Good morning from Augusta.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Even though the process is simple on paper, that chemical reaction is very complex and takes place in a number of different steps,” said William DeSisto, a University of Maine chemical and bioengineering professor, on efforts to make sure products like hand sanitizer are easier to manufacturer after they were in high demand during the start of the coronavirus pandemic. “We’ll be looking at that to make it more efficient, using less ingredients to make your final product in a chemical process.”
What we’re watching today
After days of silence in public, the Legislature’s budget committee is expected to wade back into the budget process today. It has been two weeks since the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee met to discuss Gov. Janet Mills’ revised $8.8 billion, two-year budget proposal. While an agreement is expected to be voted on sometime next week when lawmakers return to Augusta, there has been no indication that a deal is close.
Top Democrats and Republicans on the panel were meeting this morning to discuss items where agreement has been reached between the parties, although details are scarce on where that agreement might be. Lawmakers not only have to close the state budget, but they have to agree on a $1.1 billion plan for federal COVID-19 aid and a borrowing package from Mills.
It is somewhat understandable that the high-profile committee has not met in a while. A marathon of session days since the beginning of the month often kept lawmakers working late into the evening as they tackled remaining bills, including the hot topics of a utility takeover, recycling and sports betting. It was apparent by early last week that a budget was not going to happen by the time lawmakers adjourned, pushing the session late into June.
We know there has been some weekend caucusing around the budget and occasional private meetings, but it is not clear how much the parties are really talking to each other. Republicans have opposed 200 new state government positions and looked to remove a ban on flavored tobacco, but they did not caucus this weekend. Democrats are set to meet at noon to discuss prior to the committee’s tentative 1 p.m. discussion.
With a basic budget in place already and the Legislature in a special session that it can resume at any time, there is less time pressure than usual for a budget. Democrats already powered through a two-year budget in March over Republican objections and could do that again on the state budget and COVID-19 aid plans. But a bipartisan vote would mean the money could be spent earlier and they would still need Republican help to send bonds to voters this year.
The Maine politics top 3
— “Maine is increasing K-12 education funding. Some schools won’t get much help,” Caitlin Andrews, Bangor Daily News: “[Mills’] updated two-year budget proposal includes $187 million to increase the state’s spending on public education to the 55 percent threshold. But West Bath and roughly 100 other cities and towns will not see an increase because they are so-called ‘minimum receivers’ — those with such high property values that they do not qualify for that pool of state aid.”
— “High Trump support is strongest predictor of Penobscot towns’ low COVID vaccine rates,” David Marino Jr., BDN: “In interviews, some residents of towns with low vaccination rates voiced distrust in the science behind the vaccines or said they disliked vaccines in general. Some said they were not afraid of COVID-19 and were willing to accept the social consequences associated with not getting the shot. Many echoed discredited conspiracy theories. Some said they wanted to wait for more information or to see if those who were vaccinated experienced long-term side effects before getting the shot.”
Maine maintains among the highest vaccination rates in the U.S. but still trails several New England neighbors. About 870,000 Mainers, just shy of 65 percent of the state’s population, have received at least one vaccine dose, according to the latest federal data, including more than three-quarter of adults aged 18 and older. But Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont still have higher vaccination rates, with the latter two both seeing more than 80 percent of adults with at least one dose.
— “She wants to know why police handcuffed her son in school,” Callie Ferguson, BDN: “The use of force against students is rare, but unlike other states, Maine’s lack of oversight and regulation of school-based police officers makes it difficult for parents to trust their schools are following best practices. Those concerns are especially relevant to parents like Lothrop, whose children struggle with behavioral challenges that cause them to act out.”
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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