By Senator Jeff Timberlake
Thank you, Mr. President
By introducing this Joint Order (SP 637), Senate Republicans hope to allow the legislature to correct an error that is preventing money, allocated by this legislature 67 days ago through LD 1758, from being paid to nursing facilities across Maine for higher employee wages.
As you know, the Chief Executive chose to hold this bill. In its present state, this bill cannot be vetoed or signed into law until after the third scheduled legislative day, which will most likely occur in January. In the meantime, Maine’s nursing facilities cannot receive this funding.
This Joint Order allows the legislature to recall the bill from the governor’s desk so that it can be amended and voted on by both houses, sending it back to the Second Floor for a signature.
What I propose is a simple solution. By recalling the bill, amending it and returning it to the Chief Executive today, the legislature makes it possible to be signed into law immediately, making these funds available to nursing facilities as soon as it is signed.
I remind the body that this bill was sponsored by President Jackson, and the amendment rewriting the language was sponsored by Senator Breen.
On the last day of the previous session, the Senate Republicans allocated virtually their entire allocation for the Appropriations Table to this bill, in order to help alleviate the pressure on our Nursing Facilities.
Legislative staff have studied this bill at length and concluded without doubt that it will not cause the state to break the payment ceiling known as the Upper Payment Limit which the Chief Executive stated was the reason for holding the bill and its funding.
State Statutes clearly give the power to both the Chief Executive and the Department of Health and Human Services to reduce any payments in this category that cause payments to reach or exceed that ceiling – the Upper Payment Limits.
The Executive Branch can thus avoid the stated concerns of the Second Floor by signing this bill into law and following state statutes that prevent overpayments.
I encourage my colleagues to vote in favor of this Joint Order so that the oversight that has halted these payments can be rectified and these funds can begin to flow for the benefit of our elderly and disabled neighbors.