Good morning from Augusta. It is once again foggy here.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “There’s a new assumption that every item is valuable to someone, and unfortunately it’s not true,” said Rich Cantz, the president and CEO of Goodwill of Northern New England, on the rising levels of trash Mainers have attempted to donate to thrift stores. Here’s your soundtrack.
What we’re watching today
Weeks after initially making the threat, grassroot Republicans are poised to take a vote on censuring New England’s sole Republican U.S. Senator and two party members. But the Saturday morning meeting where members will cast their votes on censuring Sen. Susan Collins for voting to convict former President Donald Trump in last month’s impeachment trial, along with former state Sens. Kevin Raye of Perry and Roger Katz of Augusta for publicly declaring they would vote forPresident Joe Biden, will take place during a drastically different political atmosphere than when the effort was first teased.
Republicans were handed a sincere defeat when Craig Hickman, D-Winthrop, beat out opponent William Guerette of Pittston earlier this month with nearly double the votes, with Republican strategists clearly aware many in their party stayed home for the special election. They are also facing a political crisis as legislative Democrats are poised to pursue a simple majority vote on a two-year budget next week, effectively negating any power they might have over the most pivotal piece of legislation considered this year. The GOP legislative leadership is expected to discuss their response to the budget this morning at 10 a.m.
All three possible censure targets have questioned the point of the effort, as a divide between the party’s increasingly strident grassroots members and more traditional conservatives has become more apparent. Collins made a point of saying that the party needed to grow its base in Maine when responding to the impeachment-related criticisms and focus on the special election. Katz and Raye told Maine Public the party has become so focused on Trump that many Republicans no longer identify with its message.
It remains to be seen whether either effort will succeed. Both motions are harsh, with the Collins resolution characterizing her conviction vote as “purely-self serving, vindictive and punitive.” The Raye and Katz motion looks to punish the two for their defection by aiming to prohibit either from running for office as party members — something the party can’t technically do. But Republicans have already condemned Collins’ vote while thanking her for supporting the party. The Kennebec County GOP voted against censuring Collins two weeks ago, signaling support for the effort may be waning.
The Maine politics top 3
— “Under criticism, Janet Mills digs in on fish standards that could force dam removals,” Caitlin Andrews, Bangor Daily News: “Those standards for fish passage would be ‘unachievable’ and would force dam removal, according to Brookfield Renewable U.S., a subsidiary of a larger Toronto-based asset management company. But Mills dismissed that on Tuesday, saying Brookfield’s size — she specifically mentioned the company’s parent being partially owned by the nation of Qatar — should allow it to comply with the rules.”
A contentious situation between Maine fishing industry members and offshore wind developers did not violate any rules, the state has found. Fishing boats appeared to be putting their gear in the way of a boat conducting research on the area where New England Aqua Ventus is planning to construct an offshore wind energy project on Monday, causing the vessel to stop its work. But the Department of Marine Resources said on Tuesday the fishing boats backed off when requested and did not seem to be intentionally messing with the company’s work.
Mills reiterated her “wholehearted” support for the project on Tuesday during a ceremonial maple tree tapping event at the Blaine House, noting it has developed under the purview of three governors. She described the vessel’s work as “beneficial” to the fishing industry because the company is trying to figure out the best way to place cables and avoid conflicting with fishing grounds.
— “Maine launches COVID-19 vaccine pre-registration website, but not all sites will use it,” Jessica Piper, BDN: “But the state’s top health official warned that not all health care providers will use the new website. The state is still working to bring providers on and will provide additional information in the coming days. Some providers — including MaineHealth, the state’s largest hospital system with locations primarily in southern Maine — have their own pre-registration forms, while others do not currently take pre-registrations.”
A limited number of younger Mainers have been getting vaccinated thanks to extra doses at local pharmacies. State health officials say providers should prioritize extra doses for eligible Mainers — currently those aged 50 and older as well as teachers and child care providers — but can offer them to younger people if the doses are about to expire and there are no eligible Mainers available to be vaccinated.
— “Lawmakers eye sweeping changes to Maine’s unemployment system,” Steve Mistler, Maine Public: “[Maine House Speaker Ryan] Fecteau’s bill is still in development, but worker supporters say it will include a navigator program to help the unemployed apply for benefits, increase eligibility and benefit payments for partially unemployed workers and require employers to file claims on behalf of workers in the event of a mass layoff.”
King warns Republicans on filibuster
Maine’s independent senator says filibuster reform could depend on whether Senate Republicans are willing to work toward compromise. Sen. Angus King, who has been among the members of the Democratic caucus most reluctant to do away with the filibuster, wrote in a Washington Post op-ed that the procedure was sustainable “only if the extraordinary power of the 60-vote threshold is used sparingly on major issues or is used in a good-faith effort to leverage concessions rather than to simply obstruct.”
“If, however, the minority hangs together and regularly uses this power to block any and all initiatives of the majority (and their president), supporting the continuation of the rule becomes harder and harder to justify, regardless of the long-term consequences,” King wrote. He also indicated openness to waiving the filibuster for voting rights legislation.
Today’s Daily Brief was written by Jessica Piper 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.