The House of Representatives has voted to uphold Gov. Paul LePage’s veto of legislation designed to implement retail sales of marijuana in Maine.
The vote was 74-62, and that is well short of the two-thirds vote needed to override the veto. House Republicans mostly supported the veto — there was little debate, and now lawmakers are going back to try and work out a compromise.
Sen. Roger Katz, a Republican from Augusta who co-chaired the special 17-member committee that drafted the bill, says that will be very difficult.
“It’s like a budget, when you pull a thread here, something else pops out over there, and for every vote we may pick up with a change, we may lose one or two,” he says.
House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, a Newport Republican, says the bill was not ready for consideration because it had not been vetted by all the needed players in the Legislature or by LePage.
“This bill wasn’t ready for prime time. I think going into next session what we really need to do is make sure we’re involving all four caucuses and the governor’s office. I think that is key to passing a bill,” he says.
Katz says all four caucuses of the Legislature — House Republicans, Senate Republicans, House Democrats and Senate Democrats, as well as independents — were represented on the committee, and he doubts the governor will participate in any compromise effort.
“I don’t know why we should expect that the administration is going to participate in the next four months, where they have not in the last nine,” he says.
The House co-chair of the committee, Democrat Teresa Pierce of Falmouth, agrees that it will be difficult to reach an agreement.
“And until then, unfortunately the people of Maine are not protected, our kids are not protected. We are doing nothing to start this regulatory agency. We are just in a holding pattern and that is not good for anyone,” she says.
There is a moratorium on retail sales until Feb. 1, when the citizen-initiated legislation takes effect. Some lawmakers are pushing for another moratorium so the Legislature will have the entire four-month session to reach agreement on a set of rules to govern the workings of the retail marketplace.