February 19, 2020
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Janet Mills will deliver a key address on Tuesday. Here’s what to expect.

Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Gov. Janet Mills addresses a joint session of the Legislature at the State House for the State of the Budget in Augusta in this Feb. 11, 2019, file photo.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: “We have to get close to the issue and change the narrative,” said Joyce Taylor Gibson, a University of Southern Maine professor, at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event in Orono on Monday. “And we have to do some things that are uncomfortable to make it happen because it is a waste of time to try to sustain Dr. King’s legacy while we eat and listen to speeches.”

What we’re watching today

Maine’s governor will deliver her first State of the State address at 7 p.m. tonight. In one of the last firsts for Gov. Janet Mills more than a year after taking office, the Democrat will address the Maine Legislature in the House chamber on Tuesday night in her first State of the State address. (Her similarly timed 2019 speech was technically a budget address.)

Expect a relatively tight focus from Mills, who told Maine Public this week that “major reforms” won’t be accomplished in a short legislative session in an election year, also saying some lawmakers won’t want “to come to the middle, but we’ll make things happen” in 2020.

Among her 2020 legislative priorities are a bill that would merge individual and small-group health insurance markets while giving Maine more control over its Affordable Care Act exchange. She may flesh out a supplemental budget proposal that she has only teased so far and may include more money for child welfare workers and the Maine State Police.

Minority Republicans still upset about the level of spending in the two-year budget passed in 2019 — which figures to be a campaign issue this year — have already signaled that they’ll be watching spending closely in 2020. We’ll see if Mills floats much of it tonight.

The Maine politics top 3

— “How contributions from big pharma have fueled Maine campaigns,” Jessica Piper, Bangor Daily News: “Campaign contributions from the pharmaceutical industry to U.S. Sen. Susan Collins have become a main talking point for opponents of her 2020 re-election campaign. But they have fueled politicians across the country — and in Maine — for years.”

Dating back to 2007, Collins has taken just over $320,000 in campaign contributions from the industry. But that places her in the middle of the pack among senators who have been in Washington for more than a decade. Over the same period, pharmaceutical companies have also pumped more than $1.4 million into state-level elections in Maine.

— “2,500 affordable apartments in rural Maine at risk as federal program ends,” Josh Keefe, BDN: “As the properties leave the program, they can lose their rental assistance, leaving tenants’ fates uncertain as officials grapple with how to preserve the homes of people living in areas where there are few incentives for private development.”

— “Maine policymakers are proposing a jail funding fix. Criminal justice reform is an end goal,” Caitlin Andrews, BDN: “The biggest changes proposed in the task force’s report would commit the state’s contribution to jail to law, ending sheriffs’ annual appearances before the Legislature to ask for more money and assign a dollar value to inmates sent to the jails by the state. The underlying idea is that the accountability measures will force conversations around criminal justice reform.”

Susan Collins and the news

Rules for President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial were released by the Senate leader on Monday. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, released a resolution on Monday which would allow either the president’s defense team or the House impeachment managers to subpoena any witness, but witnesses would first have to be deposed by both sides, making it uncertain whether full testimony would make it to the Senate floor. 

McConnell has said he has the votes to set up these rules, but it’s not clear whether Collins — who said previously that she was working with a small group of fellow GOP senators to ensure witnesses would testify — will be on board. Her office didn’t respond to a request for comment late Monday. The trial begins in earnest today.

One of Collins’ Democratic challengers was endorsed by Planned Parenthood on Tuesday. The group’s endorsement of House Speaker Sara Gideon was not surprising, but it is somewhat noteworthy given that Planned Parenthood didn’t endorse anyone in Collins’ 2014 election and honored the pro-abortion rights senator in 2017. But the group cited Collins’ 2018 vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh as a U.S. Supreme Court justice in an endorsement of Gideon, one of four Democrats running for the nomination to take on Collins.

Maine’s senior senator has been in the news a lot. And by recently, we mean that almost every other week there is a story from local or national press about the tough choice Collins’ faces as the impeachment trial draws nearer. Most of these stories have a similar theme: the senator is in the crosshairs and facing a “uniquely difficult” position as people closely watch to see if she will break with Trump. It’s like there’s a theme. Here’s your soundtrack.

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Michael Shepherd, Jessica Piper and Caitlin Andrews. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, email clumm@bangordailynews.com (we’re setting up a new subscriber page soon) to subscribe to it via email.


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