Lawmakers convene in the House Chamber at the State House in Augusta in this March 17, 2020, file photo. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

Good morning from Augusta. The Bangor Daily News is collecting information from readers on the political issues at the top of your minds in 2020. Take our survey here.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “The threats I’m getting are as vile and scary and intimidating and violent as you can imagine,” freelance photographer Tristan Spinski told The Washington Post about threats made against him after Fox News’ Tucker Carlson told viewers The New York Times planned to publish his Maine address, something the paper said Carlson knew was false.

What we’re watching today

The two legislative committees meeting today are dealing with bills that could reshape Maine’s future — should they ever make it to the floor. The Judiciary Committee perhaps has the heaviest load, with a confirmation hearing in the morning on top of a stack of bills. Votes are likely to occur in the early part of the day on bills concerning the prescription monitoring system, the bail code and post-conviction reviews. The harder lifts begin in the afternoon, when the committee will take up three bills concerning the state’s relationships with its tribes.

The most high-stakes bill, an omnibus bill aiming to restore sovereignty to the tribes, is likely to be cut into sections over the next week or so. Passing the bill as a whole was meant to insulate some of its controversial provisions around gaming and environmental resources from opponents, but both skeptics and supporters say it would be nearly impossible to pass such a big bill in a special session. Bills that would give the tribes more of a say in state affairs are also likely to drive discussion.

In the energy committee, a bill that would create an independent power agency is up for a vote. The bill would replace Central Maine Power and Versant Power, which are naturally resistant to the idea and have questioned how beneficial the project would be. There have been varying estimates of how much money a consumer-owned utility could save consumers. A recent report says the bill could save customers $9 billion a year and charges that the initial study on the project omitted $5 billion in benefits.

Despite ongoing squabbles about what a return of the full Legislature should look like, lawmakers appear to be working together on what bills should go forward. Only 22 percent of the bills reported out since the committees began meeting this month have had divided support, while 65 percent have had bipartisan approval, according to the Legislative Information Office. Committees will meet through the end of the month; whether they will end up meeting in person in Augusta remains to be seen with Republicans pushing Democrats to rein in the scope of business.

The Maine politics top 3

— “This Portland suburb now has Maine’s highest rate of COVID-19 cases,” Caitlin Andrews, Bangor Daily News: “Falmouth, with about 12,500 residents, had recorded 152 cases of the coronavirus as of July 12, translating into about 12 cases for every 1,000 residents, according to data from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.”

Falmouth’s status as a hotspot makes sense given proximity to Portland and congregate settings. More than half of the cases in Falmouth have happened in nursing homes with large outbreaks. So far, 83 percent of cases have been in Cumberland, York and Androscoggin counties. Portland and surrounding municipalities as well as Lewiston round out the top five towns in per capita cases, while remote Medway — which once led the state — is now sixth.

— “Janet Mills recognizes Glenburn couple who lost both sons to opioids,” Judy Harrison, BDN: “We felt that the best way to honor Adam and Sean is to help other families learn about substance use disorder so they don’t have to endure what our family has,” Shelly Yankowsky said in accepting the award.

— “Utility regulator’s staff recommends $500K penalty for CMP’s wrongful disconnect notices,” Lori Valigra, BDN: “The commission in January started investigating the wording on CMP’s disconnection notice after several customers complained that the warnings said CMP could cut off power without first getting the necessary permission from the commission during the winter season from Nov. 15 to April 15.”

Collins comes home; her path gets clearer

Maine’s Republican senator will appear in Aroostook County on Friday after a conservative-leaning opponent dropped out of her 2020 race. U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, will visit a food box distribution program in Van Buren on Friday morning after a week in Congress dominated by a Senate Republican coronavirus aid bill that appears to be taking shape, though Democrats have not gotten a chance to negotiate on it in earnest.

Collins comes home to somewhat minor, yet puzzling news. Conservative independent Max Linn abruptly announced Thursday that he would drop out of the 2020 U.S. Senate race to endorse the incumbent. The timing was odd, with the move coming less than a week after Linn prevailed in a ham-handed challenge by Collins allies to remove him from the ballot.

It leaves only Lisa Savage on the ballot alongside Collins and House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, likely giving Collins a better chance of reaching a first-round majority threshold in a ranked-choice voting race. It also prevents Collins from having to share debate stages with a wealthy candidate who has a history of attention-grabbing stunts. Here’s your soundtrack.

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Michael Shepherd 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.

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...