Good morning. It is once again foggy in Augusta. Here’s your soundtrack.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “We’re very glad that the new employer seems to be interested in working with us instead of against us,” Todd Ricker, lead labor representative for the Maine State Nurses Association, said after a federal judge approved the sale of the embattled Calais Regional Hospital to the Machias-based Down East Community Hospital. “We look forward to a very productive relationship going forward.”
What we are watching today
The Legislature’s budget committee is set to vote Thursday or Friday on a two-year budget proposal amid a tense standoff between the parties. Democrats angered Republicans when they announced a budget vote would happen next week under an agreement with Gov. Janet Mills. Now the future of the Legislature hangs in the balance: If the parties do not strike a deal in the budget committee — which is expected — majority Democrats will have to adjourn after passing the budget by a simple majority vote next week and then push for a special session to carry on work.
Mills would likely need to call them back, as Republicans are furious about the opacity of the $8.3 billion budget and the process of passing it without the usual two-thirds votes in both chambers. While it has been described as being mostly in line with Mills’ January proposal, there isn’t much information about it. Democrats have prepared a one-page sheet describing the topline figures and main funding sources, arguing they want to avoid a state shutdown during the pandemic by passing a budget.
The maneuver could be risky down the road. Minority Republicans are bereft in simple-majority votes but will still have power over spending later in the year. They could withhold support for those bills in the future. Democrats can only afford to lose four members in the House of Representatives to get a majority if independents align with Republicans.
It could give budget opponents some leverage. Democrats already deleted a new tax on streaming services that could generate nearly $10 million over two years. The budget committee is set to discuss things at 10 a.m. today, priming the Legislature for a vote when they come together at the Augusta Civic Center on Tuesday.
The Maine politics top 3
— “As tensions rise, fishermen are frustrated with offshore wind development survey,” Lauren Abbate, BDN: “The survey vessel, Go Liberty, reported to marine law enforcement Monday that fishermen were blocking its path, preventing the ship from conducting a survey of a proposed cable path for the New England Aqua Ventus project, a one-turbine wind development project slated for the waters off Monhegan.”
— “Aroostook Republicans rebuke Susan Collins over her Trump impeachment vote,” Christopher Burns, BDN: “The resolution, signed by 19 members of the county committee and other Republicans from the crown of Maine, blasted the ‘illegal, unethical, unconstitutional’ impeachment over the former president’s role in the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.”
The rebuke comes as the Maine Republican Party is set to consider a formal censure of Collins this weekend. Kennebec County Republicans voted against censuring the fifth-term senator earlier this month, an indication that support for the idea might be waning. But the censure from Aroostook Republicans indicates there is still anger among grassroots Republicans. The state party will meet Saturday.
— “Buffets can reopen under latest changes to Maine coronavirus guidelines,” Caitlin Andrews, BDN: “In addition, bars within restaurants will be allowed to stay open after the kitchen closes starting Friday, the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development said Wednesday. Overnight camps regardless of length will be allowed to resume but are encouraged to develop a COVID-19 strategy.”
Maine health commissioner highlighted in book on ACA fight
The former adviser to President Barack Obama held faith in the health care law when few others did. That’s according to an excerpt from Jonathan Cohn’s “The Ten Year War: Obamacare and the Unfinished Crusade for Universal Coverage” published Tuesday in The Atlantic. According to the book, Jeanne Lambrew, who is now the commissioner of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, was one of the former president’s key architects in getting the Affordable Care Act through Congress.
That work had often been unglamorous, according to the book: Lambrew led calls with lawmakers to keep them on a consistent message and often served as a sounding board for both parties on the proposal during the 2009 negotiations on the bill.
After the 2016 election of former President Donald Trump, Lambrew passed out beers to staffers in her office and polled them on whether they thought the law would still be in effect in a year. Nobody thought it would be besides Lambrew, who calculated that Republicans would have a difficult time repealing it with real-world consequences. While Republicans indeed failed to repeal it, it changed when their 2017 tax bill axed the individual mandate in the law.
Today’s Daily Brief was written by Jessica Piper, Caitlin Andrews 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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