State of Maine: Mills gets straight to the point in latest round of vetoes

On May 6, Governor Janet Mills announced she has “completed her review of bills enacted during the second session of the 130th Legislature.” That review led to five vetoes this spring, 27 for the entire two-year session. To date, none of her vetoes has been overturned.

Her veto letters, which can be found on the Governor’s website, are instructive, and the Governor minces no words. LD 844, which sought to change some conditions of release and probation in court proceedings, she dismissed “because some of its changes are unworkable” or otherwise “unrealistic and unacceptable,” “confusing and potentially dangerous” or “unenforceable.”

She vetoed LD 1338, “An Act to Prohibit Employers from Retaliating Against the Use of Earned Paid Leave,” as “unnecessary and unwarranted.” A study by the Maine Department of Labor turned up nary an instance of such retaliation. Instead, she has asked the DOL to undertake a broader review of existing provisions and recommend “a uniform statute … for consideration by the 131st Legislature.”

LD 1919, aimed at encouraging job growth in the forest products industry, was a case of right goal, wrong approach. Pointing to evidence that “there is no consensus among industry leaders that this bill would result in positive results for the forest products sector,” the Governor declared herself “concerned about the creation of a new sector-specific program that lacks broad support within the very sector it is supposed to help.”

It appears that all other legislation that reached final enactment in the Legislature will become law, either with or without the Governor’s signature. (She can hold a bill, neither signing it nor vetoing it, and it still becomes law after 10 days if the Legislature has not adjourned.) That includes one fervently welcomed by a substantial number of Maine voters. LD 231 will allow unenrolled voters (“independents”) to vote in primary elections without having to enroll in a party first.

The bill was supported by more than just independent voters. It would have to be. No legislation passes if it is not in the interest of the political parties. A Democrat, Sen. Chloe Maxmin, sponsored the bill. It passed the Senate with more than two-thirds of the chamber in support, and nearly reached the same two-thirds majority in the House.

In the end, it was a matter of fairness. About one-third of voters in Maine are not party members. Our tax dollars pay the cost of primary elections, yet a third of Maine’ s registered voters are not allowed to participate.

Detractors cited the possibility that mischief could be made if independents voted “strategically” and nominated a non-starter from one party or the other, killing that party’s chances of winning a general election. Seriously? That would take an organizational effort beyond what the parties can do, let alone an unaffiliated clump of Maine voters with no central network, staff or leadership.

To the contrary, there could be a distinct benefit from opening primaries to unenrolled voters. People with a party affiliation tend to be more firmly to the left (Democrats) or right (Republicans). Many voters choose to be unenrolled because they do not identify with those left or right ideologies. They are centrists who no longer find a “middle” in either party.

Candidates in primary elections must target ideologically pure voters, then shift to the middle to win the general election. With more centrist independents entering the picture in the primaries, the heat will be on for candidates to appeal to that middle ground from the get-go. We just might end up with two appealing candidates, rather than two ideologues who cause us to hold our noses when we vote.

They’re “semi-open” because you still must be a registered Democrat to vote in a Democratic primary, likewise for Republicans. But beginning in 2024, unenrolled voters may pick the party primary of their choice and vote, without being forced to become a temporary and unwilling member of that party.

It is one thing to vote for a bill, but it is entirely another to work that bill. Rep. Nicole Grohoski, a co-sponsor of the bill, has many virtues as a legislator (thoughtfulness, diligence, honesty, energy) and she deployed every one of them in support of LD 231. Said Grohoski: “The status quo is not in line with our values.”

She took everything she has learned in four years in the House and applied it to getting this bill passed. Those of us who are not enrolled in a political party but who are as conscientious about our duty as citizens as the most ardent party member owe her a debt of gratitude.

This would not have happened had not many party members supported the rights of independents to vote without hindrance. Thanks to all Democrats and Republicans who welcomed independents into the primary electoral process.


Jill Goldthwait worked for 25 years as a registered nurse at Mount Desert Island Hospital. She has served as a Bar Harbor town councilor and as an independent state senator from Hancock County.


Jill Goldthwait

Jill Goldthwait

Jill Goldthwait worked for 25 years as a registered nurse at Mount Desert Island Hospital. She has served as a Bar Harbor town councilor and as an independent state senator from Hancock County.

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