June 20, 2019
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How Maine Democrats are trying to avoid public infighting over the $1 billion CMP project

Ashley L. Conti | BDN
Ashley L. Conti | BDN
Sen. Brownie Carson, D-Harpswell, seen here in a BDN file photo, has proposed a bill that would require state regulators to study the CMP project’s net effect on carbon emissions in New England, Quebec and other regions.

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Democrats in Augusta continue to quietly seek common ground on the Central Maine Power corridor backed by Gov. Janet Mills, though it’s unclear how much they’ll be able to find before advancing proposals aimed at the unpopular proposal.

Senate sponsors of three bills targeting the $1 billion Central Maine Power corridor aren’t hopeful they’ll receive support from the governor. An emergency bill from Sen. Brownie Carson, D-Harpswell, ordering an immediate carbon-emissions impact study of a proposed 145-mile transmission line through Maine to send Hydro-Quebec power from Canada to Massachusetts cleared a legislative committee hurdle with bipartisan support last week.

That’s only one of the bills aimed at the corridor, alongside one from Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, that would make all towns that the corridor passes through approve it at referendum and others barring utilities from using eminent domain to complete this project and others like it.

After holding meetings with the Democratic governor and her staff, Carson said on Tuesday that Mills has come out in opposition to his bill and likely will not offer supplemental funding to complete it. Publicly, the governor had only signaled skepticism about Carson’s bill and others aimed at the project so far.

Mills spokesman Scott Ogden said last week that Mills is “interested in working with lawmakers on both sides of the issue on productive legislation” related to the project, but he cited “well-documented and substantial reduction of carbon emissions” and said the governor “has concerns” with Carson’s bill “that she will share with lawmakers as the Legislature continues to consider it.”

Carson’s bill, approved after regulators granted a key permit for the corridor, poses an immediate threat to the project, which Mills threw her support behind after CMP inked a $250 million, 40-year benefits package. The bill, backed by bipartisan project opponents, was born out of skepticism that the transmission line would reduce global carbon emissions.

Other bills could move forward before week’s end in the Legislature’s energy committee. The committee, which is co-chaired by Berry, a main CMP skeptic, will work on other corridor-related bills today and could advance some corridor-related bills by week’s end. His town approval bill could require more work before it advances.

Mills is expected to meet with the Democratic caucuses from both chambers before the end of the week. Carson said he plans to probe her for a more detailed response and the corridor should be a main topic of conversation at both meetings. We’re sure to learn more soon.


Today in A-town

Other committees will take testimony on bills including the House speaker’s bid to establish automatic voter registration and a compromise plastic bag ban. A highlight of the public hearing schedule today is a proposal before the voting committee from House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, to allow people the option to register to vote through the Bureau of Motor Vehicles or other agencies that could include colleges and other state agencies if someone provides necessary proof.

Maine would be the 16th state to enshrine automatic voter registration, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. A virtually identical 2017 bill from Jared Golden, who is now the Democratic congressman from the 2nd District, died as a result of opposition in the Senate, which was led by Republicans then. This Democratic-led Legislature is likely to pass it and it was backed in concept last time by Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, a Democrat.

The Legislature’s environment will hold hearings on proposals aimed at phasing out the use of plastic bags in Maine. The Natural Resources Council of Maine, the Retail Association of Maine and the Maine Grocers and Food Producers Association have come together behind a bill from Rep. Holly Stover, D-Boothbay, that would ban single-use plastic shopping bags at the point of sale statewide and place a 5-cent fee on paper bags to encourage the use of reusable bags.

Rep. Patrick Corey, R-Windham, will air a proposal for a Clean Election act for referendum proposals before the same committee. The State and Local Government Committee will take testimony on constitutional amendments to increase the terms for state senators and establish The Ghost of Paul Revere’s “Ballad of the 20th Maine” as the official state ballad. Here’s your soundtrack. See the full committee schedule here.


Reading list

— A bill to strip nonmedical school vaccination exemptions in Maine took another step forward. On Tuesday, the Maine House of Representatives voted 78-59 to pass a bill from Rep. Ryan Tipping, D-Orono, that would repeal religious and philosophical vaccination exemptions, which have been cited more often in recent years by parents who do not have their children vaccinated. The largely party-line vote — with only three House Republicans joining Democrats and independents in the majority — puts Maine on track to enact one of the most stringent school immunization laws in the country. A Republican amendment to retain religious exemptions failed narrowly. The measure now moves to a Maine Senate vote.

— The Maine House of Representatives also endorsed a bill to ban Native American school mascots. In another largely party-line vote, the lower chamber backed a bill from Rep. Ben Collings, D-Portland, that would ban the use of Native American names, imagery and mascots in Maine public schools and post-secondary institutions amid a long-standing controversy over the Skowhegan Indians nickname. The Maine Senate will vote next on the bill.

— Maine’s congressional delegation wants to slow federal rulemaking designed to protect endangered whales. Golden took the lead Tuesday in the delegation’s latest effort to advocate for Maine’s lobster fishing industry. As the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Team meets this week to discuss options to protect right whales, Golden criticized the risk-assessment tools used to determine how lobstering could adversely affect the whales and asked federal officials not to hastily implement measures that could negatively affect lobstering in Maine. The other three members of the delegation chimed in with similar concerns later Tuesday.

— A former Maine legislator was sentenced to serve 10 years in prison for stealing more than $3 million from two elderly widows. Superior Court Justice William Anderson called the crime “the worst theft” he had ever seen when he sentenced Robert Kenneth Lindell Jr., 54, of Cloverdale, California, on theft and tax evasion charges. The judge also ordered Lindell to pay $750,000 in restitution. Lindell previously lived in Frankfort and served one term in the Maine House between 2004 and 2006.


The bard’s birthday

On Tuesday, the world celebrated the anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth — although there’s some question of whether he actually was born on April 23, 1564, given that the keepers of calendars and birth records were far less finicky in those days. We can be pretty certain that he died on the same date in 1616.

As a prototypical English major, I spent a whole year studying Shakespeare in college. One semester was taught by a flighty poet who delighted in Shakespeare’s language and recited lines by memory while standing on tiptoe and being about as Puckish as someone in his 60s could be. The other Shakespeare teacher was an outwardly dour academic whose appreciation for the bard was less overtly emphatic but equally committed. I think he related more closely to Shakespeare’s tragic figures than to the fairies or romantic characters.

Both made a point of demonstrating how many phrases from Shakespeare’s plays had made their way into common English parlance. Among them are:

— “Wild goose chase” from something Mercutio says in “Romeo and Juliet.”

— “Pure as the driven snow,” which is a variation on a line from “Hamlet.”

— “Good riddance” is Patroclus’ abrupt putdown in “Troilus and Cressida.”

— “Love is blind,” which comes from “The Merchant of Venice.”

— “You’ve got to be cruel to be kind” also comes from “Hamlet.”

There are dozens more. Where would our modern songwriters and ad copy writers be without those phrases and others like “break the ice” and “heart of gold?” Even the classic kindergarten opening line, “Knock, knock, who’s there?” can be traced to “Macbeth.”

After my year of Shakespeare studies in the U.S., I did a six-week intensive study program in Oxford — the English city, not the Maine county — and was lucky enough to visit his birthplace. We saw “The Tempest” with the great Alan Rickman as Ariel at the theater there, and I learned what a weir is because our instructor fell out of his punt (another new word) at a weir in the Avon River. All the world’s a stage. Here is your soundtrack. — Robert Long

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.

To reach us, do not reply directly to this newsletter, but email us directly at mshepherd@bangordailynews.com, aacquisto@bangordailynews.com, and rlong@bangordailynews.com.



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