In this March 19, 2019, file photo, a wind farm atop a hill behind a large tree in Canton. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

Good morning from Augusta. There are 20 days until the new Maine Legislature convenes.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It seemed like it was so far away,” said Bill Trevaskis of North Haven, an island community reachable only by boat or air that has seen coronavirus cases spike in recent weeks. “It’s crazy how much it’s increased in the last couple of weeks. Now, my friends are texting me, ‘Oh, now I have a sore throat.’ ‘Oh, now I can’t breathe.’”

What we’re watching today

An ambitious plan to combat climate change in Maine will be finalized today. The 39-person Maine Climate Council was tasked by Gov. Janet Mills over a year ago to create a multi-pronged strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet her energy goals. While the draft will be finalized today, it will not be formally presented to Mills until Dec. 1. 

An overview of the plan shows it will focus heavily on incentivizing technology upgrades that will lead to changes such as more electric vehicles on the road, building and industrial sector improvements and ensuring an adequate “affordable, clean energy supply.” 

The plan is highly comprehensive, seeing broadband expansion, for example, as a way to reduce vehicle travel. It does not contemplate more divisive ways of accomplishing that goal, such as a gas tax increase that effectively shut down efforts earlier this year to address Maine’s long-standing transportation funding shortfall.

The report will come at a crossroads for Maine’s energy future. Although not mentioned in the draft report, Mills’ has promoted Central Maine Power’s proposed transmission line running from Canada, through Maine and into Massachusetts as being key to getting cheaper power to customers. The utility just received one of its final permits needed to start construction as court battles and referendum efforts against it are once again underway.

Energy is also becoming more of an economic focus in the state. The Mills administration presented clean energy jobs as a way to give a boost to Maine’s economic recovery in a recent report. Earlier this year, two independent groups calculated Maine’s economic output could decrease by 15 percent in the next 30 years if the state does not try to mitigate climate change.

The Maine politics top 3

— “How Susan Collins came back to win a historic 5th term,” Michael Shepherd and Jessica Piper, Bangor Daily News: “Her comeback was buoyed by split-ticket voters who rebuked deep nationalization of the election and had lingering goodwill for [Sen. Susan] Collins dating back to before her party’s takeover by President Donald Trump, whom she backed at times, bucked at others and contorted to avoid. She played a difficult hand well while support for her neophyte challenger eroded amid Republican messages late in the campaign that refocused the race on the liabilities of [Democratic nominee Sara] Gideon rather than Collins, according to interviews with dozens of observers and voters.”

Collins has a long friendship with the Democratic presidential-elect that could come into play next year. The Maine senator and President-elect Joe Biden have made glowing comments about each other in the past, and Collins is likely to be a key vote in the Senate — regardless of its final makeup — as one of the most moderate Republicans in the upper chamber. Here’s your soundtrack.

— “Maine restaurant patrons must now wear masks at tables except when eating and drinking,” Lori Valigra, BDN: “The new requirement came in a round of updates to economic reopening rules last week as the virus situation escalates across the country and state. Maine saw a total of 1,800 active cases as of Tuesday, more than at any time during the pandemic and double what it saw less than two weeks ago.”

— “GOP picks longtime lawmakers to lead Maine Senate minority,” Michael Shepherd, BDN: “[Sen. Jeff] Timberlake, who entered the Legislature in 2010, served as assistant leader under Dow last term. He will be replaced in the No. 2 spot by Sen. Matt Pouliot of Augusta, who first won election as a state representative in 2012. Both are in their second Senate terms.”

House Democrats are expected to pick their leadership this afternoon. While Assistant House Majority Leader Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford, looks like a shoo-in to replace Gideon as speaker, there are quite a few women running for other top leadership positions as the caucus turns each of the three positions over. Michelle Dunphy of Old Town and Denise Tepler of Topsham are going for majority leader while Michele Meyer of Eliot, Rachel Talbot Ross of Portland and Lori Gramlich of Old Orchard Beach are vying for assistant leader.

The Mainers on Biden’s transition team

The volunteer positions are responsible for reviewing agencies that many of them may take jobs in. State House insiders will recognize Brooke Barron, who currently serves as the senior adviser to Gideon in her outgoing Speaker role and will be part of the team reviewing the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Climate scientist David Reidmiller, who currently heads the Gulf of Maine Research Institute’s climate center, will take a role on the Office of Science and Technology Policy team. The teams were announced earlier this week as Biden moves forward with his transition to the presidency, despite roadblocks from the current administration.

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 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...