In this March 10, 2021, file photo, House Speaker Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford, addresses the Legislature at the Augusta Civic Center. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

Good morning from Augusta. The Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee will be making decisions on sports betting and tribal gaming as it and other committees try to finish up work before next week. Follow along with those conversations starting at 10 a.m. here.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Lobster is still king, for sure,” Jeff Nichols, spokesperson for the Maine Department of Marine Resources, said of Maine’s top seafood crop after salmon overtook lobster as the highest-grossing wild-caught fishery in the U.S., per a new federal report. Here’s your soundtrack.

What we’re watching today

Leading Democrats said they would continue to enforce a mask mandate when lawmakers return next week, but consequences are an open question. Republican leaders have been asking Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, and Maine House Speaker Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford, what their plans are if members show up maskless next week, a topic that came up again at the end of a Legislative Council meeting Thursday. 

Both demurred and referred members to their chamber’s rules, a sign that top Democrats may not be ready to commit to a course of action or are hoping the stripping of committee assignments for seven members of the Maine House of Representatives who came to the State House without wearing masks this week will serve as a deterrent.

It is clearly something Republicans are worried about. Assistant Senate Minority Leader Matt Pouliot, R-Augusta, said Thursday he knows “for a fact” that more members will be headed to the State House maskless next week, setting up a challenge to Democrats as lawmakers enter the contentious home stretch of the session.

Jackson and Fecteau have similar powers under their chamber’s rules: to “enforce order and decorum” and rescind committee assignments. Fecteau already flexed his abilities earlier this year when he yanked the guest privileges of Rep. Shelley Rudnicki, R-Fairfield, after she brought a guest to Gov. Janet Mills’ office suite without permission. They promised consequences for those who break the rules, but they left them vague.

“The House will be in order, and we’ll find a way to make sure that’s the case. That’s the bottom line for me.” Fecteau said at the Thursday meeting.

Those powers could take a number of forms: A member could be barred from the chamber if they are not following the rules or leaders could choose not to acknowledge them if they wish to speak. The Constitution allows members to be expelled for disorderly conduct by a two-thirds vote of all members, a bar unlikely to be met in either chamber. The Constitution says contempt includes disrespect, obstruction of proceedings and threatening or abusing members.

There have been a few examples where these powers have played out in the House. Staff at the Maine State Law and Legislative Reference Library found at least six examples of a member removed from a committee, censured, kicked out of the chamber or investigated in the past 50 years. They could find no similar instances in the Senate during the same period. 

The Maine politics top 3

— “Leading Maine lawmakers ask state’s high court to extend redistricting deadline,” Jessica Piper, Bangor Daily News: “They are asking the court to extend the deadline for the redistricting advisory commission to submit maps to the Legislature until 45 days after the commission receives data from the federal government. Lawmakers would then have 10 days to vote on the maps. The state’s 15-member redistricting advisory commission voted unanimously to join the petition during its first meeting on Thursday.”

— “2nd Maine man charged in Jan. 6 riot at US Capitol,” Judy Harrrison, BDN: “Nicholas Patrick Hendrix, 34, of Gorham is charged with one count each of knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority, disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds, violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol ground, and parading, demonstrating or picketing in any of the Capitol buildings.”

A commission to investigate the Jan. 6 riots looks poised to fail in the U.S. Senate after a long night of wrangling. Senate Republicans delayed voting on a separate bill designed to increase American competitiveness with China on Thursday night, pushing a vote on the independent commission — which passed with 35 Republican votes in the House — until later today, or possibly the weekend. Only three Republicans, including Maine Sen. Susan Collins, have indicated they will support moving the commission bill forward, meaning it stands little chance of reaching the 60 votes needed to overcome the filibuster.

— “Maine awards $8.7M in 1st wave of high-speed internet grants,” Lori Valigra, BDN: “The money is the first of two rounds of grants to be awarded by the ConnectMaine Authority for high-speed internet projects. It is part of the $15 million bond that Maine voters approved in July 2020. ConnectMaine expects the projects to be built over the next year.”

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Caitlin Andrews, Jessica Piper 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 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...