Gov. Mills Reins In Illegal Legislative Activity


The 2024 legislative session has now concluded. On May 10, the Legislature met in Augusta one last time for Veto Day. The legislature failed to overturn any of the six vetoes on the table, and because of the rush at the end of the session, $11.4 million of revenue was left unallocated. In a genuinely desperate move, legislative leadership attempted to pass new legislation on Veto Day despite the day’s purpose in law being as obvious as its name suggests–it’s a day reserved for dealing with the governor’s vetoes, not for considering additional work. 

Despite this, the Senate considered about 80 bills moved from the Special Appropriations Table earlier in the week, most with amendments that seriously shrunk or altered the funding source. Any bills they passed with amendments had to go to the House for concurrence. The House eventually decided not to bother passing any new bills due to warnings from the governor that she would not sign any laws passed that day. However, 35 bills that were not amended went straight from the Senate to Gov. Janet Mills, who, as of Tuesday the 14, announced that she would not allow any of them to become law.

The statute defining Veto Day describes it as allowing the legislature to consider the Governor’s objections to legislation passed at the end of the session. This language has been taken to mean that the day’s purpose is to attempt to overturn gubernatorial vetoes, and this has traditionally been the only work done on Veto Day.

However, because of the large amount of money on the table and the fact that elections are coming later this year, the Legislature wanted to spend this money while they still could. Many of these bills were poorly written and poorly motivated, from race-based free access to state parks to bills requiring health insurance, including MaineCare, to cover biomarker testing.

Any bill passed outside of the regular legislative session, which concluded in the early morning of April 18th, would open a door for a constitutional challenge, and this is one of the many valid concerns Gov. Mills raised in her letter addressing the legislature. Another concern is the precedent this might set, allowing the legislature to stretch the legislative session farther and farther and defy the state’s legal and constitutional rules and procedures.

As Gov. Mills said in her letter, “Constitutional norms, no matter how inconvenient and even when they may impede achieving good policy aims, nonetheless provide important institutional safeguards.” While Gov. Mills’ adherence to her policy of fiscal restraint might be questioned, the same can not be said for her respect for the Constitution and the laws of Maine on this issue.