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QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Lol, y’all getting up all over a poll screw up, wait until one of these state political parties inevitably botch their caucus results transmission, THAT will be the big shitshow,” tweeted Brandon Finnegan, founder of Decision Desk HQ (the Bangor Daily News’ election results partner), two days before technical problems led to no official results being reported last night from Iowa’s Democratic presidential caucuses.
What we’re watching today
The Maine GOP announced a new challenge to ranked-choice voting this morning. The party announced Tuesday morning that it plans to file a “people’s veto” challenge against the law passed by the legislature last year that would allow ranked-choice voting in presidential elections. If the party collects enough signatures to put a referendum on the November ballot, it would be the third ballot question on ranked choice voting in four years. Mainers previously voted in favor of ranked-choice voting in 2016 and upheld it in 2018.
What it’s really about: Simply getting the question on the 2020 ballot would be a victory for Republicans, since it would block the use of ranked-choice voting for this year’s presidential election regardless of whether they win their challenge at the ballot.
State-level campaigns are making noise in Augusta, starting with groups on both sides of an upcoming vaccine ballot question. The committees fighting for and against the March 3 people’s veto on a new law repealing nonmedical exemptions to school vaccine requirements are holding press conferences within an hour of one another in the same State House room this morning to “kick off” their campaigns — which are already active.
Yes on 1, the group aiming to overturn a vaccine law passed last year that eliminated personal and religious exemptions for mandatory school vaccines, will go at 9:30 a.m. for an “official campaign launch.” Expect the group to hit Gov. Janet Mills, who used her radio address last week to urge Mainers to support the law and reject the referendum.
At 10:30 a.m., No on 1, which is in favor of preserving the vaccine law, will have its own launch rolling out a large coalition of medical groups from the American Medical Association to hospitals and the Maine Society of Anesthesiologists who back the new law and oppose the referendum.
The secretary of state’s office will also be counting signatures for a ballot question on the Central Maine Power corridor. Opponents of the power transmission line submitted 73,000 signatures yesterday, making it likely that there will be a referendum on the energy project on the ballot in November. The hypothetical ballot question has already attracted significant spending, with CMP pouring $2.3 million into a PAC aiming to stop the referendum in 2019’s final quarter.
The Maine politics top 3
— “Janet Mills proposes $127M spending plan that will frame legislative debate in 2020,” Michael Shepherd and Caitlin Andrews, Bangor Daily News: “The $126.6 million proposal — which includes a $20 million transfer to the state’s rainy day fund — spends down a surplus that has steadily grown and leaves just $6 million in unallocated money through the next budget year. Minority Republicans have long been critical of the spending level of nearly $8 billion in the two-year budget passed in 2019.”
— “Maine school districts would benefit from supplemental budget,” Rachel Ohm, Portland Press Herald: “Mills’ office said the increase, if approved by the Legislature, would bring the state’s share of school funding costs to nearly 52 percent – up from nearly 51 percent this year – not counting state funding of teacher retirement costs.”
— “Susan Collins’ campaign is being helped by a mysterious Hawaii company,” Lachlan Markay, The Daily Beast: “A mysterious Hawaii company may have illegally funneled a six-figure contribution to a political group boosting an embattled Republican senator 5,000 miles away, an ethics watchdog alleged on Monday.”
The complaint alleges that the $150,000 contribution was made by a company, the Society of Young Women Scientist and Engineers LLC, that popped up only a few weeks earlier and has no sources of revenue. The group that filed the complaint, Washington-based Campaign Legal Center, is known as a campaign finance watchdog that has previously gone after a super PACs that backed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Donald Trump in 2016. This complaint targets the 1820 PAC, a super PAC that supports Collins, not the Republican senator’s campaign committee. Super PACs can raise and spend without limits to support any candidate, but cannot coordinate with that candidate.
Panel proposes more right-to-know training for officials
— Clarifying language, capping copying fees and boosting Freedom of Access Act training for public officials are part of the 13 recommendations the Legislature’s judiciary panel will hear about today. Maine’s advisory committee on public-access law found there is still confusion about who counts as a public official required to take FOAA training by state law, including planning board members, code enforcement officers and town managers or administrators. The committee recommends clarifying that by extending the law to those figures as well as some school district officials.
It also recommends setting a copying fee limit of 10 cents per sheet for records requests and prohibiting a per page copy fee for electronic records and advises the committee to create a subgroup dedicated to studying technology related to record keeping.
Direct-care group recommends higher wages, retention campaign
— Democrats and Republicans were frustrated when Mills’ supplemental budget request didn’t include anything for direct care workers. Perhaps they’ll agree with the Commission to Study Long-term Care Workforce issues, which recommends boosting direct care worker reimbursement rates by 125 percent and that the state explore different ways of reimbursing those workers. They also recommend an independent rate setting commission be established. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org (we’re setting up a new subscriber page soon) to subscribe to it via email.