Good morning from Augusta. Gov. Janet Mills sent out her first fundraising email since Jan. 8, 2019, on Saturday as she looks to prepare a 2022 reelection run. Read it here.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “She was in advanced classes and a straight-A student,” said Krysteen Hutchinson of Bangor, whose eighth-grade daughter has struggled since switching to online learning amid the coronavirus pandemic. “Now that she’s left to her own devices, she’s not getting it done. And she’s failing a couple of her classes.”
What we’re watching today
A raft of Republican bills aimed at rolling back the governor’s emergency will be aired in a long round of hearings. Lawmakers gave Mills nearly unilateral power to manage the coronavirus pandemic more than a year ago when they abruptly adjourned as cases began to be detected in Maine. Minority Republicans soon had regrets about the move and wanted to roll the powers back by the spring, after decisions to close businesses frustrated many but likely helped keep virus cases relatively low here early on.
Democrats voted down Republican attempts to strip Mills of her emergency powers earlier this month. But the minority party is back on Monday with a number of proposals on the issue up for hearings at the State and Local Government Committee. Several would require a vote in the State House to keep an emergency declaration going. Most require a two-thirds vote to keep the status going. Mills extended Maine’s emergency for the 13th time recently. Only two states have no emergency in effect now, but some have set end dates.
Other proposals would limit a governor’s ability to impose restrictions on businesses and religious organizations during a state of emergency. Those powers have been the subject of state and federal lawsuits, but none of those have been successful yet.
It seems unlikely Democrats will humor these efforts any more than they did the earlier resolutions. But the issue is still animating many in the Republican grassroots as Democrats prepare a Tuesday power play to pass a two-year budget by a simple majority over Republican objections. Conservative lawmakers are looking to show attentiveness to the cause.
Expect a long day of hearings in Augusta as they press their case, but it is more than an uphill battle. They kick off at 10 a.m. and you can watch here.
The Maine politics top 3
— “Maine GOP votes overwhelmingly to reject Susan Collins censure,” Michael Shepherd, Bangor Daily News: “The 41-19 vote of the party’s state committee ended nearly a month and a half of behind-the-scenes wrangling over whether to denounce the moderate fifth-term senator, who won reelection in a heavily nationalized 2020 race. Collins is the lone Republican serving in high office in Maine and the last one in federal office in New England.”
The Maine senator joined a group of Republicans on a visit to the U.S.-Mexico border at the end of last week. Collins met with Border Patrol and characterized the increase in migrant crossings as a “crisis,” a term President Joe Biden’s administration has attempted to avoid. She also highlighted concerns about the influence of cartels along the border.
Collins and other Republicans wrote a letter earlier this month blaming Biden’s policy changes, most notably halting construction on a border wall, for the rise in crossings. The Democratic president has begun to allow unaccompanied minors who cross the border to stay to seek asylum, a reversal from the previous administration’s policy, but has continued to turn away adults. So far, monthly apprehensions at the border have not yet equaled their May 2019 peak, but they are expected to continue to increase in the coming months mostly due to seasonal patterns.
— “In Piscataquis County, commissioners’ anti-mask vote has created a fraught political climate,” David Marino Jr., BDN: “On Tuesday, the Piscataquis County commissioners denied the Center Theatre in Dover-Foxcroft a letter of community support for its application for a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant. They said the theater had a political agenda because its executive director, Patrick Myers, and board chair, Cynthia Freeman Cyr, vocally opposed the commissioners’ January resolution and supported COVID-19 restrictions. The commissioners also voted to call on the Maine Attorney General’s office or district attorney to investigate the theater’s use of previous grants.”
— “What Maine is doing to tamp down the worst power outages in the nation,” Lori Valigra, BDN: “The state ranked first nationally in its average of four outages per year and second in outage duration of 14 hours annually over a five-year period from 2015 to 2019, a recently released analysis of federal data by electric automation company MRO Electric found. Outages are counted if they last more than five minutes. Even when discounting severe weather, Maine still ranked first in outages and second in duration, indicating the weather is not merely to blame and the state can improve network reliability.”
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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