking office.

“I have strong objections to the Legislature directing the efforts of the executive branch without providing funding for that purpose, especially when my departments are already working tirelessly on these issues,” he wrote.

The bill was sponsored by Rep. Peter Edgecomb, R-Caribou.

Bill supporters say the measure is necessary because Maine is losing out on millions in federal funds that should go to local schools to pay for medical services for students. Lawmakers say they’ve asked  DHHS and the Department of Education to work together on the issue for years and now have found it necessary to pass a law to require them to do it.

Since last May, LePage has vetoed 17 bills. Until now, neither the House nor the Senate mustered the two-thirds necessary to override his veto. Other bills vetoed by the governor include a measure to give a sales tax exemption to nonprofit performing arts groups, a bill to create an early childhood stakeholder group and a resolve to promote oral health care.

Susan Cover — 620-7015
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