Good morning from Augusta. The Legislature’s budget committee will be running through state budget items in the morning and holding a hearing on Gov. Janet Mills’ proposal to spend more than $1.1 billion in stimulus funds in the afternoon. Follow along here.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “With the heat index today being a little bit more humid, we were just like, ‘We can’t do it two days in a row,’” said RSU 19 Superintendent Michael Hammer on the district’s decision to hold remote learning on Tuesday due to extreme heat. Here’s your soundtrack.
What we’re watching today
Maine’s largest city could overhaul the power-sharing arrangement between the mayor and city manager after a victory for activists on Tuesday. Nine progressive candidates swept the most high-profile charter commission race in recent Maine history on Tuesday in Portland, setting up a year of wrangling over the constitution of the state’s largest city after a tumultuous recent history around a sometimes-awkward power-sharing arrangement.
The battles between former Mayor Ethan Strimling and City Manager Jon Jennings were well documented and contributed to the 2019 election of Mayor Kate Snyder, who sees the role as being more of a facilitator than a hard charger. The charter that established a full-time elected mayor — the first of whom was elected in 2011 — tilts power toward the council and manager.
The new 12-member charter commission, made up of the nine elected members and three others selected by the council, is likely to tilt power toward the mayor. Each of the candidates elected on Tuesday supports doing that to some degree, though many stop short of backing a strong mayor that could hire and fire city staff and scrapping the manager position.
It was another victory for progressives that comes on the heels of several major ballot question wins in last November’s election, when Portland residents voted to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour, limit rent increases and require more affordable housing units.
This crowd now has a chance to implement some of the changes that they have long been pushing for. It may not be wholesale change, but the Portland mayor is likely to be a bigger force in city and state politics with increased likelihood of other progressive changes like taxpayer-funded elections. The next year will be fascinating to watch.
The Maine politics top 3
— “Bill to rein in vulgar vanity plates easily passes the Maine Senate,” Caitlin Andrews, Bangor Daily News: “An effort to allow Maine to rescind or bar vanity license plates with swear words and other profane references sailed through the state Senate in an initial Tuesday vote, setting up an easy road to passage for a bill that may be challenged in court.”
Proponents of open primaries saw a victory yesterday as a bill to allow unaffiliated voters vote in primaries without declaring a party cleared the Senate. The 27 to 7 vote is a good sign for those who see the measure as crucial to courting nearly a third of Maine voters. But resistance from Republican leaders could spell a tougher fight in the House of Representatives, as party heads have typically resisted opening primaries in the past.
Both those bills are likely to come up early in the House today. One item sure to cause discussion: a proposal to end referendum contributions by foreign-owned companies, which is likely to come off the table.
— “Maine’s marijuana retailers saw record sales in May,” Lia Russell, BDN: “Retailers conducted 71,843 transactions, with smokable marijuana making up the bulk at 59 percent of sales, followed by infused products at 23 percent and concentrates at 18 percent. Maine’s adult-use marijuana market launched in October, with six officially licensed retailers. That number has now climbed to 34 retailers.”
— “Bangor city manager stepping down after 11 years to lead Maine Municipal Association,” David Marino Jr., BDN: “[Cathy] Conlow came to Bangor after serving six years as town manager in Orono. Before that, she served as public services director in Blaine, Minnesota, near Minneapolis. She took that job after working in county government in Oregon for 12 years. She is originally from New Jersey.
Maine Democrats press delegation on DC statehood
The letter from 62 lawmakers comes as a vote on the proposal remains uncertain. The White House is said to be exploring changes to the bill that could reduce opposition in the U.S. Senate to making Washington, D.C. the next state. The measure is essentially destined to fail otherwise after it cleared the U.S. House of Representatives for the second time earlier this year. The effort was supported by Maine’s congressional delegation, but Republican Sen. Susan Collins remains opposed and independent Sen. Angus King is still undecided.
Some Maine Democrats and two independents are hoping they will change their mind. The June 9 letter signed by 51 House members and 11 senators — including Maine House Speaker Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford, and Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash — notes D.C. residents have long supported the measure and pay taxes without congressional representation.
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.
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