QUOTE OF THE DAY: “The likelihood of a catastrophic twin engine failure on that aircraft — it just doesn’t happen,” said Kurt Deetz, a pilot who used to fly Kobe Bryant, on the possibility that the helicopter the basketball legend was flying in failed Sunday when it crashed in California, killing Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter and seven others. The investigation of the crash is centered on foggy weather that grounded other choppers.
What we’re watching today
This billionaire Democratic presidential hopeful is the only one prioritizing Maine more than the early-voting states. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a billionaire media executive running a late and extravagant bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, will be in Maine on Monday afternoon to have coffee with local leaders in Portland and open a campaign office in Scarborough ahead of the March 3 primary.
There’s a simple reason why Bloomberg will be in Maine — often neglected in primary politics — instead of early-voting Iowa or New Hampshire: He kicked off his campaign in November while not contesting those early states in favor of quickly organizing in more than 30 other states behind an unprecedented quarter-billion dollars in advertising.
Bloomberg is likely best-known in Maine for the failed 2016 referendum to expand background checks to private gun sales and transfers. The group he founded, Everytown for Gun Safety, dumped millions into a slick campaign only to be upset by underdog gun-rights groups.
That issue wasn’t mentioned in a Bangor Daily News OpEd from former U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, the 2014 Democratic gubernatorial nominee who got high marks from the National Rifle Association at times in his career, in explaining his endorsement of Bloomberg last week. The two will hit the trail together in southern Maine today.
The Maine politics top 3
— “A new vaccine law will be on the Maine ballot. ‘Big Pharma’ is opponents’ villain,” Jessica Piper, Bangor Daily News: “It may be savvy politics in a state wracked by the opioid crisis, but the pharmaceutical money that has often poured into political campaigns in Maine hasn’t played a significant role in the referendum so far. Supporters of the law say it’s because the issue is about public health.”
— “State’s rush to judgment almost took this boy from his family,” Eric Russell, Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, “[Jaxen Steimlosk‘s] case illustrates what can happen to parents of a child with complex, undiagnosed medical problems whose doctors can’t agree on treatment. Most states, including Maine, do not separate instances of medical child abuse from all child abuse, so there is no accurate way of knowing how often these types of investigations happen, but experts say parents like Cassie [Steimlosk], who are proactive in trying to get answers, are often the first to spur suspicion.”
— “China deal might not bail out lobster industry this New Year,” Patrick Whittle, Associated Press: “American seafood exporters are optimistic that a new trade deal with China will allow them to claw back into one of the world’s biggest markets for lobster, but help might not have arrived in time for the biggest day on the calendar.”
Impeachment resumes, with new calls for witnesses
— The president’s lawyers will resume their defense in the impeachment trial this afternoon — but they might be overshadowed. The New York Times reported Sunday evening that former White House national security adviser John Bolton wrote in a draft of his book set to be published in March that President Donald Trump said he wanted to keep military aid to Ukraine frozen until the country helped with his investigations into Democrats, including former Vice President Joe Biden.
The news is likely to amplify calls for the Senate to bring in Bolton as a witness in the impeachment trial. The former national security adviser said earlier this month that he would testify if subpoenaed by the Senate, though the White House has indicated at times that it would try to block Bolton’s testimony.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who has been one of the most closely watched senators in Washington over the past few weeks, has said that she will likely support calling witnesses in the trial, though she has not named specific individuals. Collins’ office didn’t respond to a request for comment Sunday night on the Bolton revelation.
Meanwhile, Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, told the Associated Press over the weekend that he hasn’t fully made up his mind on either article of impeachment, but he said an acquittal would be “the largest transfer of power from the Congress to the executive in the history of the country,” citing the president’s ability so far to refuse to cooperate with congressional investigations.
Marijuana, ATVs and waitlists on the State House docket
— A task force’s recommendations that some of the state’s ATV trails have size and weight limits is sure to draw attention today. A presentation on that long-standing issue is planned for this morning in the Cross building. Across the way, a bevy of marijuana related bills — from product testing to allowing marijuana to be delivered — will grab attention as the state is just over a month away from recreational sales going live. At noon, Sen. Rebecca Millett, D-Cape Elizabeth, will hold a press conference on a bill that aims to eliminate waitlists for home and community based services for adults. Here’s your soundtrack.
An item in Friday’s Daily Brief misstated the amount of an affordable housing tax credit being proposed in a bill by Assistant House Majority Leader Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford. It is $80 million over eight years.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org (we’re setting up a new subscriber page soon) to subscribe to it via email.