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QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I figured if we teach them how to build a fire, run a chainsaw [and] build their own house, they could run off and do whatever,” said Justin Ward, who raised his four children off the grid in the western Maine town of Stow. “They would be able to do all this stuff, even if you don’t have to do it for the rest of your life.” Here’s your soundtrack.
What we’re watching today
The governor is expected to put forth changes to her spending proposal, which the Legislature will decide on quickly before shuttering at the end of the day on Tuesday. Lawmakers announced on Friday that they would adjourn early because of concerns about the coronavirus outbreak. That leaves the Legislature with just a few days to approve Gov. Janet Mills’ $127 million supplemental budget, which is expected to be modified from the Democratic governor’s original proposal in order to address the coronavirus, known as COVID-19.
The Legislature is expected to deal only with coronavirus-related issues over the next two days, meaning other legislative matters — such as broader health care legislation, transportation funding and tribal sovereignty — are likely to fall by the wayside unless lawmakers decide to reconvene later this year.
In addition to Mills’ budget, lawmakers are expected to take up a measure put forth by the governor and Democratic leaders that would temporarily expand unemployment insurance to include workers who are temporarily unable to work due to the outbreak. Sen. Stacey Guerin, R-Glenburn, agreed with the move on Sunday, but also said she’s trying to advance a bill pushing back the April 24 implementation date on a new law banning single-use plastic bags in grocery stores.
The legislative flurry comes on the heels of increasingly drastic action in Maine, most of which has not been mandated by the governor. Mills declared a state of emergency in Maine last night after the state hit seven confirmed coronavirus cases, with evidence of community spread in Cumberland County, according to Nirav Shah, the director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
The emergency declaration would allow Mills to shut down restaurants and bars, as is being done in four states and New York City except for take-out service. The Maine governor said she did not see a need to order such steps as she also proposed halting gatherings of more than 50 people or 10 people when seniors are involved, as was also recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Mills also recommended that public schools close their doors for education purposes, though school lunch programs will still operate and many schools got ahead of state guidance by announcing closures effective this week over the weekend. Mills also recommended nursing homes and other long-term care facilities bar visitors in most cases and asked hospitals to suspend nonessential surgeries to help maintain sufficient capacity for coronavirus patients.
The Maine politics top 3, non-coronavirus edition
— “In 1820, one man journeyed into Maine’s great unknown. The other paddled through home,” Emily Burnham, Bangor Daily News: “[Joseph] Treat and [John] Neptune’s three-month journey in the fall of 1820 was like a microcosm of the Lewis and Clark expedition that occurred 15 years earlier: a fact-finding mission on behalf of a new government that would have been impossible without indigenous assistance. Its impact is still felt today in how it codified a relationship between the state and the tribes that continues to be a source of tension in both worlds.
Maine had a low-key bicentennial on Sunday, with a major Augusta event canceled because of the coronavirus. The event at the Augusta Armory was supposed to come ahead of other events including a May parade in the Lewiston-Auburn area and the June arrival of tall ships, according to The Associated Press. But it was canceled because of the virus and people had to celebrate at home — a storied Maine tradition if there is one. Here’s your soundtrack.
— “CMP-aligned group wants Maine court to bar anti-corridor question from 2020 ballot,” Caitlin Andrews, BDN: “The complaint from former CMP operations manager Delbert Reed charges that Dunlap may have accepted up to 17,000 invalid signatures gathered in violation of Maine state law, including duplicate signatures, signatures from voters who do not live in their reported towns, undated signatures and more. He is represented by Newell Augur, who also works for Clean Energy Matters, and lobbyist Josh Tardy, according to the complaint.”
While the referendum kicks into higher gear, the permitting process at the state level marches on. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection released a draft permit for the powerline project last week that would place significant requirements on the project. Those include narrowing the corridor that would stretch through Maine to 54 feet instead of 150 and a stipulation that the utility set aside 40,000 acres for permanent conservation that could be used for sustainable forestry.
— “Lawmakers urged to repeal provision allowing secrecy in police use of surveillance tools,” Megan Gray, Portland Press Herald: “The existing law requires government agencies to give that non-answer to any request for public records that includes a record that is exempt from disclosure. That is called a ‘Glomar’ response, a term that dates back to the 1970s in response to public [inquiries] about a covert operation to recover a sunken Soviet submarine. Earlier this month, Maine’s public safety commissioner acknowledged for the first time that state police use facial recognition scans as part of some criminal investigations.”
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.