Rep. John Martin, D-Eagle Lake, (right) and former House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, R-Newport, wrangle over votes in the State House on Dec. 3, 2014. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Good morning from Augusta.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “We just had to take it day by day. Probably the biggest lesson I learned from all of this is to let go, and be OK with whatever happens,” Erin French, owner and chef of The Lost Kitchen, said of adapting to the coronavirus pandemic. She has a book about the experience of building the restaurant out today. “We have reinvented ourselves a dozen times. I sometimes feel like I’m on my ninth life as a cat.” Here’s your soundtrack.

What we’re watching today

The longest-serving lawmaker in Maine history has had more effect than anyone else on the power of the legislative branch. Rep. John Martin, D-Eagle Lake, is recovering from a medical event last week that led him to undergo neurological surgery, according to House Speaker Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford, and Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center on Monday that said Martin is “doing well” and “making excellent progress.”

It’s too early to tell when the 79-year-old will be able to return to legislative service. He is best-known for his hard-charging tenure as House speaker from 1975 to 1994, serving in that position under four governors and later as the poster child for a 1993 term-limits law after two of his aides were convicted in a ballot-tampering scandal that did not implicate Martin himself.

He is one of the last active figures in state politics who worked on the legendary Sen. Edmund S. Muskie’s 1968 vice presidential run. When it comes to state politics, he has watched the political power of the Legislature erode somewhat despite his best efforts to concentrate power in that branch of government.

When he was speaker, the Legislature’s staff grew and his knowledge of parliamentary procedures increased the branch’s power. That knowledge is still an asset to Democrats in floor fights and Martin, a member of the budget committee now, is a key behind-the-scenes force in state policy. Even former Gov. Paul LePage named Martin, a moderate member of his party by today’s standards, as one of the few Democrats with whom he could negotiate.

Out of leadership, Martin has also been one of the few active members looking to increase legislative authority. He has led a long and unsuccessful fight against term limits, filing many bills to roll them back and others to shrink the size of the Legislature and raise pay, aiming to further professionalize the job. 

While even Martin has conceded that politicians repealing term limits would look self-serving to voters who backed them, he is a bridge from another era in many ways who still holds sway in Augusta as one of state government’s chief long-term thinkers.

The Maine politics top 3

— “Younger Mainers wait for COVID-19 vaccine slots amid demand crush,” Caitlin Andrews, Bangor Daily News: “Maine’s two biggest hospital systems reported that thousands signed up for appointments for Wednesday and later on the heels of the governor’s announcement, although one still had availability as of Monday afternoon. Those providers said the increase in the vaccine supply has not taxed their resources, while other providers are waiting for Wednesday to allow younger Mainers to book appointments.”

Maine is receiving a record number of COVID-19 vaccines this week as a federal program increased supply and added independent pharmacies. At least 88,000 vaccines are coming into the state this week, an increase of more than 20 percent compared to last week, which was also a record. Still, that total will only help vaccinate a fraction of the roughly 470,000 Mainers newly eligible for vaccines this week.

— “CMP wants to raise monthly bills by just under $3 to recoup storm costs,” Lori Valigra, BDN: “The company asked the Maine Public Utilities Commission for a revenue increase of about $26.5 million to cover certain costs from five major storms from April through December of last year. Along with the storms, the company cited financial impacts from the coronavirus pandemic.”

— “Maine’s bridges are in worse condition than most states,” Nick Schroeder, BDN: “A robust federal plan could alleviate longstanding partisan tension among Maine lawmakers, who have grappled for years over how to pay for needed transportation costs. In 2011, state Republicans and [LePage] nixed a law indexing a state gas tax to rising consumer prices that helped pay for routine road and bridge maintenance. That policy change, along with fuel-efficient vehicles making gas tax revenues less reliable, has set the stage for transportation budget battles in the state legislature.”

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.

To reach us, do not reply directly to this newsletter, but contact the political team at mshepherd@bangordailynews.com, candrews@bangordailynews.com or jpiper@bangordailynews.com.

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...