Good morning from Augusta. The Legislature reconvenes for a special session in two days. Gov. Janet Mills will lead a 12:30 p.m. news conference to unveil new broadband legislation, according to her office.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “We’re all just neighborhood cats,” said Tanade Muse on Munye Mohamed, a Somali-American rapper and poet from Portland known as Shine, whose music is gaining traction, with an April music video gaining nearly 1.5 million views so far. “He works so hard — this is just the beginning. He’s going to make it out of the hood.” Here’s your soundtrack.
What we’re watching today
The Legislature’s criminal justice committee will discuss the use of a controversial search method available to police today. Those so-called no-knock warrants, which allow police to enter a residence without announcing their intent and authority to do so, gained national attention after the tactic was used by police in Louisville, Kentucky, in the high-profile police killing of Breonna Taylor. They require a judge’s approval and are meant for instances in which police believe there might be a danger to officers.
Taylor’s killing sparked outrage that quickly led to lawmakers across the country examining the practice. U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, introduced a bill to ban no-knock entry nationally this fall. Maine is among six states weighing bills that would place limitations on the practice’s use, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The efforts vary but may have bipartisan support. A proposal from Rep. David McCrea, D-Fort Fairfield, would require law enforcement agencies to have written policies on the practice. A bill from Rep. Justin Fecteau, R-Augusta, would ban it unless there was an imminent risk of death. One from Rep. Amy Roeder, D-Bangor, goes further, making the practice a crime in the state and prohibiting local or state law enforcement agencies from assisting in the execution of a federal no-knock warrant. Public hearings for those bills start at 10 a.m.
The bills are among the dozens of efforts to change police policy after last summer’s protests. Taylor’s and other high-profile deaths, including Minnesota man George Floyd, are among the forces driving lawmakers to push for more accountability over policing. Some proposals came after a Maine State Police trooper sued the state for how it was using the Maine Information Analysis Center to collect information. A proposal from Rep. Charlotte Warren, D-Hallowell, the criminal justice committee co-chair, to close the center will be worked on by that panel at 1 p.m.
Others were spurred after the Bangor Daily News investigated how county sheriffs can escape accountability. Another would require police to collect demographic information on the people they over for traffic violations. Those bills will be subject of much discussion as the session continues. To hear more about the efforts to change policing, tune into a talk with lawmakers and the BDN on Thursday evening.
The Maine politics top 3
— “Maine sees large dip in COVID-19 vaccinations linked to 11-day J&J pause,” Caitlin Andrews and Jessica Piper: “The steep decline presents a challenge for the Pine Tree State, which has otherwise been ahead of the pack in vaccinations — Maine has fully vaccinated 35 percent of its population, more than any other state, according to a New York Times tracker. Some smaller clinics have paused giving doses altogether, while larger ones are working on ways to keep shots going. Providers say the decline seems to be tied to the paused vaccines and waning interest.”
Maine resumed offering Johnson & Johnson doses over the weekend, with a FEMA-run site in Biddeford administering more than 500 vaccines over the weekend. More than half of the doses at the federal site went to walk-ins on Sunday, reflecting an ongoing shift in the state’s strategy after appointments were required for vaccinations in their early going. A state- and FEMA-run clinic in Windham last week also allowed walk-ins, and MaineHealth — the state’s largest hospital system — said Friday that it would begin allowing walk-ins at some of its clinics, beginning at Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington.
But virus conditions have not improved despite Maine’s better-than-average vaccination rate. Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor saw COVID-19 patient numbers double last week as statewide hospitalizations rose to their highest level since early February. Four counties — Androscoggin, Kennebec, Oxford and Somerset — were downgraded to “yellow” status in the school advisory system due to higher case numbers, meaning the state recommends they switch to hybrid, rather than in-person, learning.
— “Prosecutor says Lincoln County shut her out of hiring for her office, told staff she wasn’t their boss,” Lauren Abbate, BDN: “At the time the personnel and hostile work environment issues came to a head earlier this year, [Lincoln County District Attorney Natasha] Irving was on a two-month maternity leave. Irving could not discuss the specifics of the personnel issue she claims the county administrator improperly handled. But she said that situation and subsequent complaints from her staff in the district attorney’s Lincoln County office that went uninvestigated by county officials need to be looked into.”
— “New Brunswick considering vaccine passports in border reopening preparations,” Alexander MacDougall, BDN: “Part of the disparity between the vaccination rates is the availability of vaccines to eligible people. The United States now allows anyone 16 or older to receive a vaccine shot. In New Brunswick, only people ages 65 and older in the general population are allowed to receive a shot. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said that the goal of all adult Canadians receiving the vaccine should be met by the end of September 2021.”
Census Bureau to release 2020 population counts
The U.S. Census Bureau will release data used for the apportionment of congressional seats this afternoon. There should be little suspense in Maine, as the state is expected to keep two congressional seats. The more detailed population data needed for redistricting are not expected to be released until August — well after Maine’s constitutional deadline in June. Lawmakers have indicated that Maine’s high court could step in, but next steps remain unclear. However districts are ultimately determined, the most likely scenario involves shifting a few towns from the growing 1st Congressional District to the less populous 2nd District.
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.
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