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Maine Senate fails to override Gov. Mills' veto of bump stock ban

The State House is seen at sunrise during the final week of winter, Thursday, March 16, 2023, in Augusta, Maine.
Robert F. Bukaty
The State House is seen at sunrise during the final week of winter, Thursday, March 16, 2023, in Augusta, Maine.

State lawmakers upheld six vetoes from Gov. Janet Mills on Friday on issues ranging from guns to pay for farm workers.

All six fell well short of the two-thirds majorities needed to override the governor.

Gov. Janet Mills' veto of a bill that would ban devices enabling semi-automatic guns to fire almost as quickly as a machine gun will stand after the Maine Senate failed to override her.

The proposal was designed to align Maine law with a federal rule prohibiting so-called bump stocks, but the governor argued that the definitions in the bill exceeded that rule and could include devices used by hunters and in target shooting.

While the Senate voted 18-16 to override the governor's veto, it was well short of the two-thirds needed.

The proposal was among several priority bills advanced by legislative Democrats in response to the Lewiston shooting.

So far, only one of those bills — a three-day waiting period for most people to purchase firearms — will become law.

The governor allowed the waiting period bill to go through without her signature, but it faces a legal challenge by gun rights groups.

Mills did sign her own bill, which expands background checks to advertised gun sales and creates a network of crisis prevention centers. Her bill also included a modification to Maine's so-called yellow flag law, which allows law enforcement to petition a judge to confiscate someone's firearms if a mental health evaluation shows them to be a danger to themselves or others. The change gives a police officer more latitude to take a person into protective custody, which is the first step in the weapons confiscation process.

More than 20 other states have different versions of what's known as extreme risk protection order laws that allow family members to petition a judge to remove a loved one's firearms and without a mental health evaluation. The Legislature considered such a bill late in the current session, but it had yet to receive a vote in either the House or Senate as of Friday afternoon.

Mills vetoed a bill requiring farm workers to be paid the state's minimum wage because she objected to allowing those workers to sue employers. Republican Rep. Gary Drinkwater said Republicans offered to go along with that provision if Democrats agreed to allow seasonal farmers to be paid less than minimum wage. But he said Democrats were not interested in compromising.

"We came close but we couldn't get across the finish line. And for that Madame Speaker, I apologize. But we tried."

The Democratic governor also blocked a proposal to create a higher tax bracket for couples earning more than $1 million a year.

Journalist Steve Mistler is Maine Public’s chief politics and government correspondent. He is based at the State House.