Oops: There's Adjourned and Then There's Adjourned
HandelontheLaw.com Staff Writer
Maine Governor Paul LePage (R) may have blown the state’s “pocket veto” process, unwittingly allowing 19 bills to become law, though he was trying to kill them.
A “pocket veto” is a ploy empowering an official with veto power to veto a bill by taking no action under certain circumstances.
In the case of Maine, those circumstances include the legislature’s sessions and final adjournments from sessions. When a bill is passed by Maine’s legislature and the legislature has finally adjourned from a session, its governor may “pocket veto” that bill by simply doing nothing for 10 days. However, if a bill is passed by Maine’s legislature and the legislature is still in session, the bill becomes law if the governor fails to act. There’s the rub.
Governor LePage thought the Maine legislature had adjourned after passing 19 bills he meant to kill by “pocket veto.” It hadn’t adjourned; rather, it had temporarily recessed, so the Governor’s inaction didn’t kill the bills; it automatically enacted them.
Among the bills in question: one allowing asylum seekers to receive state aid; one prohibiting the shackling of pregnant prisoners; one banning e-cigarettes in places already banning smoking; and one changing Maine’s “spruce budworm management” (whatever that is).
The bills are now being written into law by the state’s nonpartisan office responsible for statutes. The Governor’s office is fighting enactment, claiming the legislature’s temporary recess on June 30, 2015 was a final adjournment allowing his pocket veto. His opponents are essentially saying, “Nice try, Governor. We use the term ‘adjournment’ for even daily temporary recesses but the meaning of final adjournment from session is clear. You can’t rewrite the rules just because you blew it.”
The matter is apparently headed for court to determine whether the Governor was justified in believing temporary recess equaled final adjournment from session or whether the Governor just plain made a costly error.
By Kathy Catanzarite
Note from HandelontheLaw.com: This article is to be used as an educational guide only and should not be interpreted as a legal consultation. Readers of this article are advised to seek an attorney if a legal consultation is needed. Laws may vary by state and are subject to change, thus the accuracy of this information can not be guaranteed. Readers act on this information solely at their own risk. Neither the author, handelonthelaw.com, or any of its affiliates shall have any liability stemming from this article.
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