Good morning from Augusta. There are two days until Gov. Janet Mills reveals her two-year budget and an immediate state spending adjustment.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “This network was not built to provide this level of support,” Good Shepherd Food Bank president Kristen Miale said of an expected demand for food pantries as the winter continues. “We were built to be an emergency provider of food when somebody hit a bad time … we were meant to be a stop-gap and that is not what this network is doing now.”
What we’re watching today
Democrats achieved the narrowest of trifectas in Washington after sweeping Senate runoffs in Georgia on Tuesday, which will change the roles for Maine’s two senators. Decision Desk HQ, the Bangor Daily News’ elections partner, called the Georgia Senate runoff races in favor of Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff overnight after they narrowly ousted Republicans Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, respectively.
That leaves the Senate in a 50-50 partisan split, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris set to become the tie-breaking vote on Jan. 20 with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, switching roles. Maine’s senators, Republican Sen. Susan Collins, who won reelection in November, and Angus King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, fall roughly into the ideological middle of the new chamber. King will serve in the majority for the first time since his first two years in office.
With Democrats in the majority, they will control what bills come up for a vote. But moderates, including Collins ally Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, have already expressed opposition to doing away with the filibuster, so most major legislation will require a 60-vote threshold. That will give some power to Collins, who will likely be one of the first Republicans who President-elect Joe Biden and congressional Democrats turn to when looking for compromise.
Democrats’ victories in Georgia also threaten to undermine — or perhaps postpone — Collins’ ascendance to chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which she discussed frequently during her latest reelection campaign. The Maine senator will step into that role if Republicans take back the Senate in 2022, though she is in line to be the top Republican on the panel if they remain in the minority. With a tough map that year for Republicans, 2024 might be a more likely year for the Senate to flip back.
Both chambers of Congress will meet today to certify November’s presidential election results. A handful of Republicans are expected to challenge Biden’s victory, but all members of Maine’s delegation have affirmed that the Democrat will rightfully take office later this month.
The Maine politics top 3
— “Most Maine health care workers are getting the vaccine, even if they don’t have to,” Caitlin Andrews, Bangor Daily News: “Maine’s biggest health care systems are reporting high acceptance rates among staff. Scheduling challenges have kept some from getting vaccinated for now as employers encourage education over required inoculation. Not every system is tracking refusal rates, however, and long-term care facilities appear to be seeing lower acceptance rates.”
There is a lot of COVID-19 data out there. We want to hear from you as to which statistics would be the most interesting and useful for you as we continue to track the spread of the virus in Maine. Tell us what you would like to see the most to better shape our coverage.
— “Maine delegation seeks rule change to ease lobster shipping,” The Associated Press: “The delegation members said a previous farm bill changed the statutory definition of livestock to include animals such as fish and crawfish, but did not explicitly include lobsters. Lobsters are one of the most valuable exports from Maine, which is where most of the U.S. lobster industry is based.”
— “As rumors swirl of large-scale turbine farm, fishermen worry about rapid pace of wind development,” Fred Bever, Maine Public: “Maine fishermen say that Gov. Janet Mills’ plan for a state-led offshore wind project is being rushed. And now news that a developer is considering a new commercial-scale wind project off the coast is adding to their fears.”
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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