Good morning from Augusta.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I am embarrassed by how the events unfolded and thankful that the incident came to a peaceful resolution without anyone being injured,” Wiscasset Police Chief Larry Hesseltine said after a handcuffed suspect escaped custody over the weekend and led police on a chase through Sagadahoc County.
What we’re watching today
A massive election reform bill seems set to fail in the U.S. Senate today, with Democrats’ next steps unclear. Republicans, with the help of a few Senate Democrats, are poised to block the For the People Act, a sweeping bill that includes provisions aiming to expand voting rights, crack down on money in politics and limit partisan gerrymandering. The bill has long been a priority for Democrats, who have gained a sense of urgency this year amid Republican efforts to tighten voting laws in states like Arizona, Georgia and Florida following false claims of electoral fraud from former President Donald Trump.
But it has been apparent for a while that the For the People Act — which was originally written more as a messaging bill when Trump was president — stood little chance of passage. U.S. Rep. Jared Golden of the 2nd District, a proponent of the campaign finance and voting reforms, told the Bangor Daily News this month that he was open to breaking the bill up if components were more likely to pass on their own.
If any election overhaul is going to pass at the federal level, it will likely have to follow that path. U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, one of the Democratic holdouts on the bill, proposed a compromise that would address voting rights, ban partisan gerrymandering and require voter ID while leaving out campaign finance reform.
At least one of Maine’s senators might get on board with that. U.S. Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, told CNN this month he supported changes to the original bill, saying the focus should be on voting rights and ensuring states could not overturn elections. Republican support needed to overcome a Senate filibuster remains elusive.
The bill’s likely failure comes as Maine has joined a group of states to expand voting access. The Brennan Center for Justice counted 14 states that made voting harder by late May, but also noted 14 states had approved more expansive laws. Maine has long had liberal voting laws, allowing same-day registration and no-excuse absentee voting.
The Democratic-led Legislature built upon that this session, passing laws making college IDs an acceptable form of identification and an omnibus bill changing party enrollment thresholds, requiring absentee ballot drop boxes and making it easier to cure defects on absentee ballots. It is further on track to pass laws creating a registration system for voters with disabilities and voters over the age of 65 to make absentee voting easier and create an online voting registration system.
The Maine politics top 3
— “Maine lawmakers close in on budget deal that may include an income tax break,” Caitlin Andrews, Bangor Daily News: “The budget committee unanimously agreed to raise the state’s share of basic public school funding to a historic 55 percent and increase revenue sharing to 5 percent of tax revenue by 2023. A 10-minute string of votes ended with panel co-chair Sen. Cathy Breen, D-Falmouth, urging listeners to “stay tuned” as the group works “feverishly” to negotiate the budget before the Legislature returns to the State House next week.”
— “Republicans spend heavily against Jared Golden, but they haven’t rallied around an opponent,” Jessica Piper, BDN: “Golden won reelection last year by 6 percentage points over his challenger, former state Rep. Dale Crafts, even as former President Donald Trump also won the district by more than 7 points. He now represents the most Republican-leaning district held by a Democrat, according to the Cook Political Report, although districts will change by next year due to redistricting.”
Maine’s senior senator will vote against a controversial nominee to lead the federal firearm regulator. U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, will oppose President Joe Biden’s nomination of David Chipman to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, she said in a statement released by the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine on Monday. Chipman, a former ATF agent who now works for a pro-gun control group, faced aggressive questioning from Republicans on a Senate panel recently over his support for an assault weapons ban. Collins, who is more moderate than most in her party on guns, called Chipman an “unusually divisive” nominee.
— “Maine campaign finance regulator hides public meeting during investigation of anti-corridor group,” Steve Mistler, Maine Public: “The Maine Ethics Commission on Friday removed the video and livestream of a public proceeding after a commissioner mentioned the name of a person or business entity that the campaign finance regulator is investigating. The highly unusual move came at the request of Stop the Corridor, a political group that opposes Central Maine Power’s controversial transmission project.”
Transparency has taken a beating as ethics meetings remain virtual. This was only the latest example of a strange situation surrounding the commission’s investigation of the anti-corridor group. While the commission is required to keep any parties it is investigating private until it determines whether it should be regulating them, representatives of those parties have been watching meetings on YouTube and then transitioning to Zoom for executive sessions. If meetings were not virtual, reporters could see them in or around the building and get a better idea about the ongoing probe. Here’s your soundtrack.
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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Correction: A previous version of this report misstated the scope of a voting law creating a registration system for voters over 65 and those with disabilities.