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QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It is my judgment that, except when extraordinary circumstances require a different result, we should entrust to the people the most fundamental decision of a democracy, namely, who should lead their country,” Sen. Susan Collins said of why she will vote to acquit President Donald Trump on both charges of impeachment.
What we’re watching today
Maine’s two senators couldn’t be more different in explaining their upcoming votes on impeachment. Collins, a Republican, announced in a floor speech Tuesday afternoon that she would vote against removing President Donald Trump from office, saying that while Trump was “wrong” to ask the Ukranian leader to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, his conduct did not rise to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors that would merit a conviction on either article of impeachment. Several other Republican senators have argued this in recent days.
Before the vote, Collins pre-taped an interview with CBS News, where she said that she thought the president had “learned from this case” and would not seek foreign assistance in the election again. She added that it would be “helpful” if Trump apologized for his actions.
Maine’s junior senator, Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, had the opposite take. He announced Tuesday that he will vote to convict Trump on both articles. He saw Trump’s actions as a clear abuse of power and that the president has given “every indication” that he would again seek foreign interference in the upcoming election.
Trump reportedly rejected Collins’ criticism in a meeting with news anchors and isn’t big on apologizing. When asked about Collins’ comments on Tuesday in an off-the-record meeting with news anchors, Trump contested the notion that his actions were wrong, reiterating that his conversation with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky was a “perfect phone call,” the Washington Post reported.
The apology that Collins hopes for seems unlikely. A senior administration official once told Axios that not apologizing was a “core operating principle” for Trump, whose most notable apology came in 2016 when the “Access Hollywood” tape roiled his candidacy.
Trump didn’t mention impeachment in his State of the Union speech on Tuesday, and he is expected to address the topic today, when he is expected to be acquitted by the Republican-led Senate. We will then see — out in the open — how he responds to these calls.
The Maine politics top 3
— “Maine GOP aims to repeal ranked-choice voting in presidential races,” Michael Shepherd, Bangor Daily News: “The Maine Republican Party said Tuesday it will run a people’s veto challenge against a new law to allow ranked-choice voting in presidential elections in a move that could stop the method from being used in November even if voters turn back the bid.”
— “Maine wants to roll back estate recovery to spur Medicaid expansion sign-ups,” Caitlin Andrews, BDN: “The practice is believed to cause some older Medicaid-eligible residents to eschew signing up for coverage altogether, something the state has been trying to combat in its efforts to get more people signed up for MaineCare. Maine Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson Jackie Farwell said it may be preventing some from signing up for expansion.”
— “How Machias students dealt with 2 school lockdowns in 2 school days,” Eesha Pendharkar, BDN: “Third-grader Madisyn Burgess, 8, was in class at Rose Gaffney Elementary School where her teacher encouraged students to pursue a quiet activity. She drew six emoji-like drawings to illustrate her feelings during the lockdown: fear and uncertainty.”
Utility regulators to face lawmakers on CMP
The Legislature’s energy panel will question regulators on two long-running proceedings on the embattled Central Maine Power. The Maine Public Utilities Commission will present at 9 a.m. today to the energy committee on the metering and rate cases that closed out last month after two years of investigation after reports of high bills. Regulators ended up finding no systemic problems with the company’s billing system, but dinged it with a $10 million earnings penalty largely for poor customer service.
The energy committee is co-chaired by Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, who is leading a push for the state to buy out CMP and Maine’s other large utility, Emera Maine, and replace them with a consumer-owned utility as CMP hurtles toward a 2020 referendum on the fate of their proposed $1 billion hydropower corridor. It’s all contributing to a poor political climate for CMP.
Vaping ban debate comes to Augusta
A Maine bill comes amid a nationwide debate over e-cigarettes, their health benefits and what can be done to curb teen consumption. That fight will play out in what is sure to be a lengthy public hearing on the bill backed by Sen. Rebecca Millett, D-Cape Elizabeth, which would prohibit the sale of electronic smoking devices or nicotine liquid until the federal government develops guidelines on whether the devices really help curb smoking. Exceptions would be made for medical marijuana stores and adult-use once further guidelines are in place.
The measure is likely to gain support from public health organizations, but it is already being slammed by the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a conservative think tank, and several who say vaping helped them quit smoking. 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.