Maine Lawmakers Override LePage Vetoes on Marijuana, Narcan

Lawmakers on Wednesday considered the veto-loving Republican governor's thumbs-down on about 20 bills and overrode his veto of commercial pot sales and Narcan access legislation.

Gov. Paul LePage, who named one of his own dogs Veto, has shattered state records for gubernatorial vetoes that he uses to espouse fiscally conservative principles and lambast lawmakers' work. The Legislature had no plans Wednesday to consider more than 100 bills that address issues including voter-approved Medicaid expansion, opioid treatment, tax reform, school funding and pay for aides serving people with intellectual disabilities.

Dozens of people lined the halls of the Statehouse imploring lawmakers to return this year and fund widely supported pay increases for personal care aides that expire this summer. Advocates also say lawmakers will create massive uncertainty for schools ahead of the school year by ignoring a bill that addresses the funding formula for schools.

Possible Extension Vote

Lawmakers could vote again to add five more legislative days, but partisan tension in recent days has made it unclear whether such an effort would pass.

Lawmakers also could get hauled in for a special session by LePage or by legislative leaders with caucus approval. House Republicans blocked a previous extension vote.

House GOP leader and gubernatorial candidate Ken Fredette criticized Democrats and Senate Republicans for considering a bill package that includes some Medicaid expansion funding. He said Wednesday he supports a bill package that includes county jail funding, pay increases for personal care aides and drug treatment to address the opioid crisis.

He also has demanded that lawmakers support failed efforts this year to roll back the voter-approved minimum wage hike.

Commercial Pot Sales

Lawmakers overrode the governor's veto of a bill to finally allow commercial marijuana sales as voters called for in 2016. The House voted 109-39 and the Senate voted 28-6.

Supporters say the bill provides needed changes to the marijuana law to protect children. It eliminates marijuana social clubs, reduces the number of plants that people can have and prohibits sale near schools.

The voter-approved law created a 10 percent sales tax on retail marijuana. The new bill also would require growing facilities to pay an excise tax of $335 per pound of mature marijuana plants and other new fees.

The governor has argued that he cannot violate federal law, which prohibits marijuana possession. LePage said the bill doesn't address his concerns that adults seeking marijuana will flock to the state's medical marijuana program.

"As I have stated previously, a concurrent medical program with weaker regulation and a lower tax rate will undermine the regulations established by this bill," he said.

Naloxone Access

Lawmakers overwhelmingly overrode the veto of a bill designed to make the opioid overdose drug naloxone available to all Mainers without a prescription.

The state Board of Pharmacy proposed setting an age limit of 18 for such access and has since pushed to limit access to adults age 21 and older at LePage's urging.

Democratic Speaker of the House Sara Gideon proposed the bill to specifically allow access to Mainers of all ages.

The governor vetoed the bill and called it an effort to undermine the Board of Pharmacy's "reasonable rules."

"No health policy rationale supports the extreme position espoused by the Legislature that every resident of Maine, including children, must have access to naloxone," LePage said.

A record of 418 people died of drug overdoses in the state last year. Opioids were the cause of 354 of those deaths.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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