Good morning from Augusta. The Maine House of Representatives adjourned for the night at 2:30 a.m. and both legislative chambers will come back this afternoon to wade through bills.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Would you mind if I just sat down and got embarrassed for a while?” Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, said to Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, after rising to speak on the wrong bill during a marathon session of votes on Thursday. Here’s your soundtrack.
What we’re watching today
The governor used her veto pen sparingly during the first two years of her tenure, but it is poised to get a workout in the coming days. Lawmakers and lobbyists are expecting a flurry of vetoes from Gov. Janet Mills between now and the end of the month. They have been a long time coming as legislative Democrats outkick their party’s governor with a slate of progressive legislation that her administration has either opposed or been publicly cool to.
Mills’ reticence to cut many of these measures off early plus the odd pandemic session in which bills are coming up in spurts has contributed to a highly uncertain atmosphere in Augusta. Floor votes are less predictable because the parties have had less time to get members in line. Many lawmakers are unsure what will happen to bills that go to Mills, citing little communication.
The governor has been signing mostly minor bills into law this week and only issued 10 vetoes in the first two years of her tenure, a far cry from the record-setting number inked by Paul LePage, her Republican predecessor who often used his veto pen as a cudgel against the Legislature. Mills has benefited from full Democratic control of Augusta during her tenure.
That total is set to expand after legislative Democrats moved hundreds of bills forward this week, among them many that Mills is at least skeptical of, including measures to send a utility takeover to voters and enshrine a pioneering packaging stewardship program, plus others to allow farm workers to unionize, expand tribal gaming rights and ban pretextual traffic stops.
That is only a sampling of bills that risk a showdown between Mills and her party. Democrats stood down on other fights, turning back bills on Thursday that would subject farm workers to wage and hour laws, subject income over $200,000 to a surcharge and hike the estate tax.
But these bills illustrate the long-simmering tension between Mills and a much more liberal group of Democratic lawmakers that may come more into the open if the governor wades back into high-profile issues from utility regulation to tribal rights.
The Maine politics top 3
— “Piscataquis becomes 1st Maine county to declare itself a Second Amendment sanctuary,” David Marino Jr., Bangor Daily News: “The Second Amendment sanctuary movement pushes back against state and federal gun control measures that sanctuary supporters see as unconstitutional. The measures are primarily symbolic, as counties and municipalities in Maine hold little power to regulate guns.”
— “Angus King joins Susan Collins in bipartisan infrastructure group that expands to 20,” The Associated Press: “Both of Maine’s U.S. senators are now part of a bipartisan group working on a $1 trillion infrastructure compromise that doubled in size to 20 members on Wednesday, a key threshold that lends momentum to their effort.”
Infrastructure deals are moving forward on different tracks with funding methods still a point of conflict with the White House. President Joe Biden has put forward a $1.7 trillion proposal. The bipartisan group has rallied around a $1 trillion offer that contains $579 billion in new spending, plus repurposed and unspent COVID-19 relief funds. Biden wants a corporate tax hike to fund the bill, but the group of 20 is looking at indexing the gas tax to inflation and assessing a fee on electric vehicles. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, is also readying a party-line infrastructure proposal, so a lot must still wash out here.
— “Maine incentivizes more residents to get vaccinated with a nearly $1M sweepstakes,” Leela Stockley, BDN: “The program will award a jackpot that equals the number of Mainers who have received a vaccination, in an effort to get the state to 70 percent of its population fully vaccinated by July 4.”
You have to register with the state for your chance to win the lottery. Vaccinated Mainers going back to the beginning of the state’s program in December are eligible for the sweepstakes, but they must register for a chance to win online or by calling the state’s vaccination hotline at 1-888-445-4111.
Today’s Daily Brief was written by 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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