Editorial by Senate Democratic Leader Justin Alfond of Portland
August 7, 2015
On Thursday, in a unanimous advisory opinion, Maine’s highest court sent a strong message to Governor LePage: no Governor can tell a Legislature what to do. The separation of powers between the two is defined, separate, and clear.
And to that end, the 65 laws that Governor LePage tried to veto, are in fact law; they cannot be vetoed;--and, they must be enforced by the chief executive.
The Supreme Court’s ruling reaffirmed more than four decades of precedent. They confirmed clearly and unambiguously the Constitutional parameters on the veto process--a precedent by which every other Maine governor has faithfully followed.
Governor LePage has a history of pushing the envelope and bending the rules. But with this decision, the Court shut the door on his attempts to rewrite Maine’s Constitution. And, instead, they confirmed that the good, bipartisan work of the Legislature cannot be sidestepped.
Before our eyes, a simple civics lesson has played out about the importance of having three separate co-equal branches of government. A democracy does not function with one branch of government that dominates the others.
To date, Governor LePage’s legacy has been one of overreaching tactics that pushes the limits of his executive power. His vision is one of conflict and disagreement with the Legislature--even if that means wasting taxpayer dollars on a lawsuit instead of just abiding by the Constitution. Thankfully, the Supreme Court’s ruling firmly honors the separation of powers for this governor or any other.
An unfortunate footnote to all of this drama, is that this dispute is one in a series of efforts by the Governor to delay and distract from the Legislature’s good, bipartisan work. The Governor’s antics may grab headlines but meanwhile, the Legislature continues to do its job. In spite of his attempts to make government dysfunctional, Democrats and Republicans passed bills together--and also overrode his veto objections--together; and, even went into this Court ruling--together. This is what the people of Maine expect us to do--it’s what the business community relies on us to do, and it’s a hallmark of the Maine political brand.
Democrats--and even many Republican lawmakers--are calling for an end to such divisive behavior and irresponsible governing. In January, the Legislature will reconvene--and when we do so, we’ll have a hefty agenda. I hope that the Governor will see this as a time to renew his relationship with the Legislature, lay to rest his antagonistic relationship, and open a new chapter that includes a healthy and collaborative environment.