Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is joined by other members of the "common sense coalition," from left, Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, discuss the bipartisan immigration deal they reached during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018. Credit: J. Scott Applewhite | AP

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: “By planting the peach trees, he is looking to bring in new opportunities for that mill. What a gift for that mill,” said Sara Bird Nelson, a Falmouth feng shui consultant, on how the new Chinese owners of the Old Town mill brought feng shui to the town. 

What we’re watching today

All eyes are still on Maine’s senior senator as the impeachment trial continues in Washington. Republican Sen. Susan Collins made headlines yesterday for slipping Chief Justice John Roberts a note while he ran the trial. Collins had called for more civility after comments made by Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-New York, one of the House managers making the case for impeachment, who accused Senate Republicans of a cover up. Roberts admonished both sides for lack of decorum around 1 a.m. on Thursday morning.

It goes to show how every move Collins makes will be closely watched over the next few days. The Maine senator, who has said that she will likely support introducing witnesses later in the trial but is still being criticized by Democrats for not voting with them to allow witnesses earlier, is seen as a potential swing vote, though a Senate acquittal of President Donald Trump is a foregone conclusion.

Maine’s other senator said he doesn’t think the evidence presented so far has changed any minds. Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, told MSNBC late last night that Republican senators he has spoken to remain opposed to impeaching the president in an election year, regardless of the facts presented.

“The argument seems to have shifted [from] ‘nothing really happened here,’ to ‘yes, something untoward happened, but the election is in eight months, let’s just let the people decide,’” King said, recounting conversations with Republican colleagues.

King said he came around to the belief that the case against Trump is “more serious than I thought,” though he wants to hear the president’s case before deciding how to vote on removal. 

House Democrats will finish making their opening case for Trump’s impeachment today, while the president’s legal team will take the floor to defend him beginning on Saturday.

The Maine politics top 3

— “Overdose deaths are on track to rise in Maine for 2019, after a 1-year decline,” Eesha Pendharkar, Bangor Daily News: “There were 277 drug overdose deaths in the first months of 2019, according to a report the chief medical examiner’s officer released Thursday, putting the state on track to record 369 overdose deaths for all of 2019. That number would be a 4 percent increase over the number of overdose deaths in 2018, when 354 Mainers died from drug overdoses.”

— “2 retired policemen are leading Maine’s new school safety push,” Caitlin Andrews, BDN: “A 2014 report from the consulting groups Safe Havens International and PDT Architects recommended the state create a school safety center as part of an assessment of whether Maine’s schools would be prepared in the event of emergencies.”

— “Ex-Mainer sues owners of 4 Portland-area motels alleging staff ignored signs of sex trafficking,” Judy Harrison, BDN: “The woman, identified by the initials R.T., is one of about 1,500 victims of sex trafficking, and the first in Maine, who are expected to join a national effort to force hotel and motel owners to compensate victims, [an] attorney representing some victims, told the Associated Press last month.”

Affordable housing tax credit bill moves ahead

A bill that would create an affordable housing tax credit supported by the governor made it out of the budget committee. The bill, from Assistant House Majority Leader Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford, was introduced last year, and will return to the chambers in the coming weeks.

The proposal voted out of the budget committee unanimously on Thursday would be capped at $80 million over eight years, with federal funds matching that and parts of it focused on senior and rural housing. Gov. Janet Mills endorsed the bill during her State of the State address, saying she would sign it into law.

Mike likes Mike

A former congressman became one of the first major Maine endorsers in the Democratic presidential race. Former U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud of Maine’s 2nd District surprised us on Thursday by endorsing former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, a billionaire who has recently staffed up in Maine and has vaulted into fourth place in national polls behind an unprecedented quarter-billion dollars in national ad spending since November.

Michaud, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee in 2014 who now serves as an East Millinocket selectman, endorsed Bloomberg in a statement from the campaign, saying the former mayor is someone “who can lead from a set of shared values and bold ideas.” Here’s your soundtrack.

The former congressman becomes the best-known Democratic endorser in the race so far, with most big-name officeholders sitting out the fractured race ahead of the March 3 primary. Maine Senate President Troy Jackson is backing Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont while State Treasurer Henry Beck is behind Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Michael Shepherd, Caitlin Andrews and Jessica Piper. 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.

To reach us, do not reply directly to this newsletter, but contact the political team at mshepherd@bangordailynews.com, candrews@bangordailynews.com or jpiper@bangordailynews.com.

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after covering state, federal and local issues for the Kennebec Journal for three years. He's a Hallowell native who now lives in Gardiner. He graduated...