As we noted last month, Maine Gov. Paul LePage doesn’t like the newspapers in his state. There’s now evidence to suggest his disgust for print-based local journalism provokes him to stake out irrational positions on public notice bills.
In April, LePage vetoed a bill requiring newspapers to continue posting public notices on their own websites at no extra cost to the state. The veto was counterintuitive but it had an internal logic. LePage doesn’t believe in half measures. He is convinced that newspapers are dying but he’s an impatient man, so he wants to do all he can to hasten their demise.
He said as much in his veto statement (PDF): “I believe that it is good policy for legal notices to be posted online,” LePage explained. “However, I also believe that requiring legal notices to be printed in newspapers at a fee does nothing but prop up a dying, antiquated industry. The requirement is a taxpayer subsidy of the worst sort.” He also encouraged legislators to “explore whether we may eliminate the mandate.”
His veto was overturned by overwhelming margins in the legislature.
Lepage vetoed another public notice bill in May. This time his action defied all rational explanation. The bill would have eliminated the mandate requiring sample ballots to be published in newspapers prior to an election.
“Yes, the veto — if sustained — actually helps Maine’s newspaper industry,” noted the perplexed Bangor Daily News.
“Due to the unabashed liberal bias of Maine newspapers and the third-rate reporting by the so-called ‘journalists’ they employ,” LePage wrote in his veto letter (PDF), “Mainers are increasingly choosing to get their news from other outlets. Because the vast majority of Mainers do not buy Maine newspapers that are in general circulation, it is important that we keep the requirement that specimen ballots be displayed at polling stations.”
The problem with this explanation: The bill did require specimen ballots to be posted at all polling stations.
Despite the apparent lack of rationality, this time his veto was sustained.
LePage wasted little time following through on his earlier threat. A few days after the veto was upheld, the governor had a friend in the Senate introduce a bill that would move all public notice in the state to a government agency website.