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QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I was so excited I started running around screaming, ‘YESSSSSSS!’” Jacob Bushey said of hitting his first hole-in-one at 10 years old, proving this summer has uplifting moments after all. “I really wish my dad had been with me.” Here’s your soundtrack.
What we’re watching today
There are many lawsuits around Central Maine Power’s proposed powerline project, but perhaps the most consequential one will be hashed out today. The Maine Supreme Judicial Court will hear arguments in a lawsuit from CMP’s parent company, Avangrid, that seeks to overturn a lower-court decision to allow the anti-corridor referendum on the 2020 ballot. Secretary of State Matt Dunlap has agreed with CMP that the question could be unconstitutional, but he and a judge have said the question should remain on the ballot anyway.
The utility and its allies will try to convince the high court that there is “no compelling reason to permit the misuse of the initiative process” and decide on the referendum’s constitutionality afterward, according to a brief. Supporters are hoping to work legislative channels to make the referendum binding over time.
Even if CMP loses this bid, the arguments today will be a preview of the legal fight facing the state and the utility if voters approve the referendum in November — which seems likely. Backers of the project will probably sue again if that happens, so we could be back here next year. Today’s arguments are at 10 a.m. and will be streamed here.
CMP is smarting over a six-figure fine for its handling of winter disconnect notices. The $500,000 fine is the highest Maine’s utilities regulator is allowed to issue. The company admitted to violating the rules, and the money will be distributed to customers of CMP’s electricity lifeline program in 2019 and 2020 as a bill credit.
The Maine politics top 3
— “Top Democrats call 2nd poll to bring Maine Legislature back, but stalemate with GOP remains,” Caitlin Andrews, BDN: “Democratic leaders in the Maine Legislature called another poll on Tuesday to bring lawmakers back for a special session in August, but minority Republicans who have argued for a narrow scope of business signaled that they were still opposed.”
This poll looks like it will end the same way as the first, with both sweeping and urgent legislation hanging in the balance. Republicans largely refused to participate in the last poll called by Democratic leaders in mid-July as they looked for certainty around the legislation that would come before them. Democrats have countered by saying the committees control that and bills with high price tags are unlikely to move forward. The stalemate endangers sweeping legislation including a tribal sovereignty measure as well as a tax conformity measure that would keep the state from taxing federal virus aid to businesses.
— “MDI hospital starts pilot project to track virus’ spread from tourists to Mainers,” Charles Eichacker, BDN: “Mount Desert Island Hospital is now piloting an electronic program for tracing the contacts of people confirmed to have the coronavirus after several visitors to Bar Harbor were given tests for the infection in their home state but received positive results only after arriving in the tourist town.”
There is no evidence that the virus has spread widely between tourists and Mainers. The number of daily recorded coronavirus cases in Maine have declined since the state relaxed lodging rules in late July, state data show. There is also no particular concentration of cases in tourist areas either along the coast or inland. This pilot program is mostly a precaution, but it could take on increased importance as states continue to reopen.
— “Judge will decide within 2 weeks when feds must issue right whale protection rules,” Fred Bever, Maine Public: “New rules could force costly changes for lobstermen in Maine and the rest of New England, because the rope they use to haul their traps poses a threat of entanglement for the whales.”
Stimulus negotiations continue in Washington
Congress has still yet to agree on what should be in the next coronavirus stimulus package, though negotiations are continuing. Democrats want to extend the $600 in additional unemployment assistance, which expired last week, but Republicans have long balked at that prospect.
Republicans signaled Tuesday that they might be open to expanding food stamps, another Democratic priority, with Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee, telling the Associated Press that a breakthrough on that issue could help resolve other disagreements.One issue that remains unresolved is aid to state and local governments. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, has said she supports federal aid to cash-strapped municipalities but it’s not clear that her party has gotten on board. Collins gave a floor speech Tuesday urging the passage of a $500 billion relief bill she co-sponsored.
Today’s Daily Brief was written by Michael Shepherd, Caitlin Andrews and Jessica Piper. 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.