Good morning from Augusta. “My Sweet Maine” by Terry Swett is now the “state song of the 21st century.” Here’s your soundtrack.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “That just might solve a whole bunch of problems, at least from a practical perspective,” said Stephen Smith, the attorney representing Robert Fuller Jr., on him taking back the controversial statue of former Chief Justice Melville Fuller. Kennebec County commissioners voted to remove Fuller’s statue from outside the Augusta court in February after debate centering on Fuller presiding over Plessy v. Ferguson, the infamous 1896 decision that legalized racial segregation. “And then we can move on to bigger and better things.”
What we’re watching today
Tribes pushing for expanded sovereignty got support from a big-name Maine politician on Friday. The day began with a Bangor Daily News Op-Ed from U.S. Rep. Jared Golden of Maine’s 2nd District, who made a full-throated case for the Maine Legislature to expand tribal sovereignty in Maine, saying the historic 1980 agreement governing state-tribal relations “has created many challenges where there should have been greater opportunities.”
It comes at a key time as the Legislature is set to pick negotiations on the issue back up in 2021. A lame-duck Judiciary Committee endorsed a sovereignty package last year, but lawmakers never returned to Augusta to take full votes on bills that would allow tribes to conduct gaming on their lands, overhaul tribal taxation, land acquisition and criminal jurisdiction authority and expand fishing, hunting and other rights.
That was a milestone vote since the Legislature has traditionally resisted transfers of state power to the tribes in the last 40 years. While the push began under a push from Gov. Janet Mills to improve state-tribal relations, she has been skeptical during negotiations so far, saying early last year that changes since endorsed by lawmakers have been too sweeping. A smattering of gaming, industrial and other interests also oppose the package.
Golden’s decision to outflank Mills on the issue further confounds efforts to pin him down politically. While he has engaged tribes on their issues in the past, the second-term congressman’s decision to weigh in on the issue is interesting in itself. Members of the Maine delegation typically avoid wading deeply into state issues, particularly ones like tribal sovereignty that are dividing top officials in their own party.
Golden made this move amid backlash from his left after being the only Democrat in Congress to vote against the $2 trillion American Rescue Plan. He is going to be one of the most-watched members in the wrangling around President Joe Biden’s massive infrastructure plan. Those show his moderate streak, but his sovereignty stance shows a progressive side as well.
It all comes as the House Democrat representing the district that went hardest for former President Donald Trump in 2020 prepares for another nationally targeted race next year. Last year, he was not an easy Democrat to pin down politically. He likely won’t be in 2022, either.
The Maine politics top 3
— “Maine drops plan targeting removal of 4 Kennebec River dams, citing mistakes,” Caitlin Andrews, Bangor Daily News: “Maine still wants to pursue ways to restore fish populations, [Department of Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick] Keliher said on Thursday, but it will be pursuing any changes through a different law. Keliher said the state will be more proactive in speaking with employers who rely on the river for power, communities and others. He said dam removal may be the best way to restore fish populations, but the state will explore other options.”
The state’s reversal came after a lawsuit from the dam owner and a dug-in defense from Mills. By standing down from the battle with a U.S. subsidiary of Brookfield Renewable Partners, a huge Canadian firm, Keliher effectively admitted that a lawsuit from the company was likely to succeed. It is noteworthy that Mills dug in on the scrapped set of standards last month, saying the company should find a way to comply with them. They do not need to now.
— “Skowhegan man allegedly used PPP loan to buy cowboy boots and wedding ring,” Judy Harrison, BDN: “[Nathan] Reardon allegedly used the money to pay his lawyer and a local veterinarian, make donations to a Florida church and shop online. His purchases included a men’s 14-carat yellow gold wedding band, clothing, shaving products, toys, an LED barber pole light and a pair of caiman skin cowboy boots, a court affidavit said. Caimans are a species related to alligators found in Central and South America.”
— “Apartment seekers advertise themselves in a bid to beat the midcoast Maine housing crunch,” Abigail Curtis, BDN: “There likely are a number of reasons why rental housing is so scarce and demand is so high, according to Belfast City Councilor Mike Hurley. He has heard that some developers, stung by the housing bubble and the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009, put the brakes on new construction which reduced available housing stock. And some of the properties in the city have been turned into short-term rentals, which removes them from the long-term housing stock.”
Today’s Daily Brief was written by 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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