In this Sept. 9, 2018, file photo, fans of the New York Giants and Jets watch a football game after placing bets in the sports betting lounge at the Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Credit: Wayne Parry | AP

Good morning from Augusta. Send tips or notes to the Bangor Daily News’ political team at mshepherd@bangordailynews.com, candrews@bangordailynews.com or jpiper@bangordailynews.com.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “He’s a tough guy, too,” senior forward Riley Robinson said of University of Maine at Farmington men’s basketball coach Dick Meader, who is living with Parkinson’s disease. “I’ll come in here to shoot at 8:30 in the morning and he’ll already be here, and we don’t have practice until 6. I’ll say. ‘Coach, what are you doing all day?’ It certainly has not affected his work ethic.”

What we’re watching today

A sports-betting bill vetoed by Maine’s governor is expected to come up for a tough override vote today. It will be one of the first high-profile votes of the 2020 session after Gov. Janet Mills vetoed a bill to make Maine the 14th state to legalize sports betting after the U.S. Supreme Court allowed it in 2018

It only passed by three votes in the Senate last year and would need two-thirds support in both chambers to take effect, so it faces an uphill climb. It is expected to go up for a vote in the Senate on Thursday morning and would move to the House if it clears that high hurdle.

The measure, from Sen. Louis Luchini, D-Ellsworth, was carefully negotiated and would tax online and mobile sports-betting revenue at 16 percent while giving Maine-based facilities such as casinos and off-track parlors a tax advantage at 10 percent. All of those groups lobbied for bigger shares of the betting pie when the bill was passed last year.

We’re hearing reports of heavy lobbying on the bill, including from the parent companies of Maine’s casinos in Bangor and Oxford. New Hampshire, which legalized betting at the end of 2019, took in $15.8 million less than a month in, according to the Boston Herald.

In her veto letter last month, Mills said she was “unconvinced” that Mainers want to expand gambling, arguing the state should learn from others in the market. But Rep. Scott Strom, R-Pittsfield, called it “free money” after the veto. Minds could have changed since last year.

The Maine politics top 3

— “Susan Collins walks back remark that Trump learned from impeachment, saying it was ‘aspirational,’ ” Michael Shepherd, Bangor Daily News: “U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine walked back her comment that President Donald Trump ‘learned’ from impeachment during interviews on Wednesday to say it was ‘aspirational’ after she and fellow Republicans acquitted the president of two impeachment charges.”

— “2 accused killers were out on bail. Nothing predicted they shouldn’t have been,” Judy Harrison, BDN: “In the past week, two men recently released on bail on misdemeanor charges allegedly killed four people in two counties, giving rise to questions about how bail is set, who sets it and what factors go into making those decisions.”

— “Proposed Maine vaping device ban splits health groups as others say it could cause harm,” Caitlin Andrews, BDN: “A proposal to virtually ban electronic cigarettes in Maine looked like it faced an uphill battle at a State House hearing on Wednesday, with health organizations supportive or ambivalent as consumers argued the devices helped them curb smoking.”

2nd Congressional District GOP candidates to square off tonight

The three Republicans have united over their support of Trump, but will have to start differentiating themselves soon. They’ll have a chance to start differentiating themselves tonight at a town hall-style debate held at Lewiston Middle School, starting at 6:30 p.m., and moderated by Matthew Gagnon, the CEO of the conservative Maine Heritage Policy Center, a radio host and Bangor Daily News columnist.

Now is the time for differentiating to happen, as the candidates are already showing marked differences in fundraising. Former state Sen. Eric Brakey of Auburn led the pack at the end of last year with $500,000 raised and half of it spent, while former state Rep. Dale Crafts brought in $128,000. Adrienne Bennett, a real estate agent and former spokesperson for Gov. Paul LePage, got just $48,000.

Two things are certain to come out of tonight: The candidates have been critical of the impeachment of Trump since it began, and they’ll be sure to bring it up now that it’s done. They won’t miss opportunities to take shots at incumbent U.S. Rep. Jared Golden — a Democrat with a $500,000 fundraising lead — for his split vote on impeaching the president, either.

Maine delegation asks about ships

Maine’s congressional delegation is asking the federal government to look into the effect of ship strikes on the North Atlantic right whale. Regulations aimed at protecting the endangered whale that would force Maine lobstermen to use less fishing lines have been delayed until at least the summer after Maine and other New England states took longer than expected to submit their own proposals. 

Since the regulations were announced last spring, Maine lobstermen have argued that the fishing gear they use rarely entangles the right whales and that the new rules would be excessively burdensome to an industry that has faced challenges from Chinese tariffs to bait shortages over the past year.

Earlier this week, Maine’s congressional delegation wrote a letter to federal fishing regulators, asking the agency to address the threats that ship strikes pose to the whales, arguing that ships — not lobstermen — pose a greater threat. 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.

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...