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June 12, 2013

Senate vote on medical assistance bill extends LePage's veto streak

STAFF REPORT

AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage’s veto streak was extended Wednesday, when 14 Republicans in the Maine Senate voted to reject a bill aimed at increasing calls for medical assistance in the event of a drug overdose.

On Tuesday, by a 97-47 margin, the House of Representatives had voted to nix the governor’s veto of L.D. 1044, sponsored by Rep. Ann Dorney, D-Norridgewock. That was one vote more than the two-thirds majority needed to override.

But the Senate, in a 21-14 vote, fell three votes short of the two-thirds mark, leading Democrats to criticize Republicans for sticking by LePage.

“In essence, this is a Good Samaritan law,” said Sen. Geoffrey Gratwick, D-Bangor, a rheumatologist. “The unfortunate fact is that overdoses and drugs are a scourge on our state, but also a fact of life. The sooner you dial 911, the sooner you get help, the better off you are.”

While the House has voted to override three LePage vetoes, on this, a school CPR training bill and a bill that would have required government agencies to comply with payment agreements they have with county registries of deeds, Senate Republicans have mustered the votes to stick by the governor.

Dorney’s bill would have provided complete or partial legal protection to prosecution if evidence of drug possession was obtained because a person sought medical assistance for someone experiencing a drug overdose. The bill passed the Legislature without a roll-call vote.

However, in his veto message, LePage said he was “concerned this bill may create an unnecessary barrier for drug enforcement when drug use remains a significant scourge on our state,” saying prosecutors can already exercise discretion when considering cases.

The bill was supported by the Maine Medical Association and the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine.

State House Bureau Writer Michael Shepherd can be contacted at 370-7652 or
mshepherd@mainetoday.com





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