AUGUSTA -- A majority of Republicans joined Democrats in the Maine House on Wednesday in voting to override Gov. Paul LePage's veto of a bill that would require school districts to offer students instruction on cardiopulmonary resuscitation and the use of an automated external defibrillator.
The 125-18 House vote easily exceeds the two-thirds threshold needed to override the veto of LD 1366, which LePage issued Friday. The bill now heads to the Senate for a vote on the veto. If two- thirds of that body votes to override the veto, it will become the Democrat-controlled Legislature's first override of a LePage veto this session.
The House also voted to override LePage's first veto of the session, LD 49, a bill designed to create conformity in payments to registries of deeds -- but the Senate override vote fell one short of the two-thirds majority required to enact the bill over the governor's objections. Twelve Republican senators voted to sustain that veto.
Since then, strong majorities of Republican legislators have voted to sustain LePage's vetoes, sometimes reversing their original votes on legislation. That changed in the House on Wednesday. House Republican Leader Kenneth Fredette of Newport signalled the shift when he said from the House floor that he would not vote to sustain the veto.
In his veto letter, LePage called LD 1366 an unfunded mandate on public schools.
"If the Legislature truly believes this policy is necessary and requires a state law, then the bill should be resubmitted and funded with a reasonable estimate of the total cost, instead of directing the Department of Education to do the impossible, creating a statewide program at no cost," wrote LePage. "Training in CPR and AEDs is a noble goal, but it is one that should occur through individual approaches for each community, rather than a state law."
The bill passed in the House and Senate without debate or roll- call votes before going to LePage, who vetoed it. Democrats who urged colleagues to override the veto Wednesday said it would save lives and did not include a mandate.
Rep. Bruce MacDonald, D-Boothbay, House chairman of the Education Committee, said the committee unanimously supported the measure after language mandating training before graduation and proficiency was removed.
"I believe the veto is based on a misunderstanding. It is not a mandate," he said.
After the override vote, the bill's sponsor, Rep. Anne Graham, D- North Yarmouth, thanked Republicans for keeping the bill alive.
"I'm so glad that our Republican colleagues recognized the life- saving potential of this measure. Together, we found common ground," she said in a prepared statement. "Plain and simple, this bill is about life and death."