Maine’s Highest Court may Decide the Fate of 65 Legislative Bills
On July 31, 2015 Maine’s Supreme Judicial Court heard oral arguments regarding Governor LePage’s request that the Court review three questions.
Normally, the judicial branch does not get involved with matters that are in the purview of the executive and legislative branches; and the Court will not issue advisory opinions. There is an exception, however, under the Maine Constitution. Article VI, Section 3 of the Constitution states: “[t]he Justices of the Supreme Judicial Court shall be obliged to give their opinion upon important questions of law, and upon solemn occasions, when required by the Governor, Senate or House of Representatives.”
The issue in this instance involves 65 bills that the Legislature sent to the Governor on June 29 and 30 for his consideration. On June 30 the Legislature voted to adjourn with the intention of reconvening on July 16 to consider any bills the Governor vetoed. The Constitution gives the Governor 10 days to sign or veto bills presented to him. If he neither signs nor vetoes and returns the bills within 10 days, the bills become law. Because Governor LePage did not act on any of the bills within the 10-day window, the Revisor of Statutes has posted the bills as law.
The Governor argues, however, that because the Legislature voted to “adjourn” on June 30, and not to “recess,” the 10-day period was not running, which means he could not return the bills to them. Thus, the Governor maintains that the bills are not law.In his letter to the Court, the Governor asked for the review of three questions: (1) What type of adjournment prevents the return of a bill to the Legislature? (2) In this instance, did the Legislature trigger the constitutional 3-day procedure for the exercise of the governor’s veto? And (3) were the 65 bills that were returned to the Legislature on July 16 presented properly before that body for reconsideration?
The Court will first make a determination on whether, under the Maine Constitution, it can answer any of the questions presented. Then, if the Court finds that it can answer any of the questions, it will offer its opinion, which will more than likely decide the fate of all 65 bills.
The Court’s decision is expected sometime in August.