February 19, 2020
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Sports betting faces a final test in Maine today. It’s here by accident.

Steven Senne | AP
Steven Senne | AP
In this Nov. 18, 2019, photo, patrons visit the sports betting area of Twin River Casino in Lincoln, Rhode Island.

Good morning from Augusta. It’s primary day in New Hampshire, where Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is the favored candidate in the Democratic race with a 66 percent chance of winning, according to FiveThirtyEight. That doesn’t mean victory is assured. Here’s your soundtrack.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It’s one day at a time for the kids. We’ll just help them along,” MSAD 49 Superintendent Roberta Hersom said about the deaths of three children in a Sunday car crash in Clinton. “We’re being attentive to what might arise, and being very concerned about doing what we need to do and do it well. It’s a crushing thing.”

What we’re watching today

It may be here by accident, but the Maine Legislature could buck the governor for the first time to allow sports betting. The Maine House of Representatives is expected to vote Tuesday on whether to override Gov. Janet Millsveto of a bill that would make Maine the 21st state to allow sports betting after it was allowed in a 2018 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. The chamber will need two-thirds of votes to enact a bill that looked dead after the veto.

In fact, it should be dead. It is only alive because Sen. Lisa Keim, R-Dixfield, voted accidentally to override the veto of a bill that she opposed after lawmakers were lobbied heavily by Oxford Casino, which employs many in her district. Keim hasn’t commented, but the news was broken Monday by the head of the Christian Civic League of Maine, which opposed the bill.

The House vote is uncertain since the measure didn’t face a roll-call vote in that chamber when it passed last year. At the State House on Friday, supporters of the measure were largely optimistic about its chances there having gotten past the Senate vote they saw as a main hurdle — albeit by accident. Here’s your soundtrack.

The Maine politics top 3

— “Energy regulators gave $500K contract to company that should have been ineligible,”  Josh Keefe, Bangor Daily News: “The Maine Public Utilities Commission paid a company $500,000 to study Maine’s electric grid, but the company should have been ineligible for the contract based on the commission’s own rules, according to interviews and a review of documents.”

— “250-bed jail in downtown Bangor would stand 8 stories tall,” Judy Harrison, BDN: “At eight stories, including the mechanicals, the Penobscot County Corrections Center would be one of the tallest buildings in Bangor, excluding church spires. The Hollywood Casino on Main Street and the Camden National Bank building on Exchange Street are each 10 stories high.”

Bangor needs more jail beds. There’s also a push to incarcerate fewer people. The Penobscot County Jail is faced with two options to relieve its consistent overcrowding: spending $1 million a year to send its inmates elsewhere, according to Penobscot County Sheriff Troy Morton, or construct another facility, estimated to cost between $65 million to $70 million. That might conflict with the aim of a Legislative task force trying to stabilize the county jail funding system, an effort interested parties agree needs to include fewer incarcerated people

— “The first person in Maine is being tested for coronavirus. It doesn’t mean they have it,” Michael Shepherd, BDN: “In a Monday news release, Robert Long, a spokesman for the Maine [Center for Disease Control and Prevention], said the risk to the public is low and the person has voluntarily agreed to remain at home until testing — which typically takes between one and five days — is complete.”

You should worry much more about the flu than coronavirus. While the spread of the coronavirus in China has been concerning, the risk of contracting it in the U.S. remains relatively low, while the risk of falling ill from influenza remains far greater. The federal government estimates that there have been between 22 million and 31 million cases of the flu in the U.S. this year, resulting in more than 10,000 deaths. In Maine, more than 3,900 cases have been recorded, resulting in 13 deaths, largely among the state’s elderly population. As Maine CDC director Dr. Nirav Shah pointed out in a Monday interview with Maine Public, that’s more flu deaths in Maine than coronavirus cases across the entire country.

Showing up in New Hampshire

Two of the three candidates for the Republican nomination in Maine’s 2nd District were in attendance at the president’s latest event in New Hampshire. Former state Rep. Dale Crafts and Adrienne Bennett, who served as press secretary to former governor Paul LePage, were among the onlookers at a rally for President Donald Trump in Manchester last night. All three candidates in the GOP primary — Bennett, Crafts and former state Sen. Eric Brakey — have embraced the president’s image in their bids to take on Democratic Rep. Jared Golden, who won the 2nd District in 2018 after Trump carried it by 10 points in 2016.

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.

To reach us, do not reply directly to this newsletter, but contact the political team at mshepherd@bangordailynews.com, candrews@bangordailynews.com or jpiper@bangordailynews.com.


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