AUGUSTA — Lawmakers on Wednesday overturned nearly a dozen vetoes from Gov. Paul LePage on bills ranging from the placement of abused children to the availability of the overdose reversal drug naloxone.

Overall, the Legislature overrode LePage 11 times – twice by unanimous votes – but sided with the governor on nine bills. Seven of those nine bills failed in the House as Republican lawmakers were once again more closely aligned with LePage, who has vetoed a record number of bills during his 7½-year tenure, than their counterparts in the Republican-controlled Senate.

The highest-profile vote came as lawmakers overrode the governor on L.D. 1719 and directed state agencies to begin moving toward the licensing and regulation of retail marijuana sales. But lawmakers also dealt with several other drug-related bills, as well as measures focused on sex trafficking, addiction treatment and electricity “microgrids.”

In the latest policy dispute over naloxone, the Senate voted 34-0 and the House 132-16 to override LePage’s veto of a bill that made clear – for at least the third year running – that lawmakers supported allowing the overdose reversal drug be available to Mainers under age 21. The bill, L.D. 1892, was a response to an effort by the LePage administration to only allow pharmacists to dispense naloxone or Narcan without a prescription to Mainers age 21 and older.

“Despite the endless delays and unnecessary obstruction, this bill will now be a law and we will finally have the clarity necessary to dispense this life-saving drug,” bill sponsor and House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, said in a statement. “As we have heard from experts, from family members and from law enforcement, overdoses can strike anyone at any time. And in every opportunity, we should be trying to save every life possible.”

Lawmakers also voted to override LePage’s veto of a bill dealing with the placement of children removed from their parents’ custody, an issue that has come up following two recent child deaths. The bill, L.D. 1187, directs child welfare agencies to place children with siblings when possible, and to prioritize placement with an adult relative rather than an unrelated caregiver as long as the relative passes a background check and becomes licensed as a foster home.

In his veto message, LePage said the bill, while well-intentioned, “prioritizes the rights of relatives over the best interests of a child.”

Following is the outcome of the other 17 bills handled during Wednesday’s veto session:

VETOES OVERRIDDEN

L.D. 1740 creates the crimes of “criminal forced labor” and “aggravated criminal labor” in order to give police and prosecutors additional tools to deal with forced labor or sex trafficking.

L.D. 166 increases the reimbursement rate for child care providers from the 50th percentile of the local market rate to the 75th percentile.

L.D. 1874 directs the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to continue offering the Community Partnerships for Protecting Children programs through at least Jan. 31, 2019, and to develop a plan to continue offering the services offered in the program in the future.

L.D. 1907 is a resolve directing the Maine Public Employees Retirement System and the Department of Administrative and Financial Services to continue a working group evaluating and designing retirement plan options for all state employees and teachers.

L.D. 1388 makes falsification of health care records by a health care provider a Class D or Class C crime, depending on whether the falsification caused injury.

L.D. 1771 requires DHHS to begin the process of creating two housing-based programs for women struggling with substance use disorders who have young children in order to provide them with stable housing and treatment.

L.D. 1848 makes it elective for consumer-owned transmission and distribution utilities to implement a program to assist eligible low-income customers who are overdue on their bills.

L.D. 1756 allows the state to lease property at the Maine Educational Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and the Governor Baxter School for the Deaf on Mackworth Island to a protection and advocacy agency for persons with disabilities.

VETOES SUSTAINED/UPHELD

L.D. 257 would have directed the Public Utilities Commission to approve a petition to construct and operate a new electricity “microgrid” if the commission finds the proposal to be in the public interest.

L.D. 1866 would have required schools to put in place training and education in suicide prevention and mental health first aid to build on a law passed several years ago that has not led to universal adoption of the protocols.

L.D. 1587 would have directed the University of Maine System to study the costs and benefits of implementing a paid family leave program in Maine and report back to the Legislature.

L.D. 1063 would have required DHHS to offer outreach and education programs on family planning options to women and adolescents who are experiencing substance use disorder, are in jail, are homeless or are in living situations that indicate a need for family planning services.

L.D. 1876 would have given the attorney general the authority to approve financial orders and to set salaries for office staff without getting approval from the governor.

L.D. 1747 would have directed the commissioner of the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry to convene a task force to study agricultural issues in the state.

L.D. 1507 would have created a registration procedure for student loan providers, created a list of “prohibited acts” and unfair practices by providers, and required the state’s Consumer Credit Protection agency to report annually on the effectiveness of the program.

L.D. 1745 would have allowed the Maine Public Utilities Commission to withhold grant money to certain biomass, wood-to-energy companies if they fail to meet their contract obligations and would have created a new “wood energy fund” for low-interest or no-interest loans for new wood-derived thermal energy or cogeneration projects.

L.D. 1743 would have allowed the state Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operation to increase the number of licensed liquor stores from 10 to 11 in municipalities with more than 60,000 residents – in other words, in Portland.

Kevin Miller can be contacted at 791-6312 or at:

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