Good morning from Augusta. All state offices and the Legislature are closed today with freezing rain creating hazardous road conditions and wind gusts making outages possible later, according to our partners at WGME. Here’s our cancellation list and here’s your soundtrack.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I think $230 million is a massive amount of money,” said Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, the co-chair of the Legislature’s budget committee, on a Republican proposal to shift more vehicle sales tax money out of the state budget and into the separate transportation fund, which faces a shortfall. “Certainly if their proposal is to divert $230 million, my first question is: What are you going to cut in order to find that money?”
What we’re watching today
Maine’s senior senator will be back after voting to acquit the president in the impeachment trial earlier this week. U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican in a nationally targeted 2020 re-election race, will speak at a Maine Chiefs of Police Association conference in South Portland and speak with employees at Elmet Technologies in Lewiston this morning. Expect most — if not all — of the media attention to be on getting her to flesh out a Wednesday vote to acquit President Donald Trump on impeachment charges while calling his actions relating to Ukraine “wrong.”
Collins made the rounds to do interviews with Maine and national outlets around the vote, telling CBS News on Tuesday that she believed Trump “learned” from impeachment before walking that back a day later to call the comment “aspirational.” But Trump was defiant in a celebratory Thursday stemwinder, insisting he “went through hell” and “did nothing wrong.”
The Maine politics top 3
— “Maine’s U.S. Senate candidates are spending more than ever,” Jessica Piper, Bangor Daily News: “More than $10 million has already been spent on ads in the Maine race, more than any other Senate race in the nation. The Republican incumbent and House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, spent nearly as much as they took in over the last three months of 2019 — something usually seen toward the end of election cycles rather than 10 months out.”
— “Maine Senate votes to override Janet Mills’ veto of sports-betting bill,” Michael Shepherd, BDN: “The Maine Senate overrode Gov. Janet Mills’ veto of a measure to legalize sports betting in the state by one vote in a surprise move on Thursday after betting was allowed by the U.S. Supreme Court in a 2018 decision, setting up a key override vote in the House.”
— “2 GOP hopefuls in Maine’s 2nd District clash on foreign policy in early debate,” Caitlin Andrews, BDN: “[Eric] Brakey, Dale Crafts and Adrienne Bennett … have largely echoed each other in their meetings so far, running on their support of [Trump] in a Republican-leaning district that he won in 2016. … Some daylight emerged — particularly between the libertarian Brakey and the evangelical, more traditional Crafts — at a debate … on Thursday night.”
Key indigenous crime bill goes back to committee
— A bill that has become a sticking point for Maine tribes and Mills was sent back to committee by the House yesterday, setting up a tight timeframe for the bill to be resolved before the end of next week. That’s when the Legislature’s judiciary panel will hold a possibly day-long hearing on the Maine Indian Claims Task Force’s 22 recommendations to change a 1980s law that has been a cause of friction between the state and the tribes for decades.
The bill, which would allow tribal courts to have jurisdiction over certain domestic violence crimes committed by non-indigenous defendants on tribal lands — recognized as a federal right under the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 — has been held by Mills, who has cited concerns over due process rights for non-native defendants. Tribal chiefs are worried the delay spells bad news for further negotiations on the recommendations. The bill is expected to be taken up next week.
The task force hoped to find a way to smooth negotiations in the future. One of its key recommendations was to establish a conflict resolution process in the state. A bill, drafted by the Maine Indian Tribal-State Commission, looks to do just that by asking the state to consult tribes before taking action that could affect them. If passed, the bill would give the commission until November to come up with how that process would occur.
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.