AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage signed bills into law Tuesday that increase pay for many state law enforcement officers, fund additional drug treatment beds, and crack down on the overprescribing of opioid medication.

The signings took place as state lawmakers awaited the governor’s anticipated vetoes on dozens of bills that were sent to his desk late last week as the Legislature completed its work for the session. Many of the bills are not expected to survive scrutiny by LePage, who has previously set state veto records and who went on a Bangor radio station Tuesday to declare the current Legislature the worst he’s experienced since he took office in 2011.

During the same interview with WVOM, the governor foreshadowed vetoes on a bill designed to increase solar energy production in Maine and another aimed at assisting recruitment of mental health workers at state-run psychiatric hospitals by giving current employees there pay raises.

LePage took a dim view of both proposals and lashed out at Republicans in the Senate for backing them. The Senate voted 35-0 to support the solar proposal, prompting LePage to declare that those same lawmakers “ought to be ashamed of themselves” for supporting a bill that he believes will increase electricity rates.

He was also critical of Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, without mentioning him by name. Katz is the sponsor of the bill that seeks to increase pay for mental health workers. He has argued that increasing compensation will help recruitment and staff turnover at the embattled Riverview Psychiatric Hospital in Augusta.

“Wages wasn’t the problem at Riverview,” the governor said Tuesday. “The problem at Riverview is that we have a certain senator who likes to have it on the front page every day that it’s a bad place to work. That’s absolutely false.”


Lawmakers are expected to return April 29 to take votes to override or sustain the governor’s vetoes. LePage has already vetoed 24 bills this session. The Legislature has voted to override him 17 times.

Despite his differences with the Legislature, the governor has signed into law several bills that lawmakers enacted last week. Three of the bills he signed are proposals that he introduced.

One mandates that doctors participate in a program that evaluates prescriptions of opioids while also setting limits on the strength and duration of a prescription. The proposal is in response to the state’s heroin crisis, which generated several proposals that address treatment, prevention and law enforcement.

“Heroin addiction is devastating our communities,” LePage said in a statement Tuesday. “For many, it all started with the overprescribing of opioid pain medications. We can prevent many people from even trying heroin in the first place by putting these limits on the flow of pain pills into our homes.”

LePage also signed into law a bill that increases the pay for certain law enforcement positions in the Department of Public Safety, the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and the Department of Marine Resources by between 12 and 18 percent. In contrast to the governor’s view of higher salaries for mental health workers, LePage argued that low pay prompted state law enforcement officers to leave for municipal or county posts.

On Saturday, LePage signed a number of contentious proposals into law, including a $13.4 million taxpayer bailout for the state’s remaining biomass energy plants. The proposal was overwhelmingly supported by lawmakers despite a lengthy debate in which lawmakers in both parties questioned whether the proposal will actually help the power generators or save the logging jobs associated with them. The governor’s support of the bill also contrasts with his repeated statements declaring that energy generators should be self-sustaining, not subsidized by the public or ratepayers. The latter argument is at the heart of the governor’s opposition to the solar proposal that he’s expected to veto.


LePage also signed into law a bill that increases the state borrowing capacity for a proposed $150 million expansion of the Maine Correctional Center in Windham.

He also signed into a law a prohibition on welfare recipients using Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funds to purchase tobacco, alcohol, lottery tickets, tattoos or other items. Republicans and Democrats had agreed from the outset on the concept but disagreed on how to implement it as well as penalties for violators.

The compromise passed both chambers with strong majorities early Saturday morning.

The ban is immediate, but a commission will study the best way to implement an electronic system to block the sale of those items at the store counter when customers are using electronic benefit transfer cards, which welfare recipients use like credit cards.

On the issue of penalties, lawmakers agreed to a three-month suspension of welfare benefits for first offenders and up to 24 months of suspended benefits for the third or subsequent offense. Violators would also have to pay back any misused welfare benefits.

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