Gov. Paul LePage pointed the finger at the Maine Legislature and secretary of state Thursday for Maine’s continued noncompliance with the federal REAL ID law. LePage says it’s preventing veterans in southern Maine from accessing certain VA services.
But the governor plans to veto a bill that would ensure veterans access to health care, while another bill that brings Maine into full compliance with REAL ID could land on his desk as early as next week.
Speaking on Portland radio station WGAN, LePage said he’s concerned that Maine’s noncompliance with the REAL ID law is preventing roughly 500 veterans in the southern part of the state from accessing VA facilities in New Hampshire.
“Unfortunately, the secretary of state and the Legislature aren’t moving fast enough to solve the REAL ID problem,” he said.
But as it turns out, a bill that would specifically address veteran access to New Hampshire VA facilities was sent to the governor 8 days ago. It would allow veterans to obtain federal passport cards, which would be used to enter the New Hampshire facilities until Maine comes into compliance with REAL ID, the federal law that set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses.
The proposal is sponsored by Lewiston Democratic Rep. Jared Golden, the assistant majority leader and Marine Corps veteran who served combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“I think my initial reaction was that the governor must not know that my bill is sitting on his desk, waiting for him to sign it into law,” Golden says.
But Thursday afternoon, LePage released a statement saying he planned to veto Golden’s bill. He said he agreed with the sentiment of helping veterans seeking medical care, but that the Legislature shouldn’t provide case-by-case exceptions for those affected by REAL ID.
LePage then urged the Legislature to quickly pass the bill that will bring Maine into full compliance with REAL ID.
And that’s what Legislature is poised to do. Democratic Sen. Bill Diamond of Windham is the sponsor of the bill. Diamond says he’s hoping it will pass with supermajority support, and as an emergency measure.
If that happens, the governor’s latest dustup with the Legislature will go away.