Democratic Gov. Janet Mills issued her first two vetoes of the second session of the 130th Legislature on Wednesday.

One bill, L.D. 1820, would have changed the governance structure of the University of Maine system and the other, L.D. 170, would have made it more difficult to build transmission lines that provide power on a regional basis, rather than making the state’s system more reliable or providing service to Maine.

L.D. 1820 would have added faculty and staff as nonvoting members to the University of Maine’s Board of Trustees. Mills said such a move would violate the university’s policy and create a conflict of interest, even if they were nonvoting members. Mills noted that salaries account for two-thirds of the budget and represent the heart of the board’s work.

“I encourage the Board to develop better methods for obtaining input from current faculty and staff,” Mills wrote. “However, I believe this can and should be done without adding to the membership of the Board individual faculty and staff who are currently employed by the System.”

Mills also criticized L.D. 170, saying it could impede the state’s ability to meet its ambitious climate change goals by creating “inappropriate barriers to the development of transmission lines.” She called other portions of the bill, dealing with financing of new transmission lines, “constitutionally suspect.”

Democrats control both the House and Senate. The University of Maine bill passed along party lines, with Democrats in support and Republicans opposed, and did not garner enough support to overturn a veto. No roll call votes were held on the transmission line bill, so it’s unclear whether lawmakers will be able to override it.

Advertisement

The Legislature will return to the State House on May 9 to formally take up these bills, and any others vetoed by Mills.

Democratic co-sponsors of the transmission line bill, Rep. Seth Berry, of Bowdoinham, and Rep. Nicole Grohoski, of Ellsworth, said in a statement Wednesday they were surprised by the veto. Both serve on the Energy and Utilities Committee, which reviewed the bill.

“I worked hard to address concerns that the public flagged in the (Central Maine Power) Corridor debate so that we have a more transparent and accountable process moving forward and that our clean energy transition proceeds at the necessary pace to meet our climate goals,” Grohoski said. “When writing this bill, I consulted with the Office of the Public Advocate, the Public Utilities Commission and developers who did not raise any concerns with me, so I am surprised and disappointed by this outcome. I hope my colleagues join me in voting to override this veto.”

The Legislature has yet to override any of Mills’ vetoes since she took office in 2019.

During the first session of the 130th Legislature, Mills vetoed 21 bills. She also vetoed a bill earlier this year that had been sent to her desk in the previous session. In 2020, Mills vetoed only two bills, after vetoing eight bills in the prior year.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.