Good morning from Augusta. Rep. Justin Fecteau, R-Augusta, will resign for work reasons on July 4, reducing Maine House Republicans’ minority caucus to 65 members.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Congregate living is as passe as hammer pants,” Josh D’Alessio, director of the Hope House in Bangor, said of efforts to use the local Ramada Inn as a homeless shelter during the pandemic, which he says worked better than the traditional shelter model. “The approach is way wrong.” Here’s your soundtrack.
What we’re watching today
The governor has vetoed seven bills from this legislative session, including several that were priorities for progressive Democrats in the Legislature. Those among the first seven in 2021 blocked by Gov. Janet Mills include bills to close the Long Creek Youth Development Center, implement a graduated real estate transfer tax and block companies with foreign government ownership from spending to influence ballot questions.
Many more vetoes are expected and they come as a blow to several lawmakers and activist groups, which may struggle to find the votes to overturn the governor’s vetoes in most cases, and reflect the divide between Mills and legislative Democrats on a range of issues.
Some of the vetoes are relatively unsurprising. The Mills administration had testified in opposition to the bill to close Long Creek earlier this year. In a veto message to lawmakers, the Democratic governor characterized the bill as “fundamentally flawed,” saying the state did not yet have a viable alternative to house children who needed to be detained.
But the governor had not weighed in on every bill this session. The foreign spending bill, which came in response to massive spending by the Canadian energy company Hydro-Quebec with respect to potential referendums on the Central Maine Power corridor, passed easily through both chambers of the Legislature with most Democrats and a handful of Republicans in support.
Business groups had argued that the bill was overly broad and would block spending by American companies, too. Mills appeared to reflect that sentiment in a letter to the Legislature, saying the bill would “reach dozens of businesses that we regard as very much part of the fabric of the Maine community.” Achieving a two-thirds majority to overcome the governor’s veto could be tough in the House, where 55 members voted against the bill’s enactment.
Other bills vetoed by the governor include bills that would have barred police officers from pretextual traffic stops, implemented several changes to the state’s criminal code, created a diversion program for adults under the age of 25 and added members to the University of Maine System’s board of trustees.
Correction: An earlier version of this item misstated the number of vetoed bills so far in 2021. It is seven.
The Maine politics top 3
— “Some Maine hospitals are at higher risk of COVID-19 outbreaks as staff go unvaccinated,” Jessica Piper, Bangor Daily News: “The hospitals with fewer staff vaccinated are largely in regions of the state with lower overall vaccination rates. Seven hospitals spread across Oxford, Somerset, Kennebec, Androscoggin, Franklin and Piscataquis counties saw less than 65 percent of employees fully vaccinated as of the end of May. At the time, just more than 65 percent of Maine adults were fully vaccinated.”
The slowing vaccinations present an opportunity for more contagious variants. The delta variant, thought to possibly become the dominant strain in the coming months, has been detected four times in Maine, Maine CDC Director Nirav Shah said yesterday. It is believed to spread more easily and cause worse sickness than other strains.
— “Maine has a massive stockpile of COVID-19 vaccines with few seeking 1st shots,” Caitlin Andrews, BDN: “But the state has gotten few doses in since May 17 as it works to use a stockpile of 187,000 doses, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention said. Maine CDC Director Nirav Shah said any orders since have been ‘quite small’ as administration has plummeted from a peak of nearly 80,000 newly vaccinated people in early April to 7,100 last week. While Maine has one of the nation’s best vaccination rates, 450,000 people have not been vaccinated.”
The pandemic might not be over, but a major fixture of it will be next week. Shah said yesterday the Maine CDC’s weekly briefings will end next Wednesday to coincide with the lifting of the state of emergency status.
— “Maine is averaging nearly 50 overdose deaths a month in 2021,” Lia Russell, BDN: “So far this year, Maine has averaged nearly 50 overdose deaths for each month that data are available, compared with about 40 deaths each month in the first four months of 2020. That average puts 2021 on track to be more deadly than 2020, which was the deadliest year to date of the opioid epidemic.”
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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