Good morning from Augusta, where temperatures will be back in the 70s today after New England’s latest heat wave finally broke.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It’s time for people to start dancing again. The time is now. Don’t wait,” said Christine Arsenault, a bartender at Bubba’s Sulky Lounge in Portland, which is reopening this weekend after a long pandemic shutdown. Here’s your soundtrack.
What we’re watching today
The first major legislation to come out of the Central Maine Power corridor fight passed the House on Wednesday, but future bills could face a more difficult go of it. Lawmakers voted along mostly partisan lines to advance a bill barring companies with foreign government ownership from spending to influence ballot questions in Maine, a proposal that came as a direct response to massive spending by Hydro-Quebec, a Canadian energy company, to boost the corridor project.
But the first floor vote on a bill driven by CMP opponents in 2021 had a good first showing as they fight a multifront war against the utility, targeting the corridor in court and at the 2021 ballot while an overlapping group pursues a controversial consumer-owned utility that would buy out CMP and Versant Power and hand the electric grid to an elected board.
The consumer-owned utility measure is expected to face its first floor votes early next week as the Legislature races to wrap up work by mid-week. On Thursday, the coalitions were clear, with 67 Democrats backing the campaign finance bill alongside three independents and six Republicans. Another 48 Republicans and seven Democrats were on the losing side.
It portends a close vote — at least in the House — on the consumer-owned utility measure, which would go to voters for approval. That will be a tougher sell than the relatively limited campaign finance bill. It also risks a showdown between Gov. Janet Mills and fellow Democrats after Mills warned lawmakers of moving the bill forward, which is becoming a pattern late in this session.
The Maine politics top 3
— “Maine politicians take popularity hit despite late-pandemic optimism, new poll shows,” Jessica Piper, Bangor Daily News: “The drop in popularity came even as more Mainers believed the country is moving in the right direction and indicated a historic level of optimism about the economy, according to a survey conducted in March and April and released Wednesday by Digital Research Inc., a Portland-based polling firm.”
After a marathon week of legislating, the House is facing a slimmer docket today. But we can still expect some sparks in the lower chamber: a controversial proposal to end at-will employment is expected to come off the table, as is an effort from Rep. Grayson Lookner, D-Portland, to close the Long Creek Youth Development Center. Expect debate on whether the State House needs more security after the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol and if public school teachers need diversity and inclusion training. In the Senate, watch for discussion around a proposal that would restrict donations from businesses in legislative races.
— “Maine expects schools to fully open this fall,” David Marino Jr., BDN: “Citing rising vaccination rates, [Gov. Janet] Mills said schools should open their doors full-time and that they won’t have to follow physical distancing requirements that have been in place since students returned to classrooms last September. Mask requirements and symptom checks are expected to remain in place.”
— “Group including Jared Golden offers infrastructure plan after Biden-GOP talks collapse,” CQ-Roll Call: “The Problem Solvers Caucus framework gets much closer to Biden’s demand on new spending at $761.8 billion. And unlike the offer from Capito’s group, it has buy-in from congressional Democrats. However, the bipartisan caucus has not yet included any provisions to offset the cost of its proposal.”
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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