Legislative Democrats Plan to Use ‘Veto Day’ for More Than Just Vetoes


Maine’s 2024 legislative session has, for the most part, concluded. That is with the sole exception of the statutorily defined “veto day, which is to allow the Legislature to consider objections, or vetoes of bills by the Governor. On Veto Day, lawmakers are supposed to meet for one final day of session to discuss those objections and nothing more. Veto day has always worked this way, and considering the governor’s objections to bills passed by the Legislature is the only thing existing law says can happen on veto day.

However, the Maine Legislature has announced that it intends to fund new bills on Veto Day because it forgot to spend $11.4 million of the state’s surplus revenue. Legislative leadership says it wants to spend this money rather than preserve it for budget stability. Hopefully, Gov. Janet Mills will stick to her “fiscal restraint” policy and she and legislative Republicans will oppose this flagrant violation of state law.

Title 3, Chapter 1, Section 2 of Maine Revised Statutes states that “the times for adjournment for the first and 2nd regular sessions may also be extended for one additional legislative day for the purpose of considering possible objections of the Governor.” This single extra day is known as “Veto Day” and has only been used to consider overriding vetoes from Maine’s governor. This statute applies the language of Article IV of the Maine Constitution, which gives the Legislature the authority to enact appropriate statutory limits on the length of legislative sessions.

When the Legislature established that Veto Day was specifically for considering vetoes, they made a legal obligation to follow that law. The Legislature may write our laws, but they are not above them, and by trying to fund other bills on a day legally defined as being specifically for the consideration of vetoes, they would be violating Maine law. 

The Maine Legislature’s presiding officers – House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross and Senate President Troy Jackson –  know this, yet they have cited their previous adjournment language of allowing a return “when there is a need to conduct business or consider objections of the governor” as being broader than previous adjournment language. However, a legislative adjournment’s language does not trump a state law, just like a state law does not trump Maine’s Constitution. There is a hierarchy of legal authorities, and statutes are in that hierarchy. If the language of an adjournment order is anywhere to be found in that hierarchy, it is certainly lower on the totem pole than established Maine laws.

The issue here, though, is enforcement. Maine is the only state where its attorney general is appointed by legislative ballot, which means our state’s head attorney is accountable not to the law itself but to the whims of the Legislature. Thus, this violation will almost certainly have no legal consequences if it does occur. Only two groups hold the power to stop this imminent illegal activity from taking effect: Republican lawmakers and Gov. Mills.

Assuming that the Legislature does not throw out the entire rulebook and holds only one Veto Day as they are legally mandated, their session will finally adjourn on May 10. Ten days after that, skipping Sundays, any bill that they passed on that day will fail to become law if Gov. Mills refuses to sign it. So, all Gov. Mills needs to do is not touch any hasty spending bills lawmakers illegally pass on May 10 and she will render the Legislature’s criminal activity completely impotent. She will likely do just that since she has already expressed concern about the Legislature’s spending this session. If she does, a significant amount of the remaining $11.4 million in surplus revenue will refill our recently depleted Budget Stabilization Fund, or rainy day fund.

However, if the Legislature is already willing to disregard the law regarding Veto Day, they may also violate the law’s language against having multiple veto days. This is where the Republicans in the Legislature can make a difference by refusing to convene again for future special sessions. If they resist the Democrats’ push for extra spending, they could potentially prevent the governor’s veto from being overridden. It is essential for the Republicans to remember that every dollar saved from the majority party’s spending could contribute to the rainy day fund and transportation investment.

The Legislature’s leadership has made it clear that they don’t think they will face legal consequences for violating Maine law. Legislative Republicans and Gov. Mills should both do their best to at least stop them from being successful in doing so.