Gov. Paul LePage has vetoed a bill that received near-unanimous support in the Legislature to retain contracts with organizations providing programs for child abuse prevention.

The bill, LD 1874, was sponsored by Rep. Pinny Beebe-Center, D-Rockland.

“Given the two recent, tragic deaths of children at the hands of child abusers, it is unbelievable that he would veto this bill,” Beebe-Center said. “How can he stand there and say that he cares about preventing abuse, and then veto continued funding for a model abuse prevention program?  I am stunned.”

The bill was approved by the state Senate April 12. The Maine House voted 139-5 April 13 to support the legislation.

One of the five legislators in the state voting against the bill was Republican Rep. Paula Sutton of Warren. All other Midcoast legislators voted for the legislation.

Sutton said the governor's veto message summed up her reasons for voting against the bill. She said she gave a great deal of thought and research to the issue.

In his veto message, Lepage stated that "This bill sets inappropriate limitations on the ability of the Executive to manage, enter, and exit specific contracts. Without appropriate flexibility, the team at DHHS is left with little ability to ensure a contractor meets basic performance expectations."

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services had announced in February that it was ending $2.2 million in funding for Community Partnerships for Protecting Children programs in September, according to the Portland Press Herald, claiming that it duplicates other services and is not evidence-based.

The Beebe-Cebnter bill stated that "The Department of Health and Human Services must continue contracts with the Community Partnerships for Protecting Children programs through at least Jan. 31, 2019, either by not terminating the contracts or by reentering and maintaining new contracts; and the department must develop a plan for providing the services currently provided by the Community Partnerships for Protecting Children programs, including the Parents as Partners program, and the role of child abuse and neglect prevention councils. The department must report the plan to the joint standing committee of the Legislature having jurisdiction over health and human services matters by January 1, 2019."

A two-thirds majority in the House and Senate is needed to override a gubernatorial veto.