Good morning from Augusta. We are holding a listening session for politics readers on July 29. Register here.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “What worries me is that there really isn’t any national leadership right now on this stuff. There isn’t an agency that has a mission and has developed a strategy, that has goals and is willing to act on it,” said Don Hudson, the chairman of the Maine Yankee Community Advisory Panel, which aims to address the thousand of tons of nuclear waste from the now-decommissioned Maine Yankee nuclear plant in Wiscasset. “We’re currently in this limbo.” Here’s your soundtrack.
What we’re watching today
The Legislature’s supposed final day will be a tense one, with Democrats looking to go it alone on a massive COVID-19 relief stimulus bill. Lawmakers on the Legislature’s budget committee did not get together this weekend to reconcile their differences over the $983 million bill that would distribute discretionary funds from the American Rescue Plan Act headed to Maine. In a sign that negotiations haven’t advanced, an amendment has been introduced that would strip the emergency clause from the bill, clearing the path for Democrats to pass the second, simple-majority spending bill of the session. The first was the initial two-year budget.
The vote will frustrate both Republicans and Gov. Janet Mills, who urged lawmakers to go back to the table and find agreement on the bill so that the bill can take effect immediately, allowing the money to be spent. Democrats argued on Thursday that the 90-day delay would not be a problem, as it would take time to set up the programs to distribute the funds. But talk was swirling on Friday that Democratic leaders were considering this Wednesday for a possible veto override day, which would prolong the fight. Mills has not said whether she would sign a simple majority bill, and a spokesperson for Senate Democrats said there has been no indication she would veto the bill if passed in such a fashion.
The key issue is $20 million of a $50 million provision for affordable housing projects that would require that the housing be built with public labor agreements. Republicans have been staunchly against the proposal, and Mills’ administration voiced concerns that the requirement would make contractors hard to find on a bill that would have created similar conditions. A proposal to fund a commission studying racial inequities in the state with $1 million is also a dividing issue.
The prospect of a simple-majority vote highlights more division between the Senate’s leading Democrat and the governor. The Legislature is expected to finish up business today, which includes deciding whether to give the governor a clean sweep on her vetoed bills. The votes to watch will be whether lawmakers defy Mills on two bills meant to address the pricing of prescription drugs. They are part of a suite of bills from Senate Democrats on health care, but Mills argued in her veto messages that the measures would not survive a constitutional test.
That deepened the divide between Mills and Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, who also saw a bill aimed at banning aerial spraying of herbicides in the North Woods fall prey to her veto pen. Jackson has been lobbying for the vetoes to be overturned, but both fell shy of the two-thirds threshold in the House when they initially passed, signaling their likely failure.
Lawmakers are also expected to sustain a veto on one of the most high-profile bills of the year, which would ask voters to create a consumer-owned utility. Even the prime sponsor was skeptical last week that it would have the votes needed to survive.
The Maine politics top 3
— “Paul LePage wants to ‘clean up’ his act. Plenty of the old LePage is still there,” Jessica Piper, Bangor Daily News: “The Republican has kept a low profile since officially announcing his candidacy on July 5. His campaign is planning a launch event later this fall, but becoming an official candidate sooner has allowed him to raise money. His presence at local Republican events has already provided some insight into how he might approach the campaign against Mills, a Democrat who remains relatively popular in her third year in office.”
— “Young GOP lawmaker from Presque Isle will run against Jared Golden in 2022,” Michael Shepherd, BDN: “Stewart previewed a strategy of focusing less on Golden’s stances than the congressional power dynamic in an interview, criticizing Democrats for overspending. While Golden has refused to back House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, for her position, Stewart noted that Democrats need to hold swing seats like the 2nd District for her to retain the gavel.”
— “Maine small businesses struggle with worker and supply shortages as they face surging demand,” Lori Valigra, BDN: “The Saco park reflects the experiences of other small businesses in the nation. More than half of U.S. small business owners expect disruptions in the supply chain to continue to affect their operations for five or more months, and 40 percent are still experiencing moderate to significant staffing shortages, a new survey by NFIB Research Center found.”
Today’s Daily Brief was written by Caitlin Andrews and Jessica Piper. 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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