Good morning from Augusta. The Legislature’s health and human services committee will be meeting at 10 a.m. to discuss oversight of a job skills development organization and an update on its child welfare review efforts. Follow along here.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It’s frustrating that the state is not acting. I mean, it seemed very kind of cut and dried last year that action needed to happen,” said Orono Town Councilor Meghan Gardner, on the lack of state mandates despite rising COVID-19 cases. “Now, we’ve gone through a year plus and there’s a lot of political stuff weighing into it. We need direction from the state.”
What we’re watching today
Maine’s big-name politicians have been united against new rules limiting lobstering that have been years in the making. The big story in Maine on Tuesday was the finalization of long-discussed federal restrictions on lobstering that aim to help the endangered right whale. Maine will be hit hardest by the seasonal closure of regular lobstering across a swath of federal waters roughly 30 miles offshore and rules aiming to reduce the amount of rope in the sea.
The conflict between lobstering and the endangered whale has been discussed for decades. The industry, former Gov. Paul LePage, Gov. Janet Mills and Maine’s congressional delegation have united against the rules, saying it has been nearly 20 years since Maine saw an entanglement linked to lobstering. Federal officials say roughly 62 vessels based here fish the affected waters with losses in the first year estimated at $1.2 million, Maine Public reported.
While they will go into effect under President Joe Biden, the limits were in the works in federal agencies under former President Donald Trump as well. They prompted an open letter in 2019 from LePage to Trump on the issue. While the former president paid close attention to lobstering on visits here during the 2020 campaign and won plaudits here for directing trade offset aid to the industry, he did not intervene on the whale issue after being told of it in Bangor.
The issue is now back in the political sphere as LePage is running against Mills in 2022 and U.S. Rep. Jared Golden of the 2nd District is likely to face former Rep. Bruce Poliquin, the Republican he ousted in 2018. On Tuesday, the Maine Republican Party issued a news release targeting the two Democrats over the limits, saying they “must put a stop to this madness.”
It led to a tiff between state party officials and Rep. Genevieve McDonald, D-Stonington, who called the release “shameless,” that spilled from emails to Twitter. Rep. Will Tuell, R-East Machias, noted the unity of big-name politicians on the cause in a Facebook post. The endangered status of the whale makes it a difficult problem to solve and nobody has been able to solve it so far despite attempts to get presidential attention.
The Maine politics top 3
— “Deer Isle nursing home’s struggles show COVID-19’s domino effect on Maine health system,” Caitlin Andrews, Bangor Daily News: “Staffing challenges are far from new in Maine, but they are becoming more evident as stressors on the health care system persist, said Angela Westhoff, the president of the Maine Health Care Association. She said some workers plan to leave their jobs due to the vaccine mandate that her group supported, but added that increased flexibility around when workers need to be fully vaccinated could help facilities hire new recruits or keep current employees on.”
The number of breakthrough COVID-19 cases are increasing but still make up a tiny fraction of the virus’ surge in Maine. The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting 1,818 breakthrough COVID-19 cases, accounting for about 0.2 percent of the more than 870,000 fully vaccinated people here. But Maine has seen more than 38,000 cases among unvaccinated people since late January, when those who got shots first became fully vaccinated, making up about 2.8 percent of the population.
— “Today’s Maine child will see a different state as climate warms,” Josh Keefe, BDN: “All the experts were quick to acknowledge the limits of any attempt to predict the future. But the basics of climate change — carbon emissions cause the planet to warm — have been known for more than a century. And recent science has done little to change that understanding, except to add urgency. The United Nations recently published a report that said many effects of climate change are already irreversible, and we’re running out of time to dramatically reduce carbon emissions and prevent a more bleak climate future.”
— “Old Town woman accused of 3-year-old daughter’s murder allegedly waited 20 hours to get help,” Sawyer Loftus, BDN: “The new details in Hailey Goding’s case, from a police affidavit, were unsealed Tuesday at the request of the Bangor Daily News. The document shows that the state Department of Health and Human Services had been involved with the family about a year earlier, in May 2020, because the girl had accidentally ingested drugs.”
Anti-corridor voice joins CMP campaign committee
A former Republican congressional candidate is the new spokesperson for Mainers for Fair Laws, the Central Maine Power-funded committee fighting this year’s referendum. Corridor skeptic Adrienne Bennett, also a former spokesperson for former Gov. Paul LePage, will be working with the group ahead of the November ballot question aiming to halt the construction of CMP’s transmission corridor, which would bring hydropower from Canada through western Maine.
Bennett, who was vocal in her opposition to the corridor when running in the Republican primary to challenge Golden last year, acknowledged in a Tuesday statement she has concerns about the corridor project and will be “talking openly” about that. But she said the ballot question that aims to stop the corridor would have a broader impact, arguing it would “empower politicians to target Maine people and businesses by making new laws that apply to events that happened legally in the past.” Here’s your soundtrack.
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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