Gov. Janet Mills acknowledges applause after taking the oath of office, Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019, at the Augusta Civic Center in Augusta. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty) Credit: Robert F. Bukaty | AP

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Later today Gov. Janet Mills will sign her first bill into law, renaming an Orono bridge for a Maine soldier killed in Afghanistan. That milestone has come slower than the past two governors, but more bills are on the way to her in short order.

Mills’ predecessor also started his tenure with two bridge bills. The new Democratic governor will sign LD 200 at a public event on Thursday. It will rename the Main Street bridge in Orono after U.S. Army Sgt. Brandon Silk, who was killed in combat in 2010 while serving his fourth tour of duty in Afghanistan. He graduated from Orono High School in 2003.

Last month, we detailed for you some of the early bills-turned-law of Legislatures past (for a detailed look at the process in Maine, click here). On her 65th day in office, the timing of Mills’ first bill with the 129th Legislature lags slightly behind her recent predecessors.

Former Gov. Paul LePage signed six bills into law by this point in 2011 and his predecessor, John Baldacci, had signed three bills into law by this time in 2003. LePage began in February with a simple bill to change the meeting date and fiscal year for a Down East school district.

LePage’s first ream of bills by this point also included a supplemental budget, one renaming of a Benton bridge for two Congressional Medal of Honor recipients from the town who fought in the Vietnam War and the Civil War and another bill stripping the state’s authority to name a bridge in Medway because legislators told it to name the wrong bridge. Here’s your soundtrack.

More bills are likely to follow soon. The Senate is likely to take final action today on a bill sponsored by Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, to provide state support through the end of this year to federal workers who go without pay during shutdowns. Mills’ $7.5 million supplemental budget is tentatively set for legislative approval on Tuesday.

Committees are sending a steady flow of recommendations to the House and Senate, where they will begin the back-and-forth process required before approved bills go to Mills.

Today in A-town

Attention today is likely to focus on another attempt to add an equal rights amendment to the Maine Constitution. The Judiciary Committee will hold a public hearing on LD 433, sponsored by Rep. Lois Reckitt, D-South Portland, which would add an amendment to the Maine Constitution prohibiting sex-based discrimination. It would require two-thirds votes in both chambers and ratification by voters.

Past similar efforts have failed amid Republican opposition — most recently in 2017 — but Democrats are trying again with a push from party leaders including Mills, whose office said she will make rare testimony before the committee today. Some Republicans are also listed as sponsors of the bill, including Senate Minority Leader Dana Dow of Waldoboro, who supported it last time.

Reading list

— The mayor of Maine’s second-largest city is enmeshed in allegations of election shenanigans. Maine Public reports that Lewiston Mayor Shane Bouchard, a Republican. acknowledged Wednesday that a woman with whom he had a relationship provided him damaging internal campaign emails from his opponent that were eventually obtained by a website run by an operative for the Maine Republican Party. Bouchard also confirmed that he discussed the emails with Lewiston resident Heather Berube Everly in text messages in which he described her as his “secret weapon.” Everly worked for Bouchard’s opponent, Democrat Ben Chin, during the hotly contested 2017 runoff election, which became a proxy battle between the Maine Republican and Democratic parties. But Bouchard and Everly offer contrasting stories about who gave the damaging emails to Maine Republican Party Executive Director Jason Savage, who secretly ran the website.

— Another Maine city is awash in political controversy. In the latest chapter of a lengthy series of conflicts between Belfast’s 20-something mayor and older city councilors, 75 minutes of Tuesday’s council meeting were devoted to verbal wrangling over basic procedures about how elected officials should speak to each other. During that process, a resident accused councilors of “gaslighting” Samantha Paradis, the “young, queer woman” who was elected mayor in 2017. Problems between councilors and the mayor first came to a head last No v ember when councilors voted to stop Paradis from speaking on their behalf after she wrote a controversial commentary that they believed accused them of sexism, ageism and bigotry. The council’s decision was rescinded soon afterward, but tensions remain high.

— A Maine women’s health care provider is going to federal court to fight the president’s proposed “gag rule” on abortion referrals. Republican President Donald Trump’s administration last month issued a ruling that would halt payments of Title X funds to groups that make referrals to abortion providers. Representatives of Maine Family Planning, the state’s only direct recipient of Title X funds, said the change would have devastating effects on women who receive care from its clinic and 18 affiliated women’s health centers. On behalf of Maine Family Planning, the Center for Reproductive Rights went to federal court in Portland on Wednesday to seek a preliminary injunction to stop implementation of new, more restrictive changes to the federal program. Attorneys general for 21 other states have taken similar legal steps to stop implementation of the new dictums.

— Everything is in place to fill two vacant seats in the Maine House of Representatives. Now people in the currently unrepresented districts just have to vote. Campaigning is now in full swing for a special election to fill an open seat representing parts of Bangor and Orono, which will take place on Tuesday. The ballot is now set for an April 2 special election to fill a vacant seat representing Bath.

Fan boys

Why is it that the most egregious acts of sports fan misbehavior usually occur in what should be the most innocent settings?

The most recent Maine example of that occurred Sunday, when an Albion man was arrested for allegedly becoming combative after his heckling of a referee at a charity basketball game caused coaches to try to escort him out of a middle school gym.

The three key words in that sentence are “charity basketball game.” Right behind them are “middle school gym.”

I wasn’t there, so I won’t get sanctimonious about the situation. But I have spent parts of more than 30 summers umpiring amateur baseball games at all levels of competition, so I am familiar with the overwrought fan phenomenon. My first exposure to it — which, as you can tell, remains seared in my memory — involved an inebriated adult complaining about every pitch during a Little League practice game I was enlisted to umpire — for free — when I was 13 or 14.

It was simply designed to get kids who had played on different teams during the regular season onto the field as an all-star team in preparation for tournament play. They weren’t even keeping score. But this did not prevent the guy from bombarding my partner, who was calling balls and strikes, with a slurred commentary on his competence as a strike zone arbiter.

Coaches for the team his kid played on asked him to stop. Coaches for the other team asked him to stop. To no avail.

Finally, the other umpire — who was probably no more than 16 years old — and I stopped the game and told him that we would clear the field and that not one more pitch would be thrown until he sat in his car.

He did. We made him roll up the windows to ensure that no one could hear him.

It was 90 degrees. Problem solved.

I don’t know what motivates adults to lose their cool while watching kids play games. But it would seem that a similar punishment should await anyone who disrupts a charity game in a middle school gym. Hand-washing middle school basketball uniforms for a year might be a start. Here is your soundtrack. — Robert Long

Programming note

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Today’s Daily Brief was written by Michael Shepherd, Alex Acquisto and Robert Long. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, click here to receive Maine’s leading newsletter on state politics via email on weekday mornings. Click here to subscribe to the BDN.

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