Good morning from Augusta. A legislative panel will hear from Public Advocate Barry Hobbins today on cable television services before discussing oversight of video providers and net energy billing limits. Follow along here.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I will never forget that night and I will always know I was one of the lucky ones,” said Gov. Janet Mills, who shared her experience in an abusive relationship as a young woman as the state rolled out a report showing 43 percent of homicides in Maine in 2018 and 2019 were linked to domestic abuse. “Many, many others were not so lucky.”
What we’re watching today
An angry crowd of fishermen highlighted the political peril of mixing the politics of energy and fishing in Maine. The Augusta rally on Wednesday brought lobstermen from all over the state to protest Mills’ support for two offshore wind projects. One of the key speakers was Maine People Before Politics’ Julie Rabinowitz, serving as a proxy for former Gov. Paul LePage, who is likely to challenge Mills next fall.
Rabinowitz’s speech touched on everything from the promised jobs offshore will bring and the questions people have about windmills’ potential effects on the marine environment. Her speech previewed a likely LePage effort is looking to use the rising tension between Mills and the lobster industry as political leverage if he runs again, which is expected.
LePage, however, has his own complicated history with coastal energy. He was the only New England governor to support President Donald Trump’s proposal to expand offshore drilling in the Atlantic, a move that was slammed by a wide group of interests from the fishing industry to environmentalists and then-U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin of the 2nd District, a normal LePage ally, dissented from the idea.
His administration was also accused of pressuring a Norwegian company to pull their offshore wind project in 2013, ostensibly to clear the way for the University of Maine to compete. By 2017, he backed a bill to move that test project farther offshore, then he issued an executive order the next year putting a moratorium on wind turbines in areas including the coast.
The topic of lobstering and energy is not going away anytime soon. One is a revered heritage industry in the state, the other a lucrative business that has gained increasing attention in recent years nationally and here amid Mills’ focus on climate policy. We can expect both sides to touch upon these topics often as November 2022 draws closer.
The Maine politics top 3
— “Maine’s hot pandemic housing market isn’t driving population gains,” Lori Valigra, BDN: “Homebuyers flocking to rural Maine towns like Rangeley and Houlton in the coronavirus pandemic have stoked a hot real estate market and grabbed headlines, but the balance of people moving into and out of the state has not significantly changed slow population growth here.”
— “Orono woman charged with voting twice in November election,” Judy Harrison, BDN: On Election Day, [Manikomal M. Kehler] went to the polls in Orono with a group of friends and did not tell election clerks that she had already voted. On Nov. 4, Kehler reported that she had voted twice but it was too late to pull back her ballot, [Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin] said.
The last conviction in a Maine voter fraud case was in 2012. That was after an Oakland man pleaded guilty to forgery related to casting two absentee ballots for his adult children in the 2010 election. Another Orono woman is facing the same charge as Kehler related to the 2020 election after allegedly using a former roommate’s absentee ballot to vote.
— “Police oversight bill stalls as Maine sheriffs withdraw support,” Erin Rhoda, BDN: “After backing legislation that would bring more oversight to elected county sheriffs, the Maine Sheriffs’ Association withdrew its support this week, potentially torpedoing the bill’s chances of being passed by the full Maine Legislature and showing the difficulty of bringing legislative changes even amid widespread calls for more police accountability.”
Proposals to eliminate or limit qualified immunity for Maine police officers are up for a hearing today. The farther-reaching bill, from Rep. Jeffrey Evangelos, I-Friendship, and backed by Assistant House Majority Leader Rachel Talbot Ross, D-Portland, would eliminate the defense for officers in civil lawsuits, going further than any other state in the U.S. to date. Law enforcement have mobilized against the bill, with Somerset County Sheriff Dale Lancaster saying costs of covering officers will be transferred to local agencies. That proposal and a less far-reaching one on qualified immunity from Sen. Anne Carney, D-Cape Elizabeth, are up for hearings in the Judiciary Committee on Thursday afternoon.
Maine hits another vaccine milestone
More Mainers have officially received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine than not. As of Thursday, 681,567 people here have received either a first dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, accounting for just over half of Maine’s 2020 census population and roughly 60 percent of eligible adults. Geographic disparities remain, with 72 percent of adults in Cumberland County having at least one dose compared to 47 percent in Somerset County. Women are also getting vaccinated at higher rates than men, fitting with a national trend.
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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