Good morning from Augusta.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “That’s why the scientists are recommending removing it because [flooding] could kill this town and people are not taking that seriously,” Select Board member Marc Ratner said at a meeting last month about a dam that poses a flooding risk in Camden and is dividing the town. “Do you want to see beauty for another couple years or 10 years or 20 years, or do you want to save the town?” Here’s your soundtrack.
What we’re watching today
Maine is not expected to see major changes when information needed to conduct redistricting is released Thursday, but we could be surprised. Months later than normal due to a pandemic-delayed census, the federal government will release the data that states need to conduct congressional and legislative redistricting Thursday afternoon. That delay threw redistricting processes into legal limbo. The Maine Legislature, for example, got the state’s high court to push back a constitutional deadline to account for it.
We do not think there will be major changes at the congressional level. Legislative redistricting is more uncertain, with wider percentage-wise variations in population and more finagling possible from region to region. Based on 2018 population estimates, roughly 15,000 people would need to be shifted from the liberal 1st Congressional District to the swing 2nd District, which is likely to send the latter district deeper into Kennebec County, the only split county.
There could be surprises. The final census results ultimately showed about 18,000 more people statewide than the 2019 estimates, but we will not know what the differentials were until the data are released Thursday. Maine lagged in census response rates early in the count, but it later rallied to be one of the top-responding states.
Under the new timeline, the redistricting commission has 45 days from the release of the data — so late September — to finish work. It would set up an October vote in the Legislature. Both chambers must authorize the new plan with a two-thirds vote, so neither party gets to dominate the process. If lawmakers fail to come to agreement, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court would determine the new boundaries.
You can follow along with the U.S. Census Bureau’s briefing on the agency’s website at 1 p.m. The data are also expected to be posted here later today, though the formatting is expected to be somewhat inaccessible. We are planning to wrangle that data this afternoon, however, and the Census Bureau will also post data in a nicer format next month.
The Maine politics top 3
— “Legislative watchdog to probe issues raised by Maine child welfare ombudsman,” Caitlin Andrews, Bangor Daily News: “The unanimous vote from the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee means that its investigative arm, the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability, has until March 2022 to report on the child welfare system’s ability to gauge a child’s initial safety.”
The oversight committee will expect three reports from the watchdog group. A report on how much oversight the child welfare office is subject to is due in the spring, with a final report combining those elements plus scrutiny of how well case workers can assess safety due to placement due by next fall. Before all of that, Casey Family Programs, a national group trained in assessing child welfare, is expected to deliver its own report to the Department of Health and Human Services by the fall.
— “Maine extends back-to-work program after attracting far fewer applicants than expected,” Lori Valigra, BDN: “The Maine Department of Labor is extending a program that provides up to $1,500 grants to businesses to attract workers with only about 400 eligible workers enrolled, short of the 7,500 it was expected to be able to reach.”
— “Bangor Board of Ethics alters guidelines on political speech from councilors,” David Marino Jr., BDN: “The ordinance references a councilor’s First Amendment right to freedom of speech but also specifies how officials can disconnect the city from organizations of viewpoints they individually support. It recommends that officials use disclaimers when they speak on such issues, such as ‘I make these remarks in a personal capacity.’”
National conservative group adds another $400K in CD2
Political spending in Maine’s 2nd District is already surpassing $1 million as national Republicans look to flip the seat. The American Action Network, a conservative “dark money” nonprofit, is going after U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat, with ads running on TV and digital that run through a laundry list of Republican talking points, including inflation, new government spending and a “socialist” health care plan. The ad campaign, first reported by Punchbowl News, is spending a total of $5 million across more than two dozen districts.
Golden, who holds one of the most conservative districts currently represented by a Democrat in the U.S., is a top target for national Republicans next year, although they have struggled to find messaging that sticks so far, attacking him over an offshore wind project also backed by Republicans and even the scourge of browntail moths earlier this summer.
The 2nd District race next year could feature a rematch between Golden and former U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, the Republican unseated by Golden in 2018. State lawmakers Trey Stewart and Michael Perkins are also vying for the Republican nomination.
Today’s Daily Brief was written by Caitlin Andrews, 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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