Good morning from Augusta. There is one day until Gov. Janet Mills’ State of the Budget address.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “We know that this is just the very beginning of a very difficult transition that we’re going to have to make if we are going to electrify our heating and transportation sectors and if we’re going to bring on the kind of renewable resources that we’re going to need going forward,” Maine Public Utilities Commission Chair Phil Bartlett told Maine Public of growing pains in the fast shift to renewables. Here’s your soundtrack.
What we’re watching today
Maine’s allocation of COVID-19 vaccinations could keep increasing as the federal government expects to expand supply. About 75 million doses have been distributed nationally since the first vaccine was approved in mid-December, but President Joe Biden’s administration now anticipates delivering another 145 million doses in the next 5 1/2 weeks.
Some of that increase will go to second doses for people who already got first doses. But the weekly supply of first doses — which is already on the upswing in Maine, rising by about 15 percent this week to 27,740 — will also go up. As of Sunday, Maine had administered just over 200,000 first vaccine doses and nearly 96,000 second doses. Health officials said earlier this month that Maine could move to vaccinate people age 65 and up in March, but no plans are set yet and the state has not announced the types of frontline workers who will come next.
In Maine’s long-term care facilities, vaccinations have brought a sense of relief but not big changes. State officials have credited the vaccination program, which targeted residents and employees of nursing homes in its first phase, with reducing facility outbreaks, which had spiked as the virus spread last fall.
But it could be a while before things return to normal. Vaccinations have not led to looser visitation requirements, with facilities still basing their policies based on prevalence of the virus in the community. Nursing home directors have cited new challenges, including finding ways to vaccinate new employees who were not yet working at the facility when pharmacists came through to vaccinate workers and residents in the last few months.
The Maine politics top 3
— “Maine GOP’s rebuke of Susan Collins marks yearslong shift to the right,” Jessica Piper, Bangor Daily News: “The recent letter hammering [U.S. Sen. Susan] Collins, the party’s most successful political figure at a time when it is out of power on the state level, highlights how a party once led by institutionalists more aligned with the senator has grown more strident, particularly in the past decade.”
The path to nomination for the president’s budget nominee is narrowing after Collins voiced skepticism about her ability to lead. Neera Tanden has been criticized for her use of Twitter to attack Republicans and some Democrats, including at one point calling Collins “the worst.” Collins said those actions made her question if Tanden had the “temperament” to helm the Office on Management and Budget. After Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, said he would not vote for Tanden for similar reasons, Tanden needs a Republican to defect to be confirmed. President Joe Biden vowed Friday to keep moving the nomination forward.
— “More Maine towns consider becoming 2nd Amendment sanctuaries, even as how it would be enforced remains unclear,” Kathleen Phalen Tomaselli, BDN: “While the pronouncements vary, these gun safe havens … are basically created through local resolutions, ordinances and, in some cases, state laws, aimed at pushing back against state and federal gun control measures passed or proposed. Still, as this movement takes root in Maine, it remains unclear how such measures will affect local law enforcement, the sale of guns and ammunition, mental health situations involving guns and the commission of criminal acts.”
— Health advocates decry cuts to anti-smoking programs in Maine’s proposed budget,” Mal Leary, Maine Public: “This year Maine is spending nearly $14 million on smoking cessation programs, but Mills is proposing to cut $5 million a year over the two-year budget as part of her proposal to keep state revenues in line with expenditures.”
Today’s Daily Brief was written by Jessica Piper, Michael Shepherd and Caitlin Andrews. 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.