Good morning from Augusta.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It’s a delay every month,” said Leola Cyr of Madawaska, who has been unable to see her children and grandchildren who live across the border in Canada since the start of the pandemic. “They mentioned the 21st this month but it was the 21st the month before.”
What we’re watching today
After criticism from the fishing industry, the governor moved a more cautious offshore wind plan through the Legislature with key plans coming soon. Maine is moving forward with a plan to spur offshore wind development. The administration of Gov. Janet Mills will soon pick a site for a test array and will begin preparing an offshore wind “roadmap” after the governor signed a pair of bills that rein in earlier offshore wind plans by her administration that were criticized by the fishing industry.
The easy passage of the measures show that the Democratic governor has taken some of the heat out of an issue that led fishermen to protest outside the Augusta Civic Center in April over her plan to put the nation’s first offshore wind research array in the Gulf of Maine. A University of Maine-led test project off Monhegan that would use floating platforms has been politically popular for years but has recently raised concerns with those who fish in the area as project boats survey the area.
The final deal institutes a permanent moratorium on offshore wind development in state waters, up to roughly three miles off the coast where most fishing occurs, going past the 10-year moratorium Mills initially proposed. Lawmakers also agreed to add two representatives from the lobster industry to the panel overseeing the University of Maine research.
With an agreement in place, Mills isn’t wasting time with next steps. The Governor’s Energy Office is holding a public hearing next Tuesday to get feedback on the proposed research array site, which will likely be between 20 and 40 miles off the coast and connect to a power station in either Yarmouth or Wiscasset. The following day, the office will hold another meeting to discuss the development of an “Offshore Wind Roadmap” to be completed by the end of next year.
Mills announced the plans yesterday with a broad array of support, including Democratic lawmakers, environmental and labor groups and the Maine State Chamber of Commerce. The coalition, coupled with the moratorium and concessions, could help blunt criticism of the project, which her opponents — including former Gov. Paul LePage — could try to focus on next year. But the planning will be heavily watched by them and the legacy fishing industry.
The Maine politics top 3
— “Maine voters will decide this November if there’s a constitutional ‘right to food,’” Michael Shepherd, Bangor Daily News: “The change is likely to have limited short-term effects, and the long-term effects are uncertain. It is intended to keep food regulations in place and does not address access to food as some international constitutions do. It could set a limit on future food regulations in state courts and be a main feature in a long debate over how sweeping any new right should be.” Here’s your soundtrack.
— “The Supreme Court will decide if Maine was allowed to bar public funds for religious schools 40 years ago,” David Marino Jr., BDN: “The statute the families are challenging passed as part of a much larger recodification of Maine education laws in 1982. … A Republican senator from Bangor, Howard Trotsky, had sought clarity on the religious funding issue while working on codifying state education laws … In response, Attorney General Richard Cohen, a Republican, said in a January 1980 opinion that public funding for religious schools violated the First Amendment.”
It will be the second Maine case before the high court in the past year or so. The Supreme Court ruled in the spring of 2020 that the federal government had to pay a Lewiston-based health insurance company $59 million after finding Congress had not repealed the governor’s obligation to pay insurers through a program under the Affordable Care Act, even though lawmakers had prohibited the use of funds for the program.
— “Climate change expected to shift Maine’s planting seasons,” Sam Schipani, BDN: “You can grow stuff in Maine that 50 years ago you couldn’t,” said Donald Dumont, warning coordination meteorologist at NOAA National Weather Service in Gray. “Everything is getting warmer. Who knows what we’ll be able to grow here if the trend continues.”
Redistricting commission in wait-and-see mode
Maine’s redistricting commission will wait a bit longer before beginning to draft maps. Commission members concluded Wednesday that there was little point for them to meet again until after the U.S. Census Bureau releases the full data necessary for redistricting in mid-August. They are also still waiting for Maine’s high court to rule on a petition as to whether they can continue operating since Maine’s constitutional redistricting deadline has already passed. The next commission meeting is scheduled for Aug. 18.
Today’s Daily Brief was written by 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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