Good morning from Augusta. There are two days until the federal government runs out of money.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “If we hadn’t diversified in 2019, I don’t know what would have happened,” said Jennifer Litteral, co-founder of the Brewer-based Coffee Hound, which began offering their own line of Maine-roasted coffees last year. “The pandemic made it very clear that we absolutely made the right choice. It certainly wasn’t easy, but we feel really fortunate.” Here’s your soundtrack.
What we’re watching today
An unusual session may be causing lawmakers to be more conservative with their bill proposals. By Monday, Maine legislators had submitted just under 800 bill requests to the Office of the Revisor of Statutes, which drafts proposed legislation. It may seem like a lot, but the last regular session saw more than 2,000 pieces of legislation submitted. Cloture — the regular period during which lawmakers can submit bills ahead of the 2021 session — ends on Friday.
It looks to be a side effect of the coronavirus pandemic, which is forcing the Legislature to drastically change its operations in many ways, including holding floor sessions at the Augusta Civic Center. In odd-numbered years, every bill submitted by lawmakers is considered by the Legislature. Handling the typical number of bills could prove to be a challenge with committees likely to conduct business electronically and legislative leadership indicating they want any meetings of the full chambers to cover as much ground as possible.
The titles of the bills may be released next week, but the text of the proposals will only begin to trickle out when the Legislature begins meeting in January. Some of the key topics of the session have already been previewed, including the state’s massive revenue shortfall, climate initiatives and the long-running debates over increased tribal sovereignty.
There could also be interesting conversations about reforming how the Legislature conducts business and minority Republicans have indicated their desire to curb Gov. Janet Mills’ emergency powers has not gone away.
The Maine politics top 3
— “She’s one of the few in the state to get a vaccine dose, but she’s not ready to take her mask off,” Caitlin Andrews, BDN: “[Health care] workers are an at-risk group. As of Monday, anyone who identifies as a health care worker — hospital staffers, emergency responders, long-term care facility employees and others — made up 12 percent of the more than 16,000 coronavirus cases Maine has seen, Maine CDC spokesperson Robert Long said. Shortages of personal protective gear early in the pandemic heightened their risks of exposure.”
Maine reported a new record for daily cases on Wednesday at 554 with two more deaths. Although the first health care workers are beginning to receive vaccinations, the majority of Mainers are still months away from being eligible for the vaccine. The record number of cases reported Wednesday reflect that the coronavirus is continuing to rage more forcefully than ever here. The seven-day average of new cases is more than double a month ago and 13 times what it was two months ago.
— “Outside groups fighting over CMP corridor spent $3.7M after referendum was invalidated, Jessica Piper, Bangor Daily News: “The referendum for which corridor opponents are currently gathering signatures takes a different strategy than the first, aiming to require a two-thirds vote in the Legislature for the use of public land for transmission lines. The public face of the ballot petition drive is No CMP Corridor, a grassroots organization that has spent just $25,000 since mid-August, according to state filings, though Mainers for Local Power has provided significant financial might.”
The latest spending is just a small portion of a long-running campaign on issues that have not yet made it to the Maine ballot. Opponents of the corridor are readying that second referendum bid after their first was deemed unconstitutional by Maine’s high court. Before then, more than $17 million was spent — most of it by CMP and its affiliates. It all adds up to more than $20 million spent between the two bids well before one makes it to voters.
— “Penobscot Bay trash spill reignites debate over importing out-of-state waste,” Abigail Curtis, BDN: “While Maine has banned out-of-state waste from its landfills for decades, there’s a loophole in state law that allows waste to be reclassified as in-state waste as long as it goes through some level of processing here. That’s allowed many tons of construction and demolition debris that have been banned from Massachusetts landfills to end up in the state-owned Juniper Ridge Landfill in Old Town. And it’s allowed PERC to take in waste from outside of Maine, largely from Massachusetts, for years.”
Today’s Daily Brief was written by Caitlin Andrews, Jessica Piper and Michael Shepherd. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, you can sign up to have it delivered to your inbox every weekday morning here.
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