March 29, 2020
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What’s next on a tough road to passage for Maine’s tribal sovereignty effort

Natalie Williams | BDN
Natalie Williams | BDN
Gov. Janet Mills delivers her State of the State address in Augusta in this Jan. 21, 2020, file photo.

Good morning from Augusta. Happy Presidents’ Day. Federal and state offices are closed, but the Bangor Daily News is open. Here’s your soundtrack.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “The problem in Maine is that your body clock may tend to get desynchronized because it’s not getting light exposure early enough in the morning, so your sleep time can drift later and later, and your wake up time can drift later and later,” Clifford Singer, who studies sleep as the chief of Geriatric Mental Health of Neuropsychiatry at Northern Light Acadia Hospital, said of why understanding sleep in the Pine Tree State is a unique challenge.

What we’re watching today

A series of proposed changes to state-tribal relations looks to be in for a sustained fight at the State House. The top story out of a Friday hearing on 22 recommendations by a state task force aiming to expand tribal sovereignty was opposition from Gov. Janet Mills to much of the slate. Issues like gaming were always going to be contentious, but the hearing showed that issues like natural resources — a historic source of tension — are still at play.

Mills said in a letter that the recommendations could actually worsen the state-tribal relationship, while Attorney General Aaron Frey echoed her concerns and lobbyists, including those representing textile, energy and forest products companies, said the recommendations were overbroad. An ambassador for the Penobscot Nation implored the state to have faith in tribes.

The bill will get a second hearing on Wednesday, where the public can weigh in on issues like gaming and criminal jurisdiction. Gaming rights are expected to face resistance from casinos in Bangor and Oxford. At least some criminal jurisdiction rights were supported by Mills on Friday.

Negotiations remain tense entering the likely fraught hearing on gaming rights with a key domestic violence bill still unsigned by the governor, whose opposition to many of the recommendations hangs over the entire proceeding. There are still many hurdles for this plan to pass.

The Maine politics top 3

— “Tulsi Gabbard drew a big Maine crowd, but they can’t all help her win the Democratic presidential nod,” Jessica Piper, BDN: “She asked members of the audience — a crowd of more than 200 — to raise their hands based on party affiliation. The bulk of the crowd identified as Green or independent, with some Democrats and a few Republicans in the mix. Only registered Democrats, however, can vote in the party’s primary in Maine, and voters had until Friday to change their registration.”

Gabbard became the fourth Democratic presidential candidate to visit Maine this cycle — although the state has also been targeted with plenty of ads. Leading the way on ads is former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who has spent more than $400,000 on digital ads in Maine since the start of the year and also purchased nearly 60 percent of the $2.9 million in TV ads that have aired in the state this cycle, according to FiveThirtyEight. Bloomberg also has 20 staff in Maine. 

— “A timing quirk is making it hard for third-party Senate candidate to make Maine’s ballot,” Michael Shepherd, BDN: [The ballot access manager for Green U.S. Senate candidate Lisa Savage] said the campaign is running into many ‘Green-sympathetic’ supporters of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Democratic presidential frontrunner, who would like to help Savage get on the ballot but are loathe to give up their ability to vote in the presidential primary.”

— “The political issues you told us you care about most,” Shepherd: The BDN asked readers to inform 2020 election coverage by ranking 14 political issues in order of importance and more than 500 people responded. Health care was the top choice overall. Democrats picked climate change highest on average, while Republicans picked taxes and spending. We will be following up with certain readers to drill down on their responses and the BDN will do an audit of recent political coverage in an exercise that could reveal blind spots in policy coverage.

Yes on 1 campaign hits the airwaves

The group behind a referendum aiming to repeal Maine’s vaccination law will start running its own TV ads this week. Yes on 1 has at least a $40,000 ad buy going up in the Bangor market, according to filings with the Federal Communications Commission. It comes a week after a group opposing the referendum came out with a $476,000 ad buy of its own. The referendum on March 3 concerns a vaccine law passed last year that would eliminate religious and philosophical exemptions for mandatory school vaccinations, with a “no” vote serving to uphold the law and a “yes” vote aiming to repeal it.

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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