Good (rainy) morning from Augusta. Here’s your soundtrack.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It’s been something that’s gone back and forth. The victim and defendant are both young people,” Bill Entwisle, the Waldo county assistant district attorney, said of the sentencing of Login Armstrong after he shot a young woman while unloading a gun. “The victim is young, with significant injuries. It’s a difficult situation that everybody finds themselves in.”
What we’re watching today
Maine lawmakers are taking up the thorny issue of sports betting again and the question remains whether to tether it to physical facilities. Early last year, Gov. Janet Mills used one of the first vetoes in her young tenure to spike a measure to legalize, tax and regulate sports betting here after a 2017 Supreme Court decision allowed states to oversee the quickly growing industry. It is live and legal in 21 states, according to the American Gaming Association.
That bill, backed by Sen. Louis Luchini, D-Ellsworth, the co-chair of the gaming committee, would have taxed online and mobile betting revenue at 16 percent with a lower 10 percent rate at Maine-based facilities such as casinos and off-track betting parlors. It still faced opposition from proponents of tying betting to those facilities. Proponents of the bill noted that Maine was losing revenue to New Hampshire, where betting went live in late 2019.
Luchini is back this year with virtually the same proposal, while Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, has a bill to tether betting to in-person facilities that is backed by the harness racing industry. A rival bill from Sen. Joe Baldacci, D-Bangor, would send virtually all state revenue to education. Another from Rep. Tim Roche, R-Wells, is backed by the NFL.
All of those bills are up for public hearings before the gaming committee on Friday at 9 a.m. Any successful proposal is going to have to walk a thin line between geographic and special interests within the Legislature and survive the veto pen of a skeptical governor.
The Maine politics top 3:
— “Fox News’ Tucker Carlson hammers CMP corridor in new streaming show,” Caitlin Andrews, Bangor Daily News: “The video is an escalation in the rhetorical war between CMP and corridor opponents, a long-standing fight that has been given renewed life with another ballot question aimed at the project heading for the 2021 ballot. The fight has largely played out in TV and social media ads over the project’s benefits and drawbacks.”
— “Maine Medical Center nurses vote to unionize,” Nick Schroeder, BDN: “Nursing staff began organizing a union push in fall of 2019, but the coronavirus pandemic gave shape to the campaign, as nurses sought more bargaining power about staffing, wages and access to personal protective equipment. They formally filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board in January, 2021.”
The unionizing effort received heightened interest throughout the pandemic. Maine Medical Center’s parent company, MaineHealth, came under fire after it gave vaccines to consultants to speak to nurses about their unionizing effort. Nurses were congratulated by top legislators including Jackson and Maine House Speaker Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford, after election results came in late Thursday.
— “Bangor is one of few large Maine communities that limit councilors’ political speech,” David Marino Jr., BDN: “Bangor’s Board of Ethics is preparing to review and potentially revise sections of the city’s code of ethics requiring “nonpartisanship” from members of the Bangor City Council. The review comes after four councilors signed a letter in late March supporting Northern Light Health nurses in contract negotiations, leading some to wonder whether the councilors violated the partisanship ban.”
Judiciary committee to hear 2 bills on coronavirus liability
Lawmakers could decide under what circumstances health care providers and businesses could be sued over health or safety issues from the past year. The first bill, cosponsored by Sens. Trey Stewart, R-Presque Isle, and Bill Diamond, D-Windham, would prevent lawsuits related to coronavirus exposure in the workplace, as long as the employer was following “applicable government standards.” It has backing from state business interests as well as the Maine Municipal Association but faces opposition from labor unions.
A second bill would provide health care providers with protections from liability if the care they provided over the past year was affected by decisions related to the pandemic state of emergency, except in cases of reckless conduct or gross negligence. Health care providers are expected to testify that the legislation would protect them from lawsuits given the difficult pandemic conditions and the state’s recommended delay of certain health care procedures at the beginning of the pandemic. But malpractice lawyers argue the bill is overly broad and would make it difficult for patients to sue even if their claim was not related to the virus.
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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