The Maine House of Representatives on April 4 failed to override a governor’s veto on a bill that would have helped veterans who have been barred from accessing medical care because of Maine’s non-compliance with federal REAL ID laws. All of Waldo County’s representatives had originally supported the bill but none of the Republican representatives in the county supported it in the override vote.

The bill would have provided passport cards at a one-time-cost of $15,000 to the approximately 500 veterans who receive medical services at Pease Air Force Base in New Hampshire. The base no longer accepts Maine driver’s licenses as identification.

An Act To Provide Funds for Access for Veterans Seeking Health Care, LD 213, passed the House March 14 with a vote of 110-8. It passed the Senate unanimously March 21, and was vetoed by the governor March 30.

“Though I agree with the sentiment to help veterans seeking medical care, we cannot forget all the other groups that have experienced problems due to REAL ID,” Governor Paul LePage wrote in his veto letter. “I respectfully urge the Legislature to not provide case-by-case carve outs for groups being effected (sic) by REAL ID.”

Instead he asked legislators to back LD 306, which would bring Maine into full compliance with federal REAL ID laws, a more controversial proposal because of privacy concerns and the cost of compliance, estimated to be approximately $3 million.

During testimony for LD 306, 10 people spoke in support of the bill, including representatives of contractors', carpenters' and truckers' unions, and 10 spoke against it, including Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap and representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine.

Maine democrats reacted to the veto of LD 213 in a press release: “We can't understand why the Governor endangered veterans to make a political point. Governor LePage is trying to use Maine's veterans as political pawns, and risking their health in the process."

Some have argued that while the REAL ID bill is being debated, and, if it passes, until it is implemented, the 500 veterans affected by LD 213 will not have access to medical care.

Republican representatives Karl Ward of Dedham and James Gillway of Searsport honored LePage’s request and voted against the override April 4. Rep. Maryanne Kinney, R-Knox, was absent. Democratic Representatives Erin Herbig of Belfast and Stanley Paige Zeigler of Montville voted for the override.

The override needed 96 votes to pass, but failed by 7 votes with 89 for and 54 against.

The same day, LD 306, the bill which would bring Maine into full compliance with federal REAL ID laws, passed the Senate by a vote of 31-4. Thibodeau voted for the bill.

On April 11, members of the House passed the measure, 115-30. All Waldo County representatives voted in favor of the bill, with the exception of Rep. Owen Casas, I-Rockport, who represents Islesboro.

Editor's note: This story was updated April 11 to reflect passage of LD 306.