Twin Rivers Paper and downtown Madawaska are pictured on July 3, 2017. Credit: BDN file photo

Good morning from Augusta. The Daily Brief will be taking Monday off in observance of Labor Day. Here’s your soundtrack.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “When we got to 72 percent, I cried. I really genuinely cried. Because I never would have thought my staff would have responded that way,” said Todd Phillips, infection prevention specialist at Millinocket Regional Hospital. Now, 98 percent of hospital staff are now fully vaccinated, the highest rate of any provider in Maine.

What we’re watching today

Maine’s redistricting commission could have draft maps ready when it meets next week. The 15-person group, which will redraw districts for the Maine House and Senate as well as two congressional districts and county commissioner boundaries, is required to complete its work by late September. The commission will meet next Friday at 9:30 a.m. and is expected to start off its work in earnest by tackling the congressional districts and perhaps the Senate maps as well.

The commission’s work could shift political power within Maine as nearly all of the state’s population growth over the past decade was concentrated in a few southern counties. The group’s Republican and Democratic caucuses have largely been working separately to draft maps so far, but they will likely have to reach a compromise to come up with new boundaries that can achieve a two-thirds vote in both houses of the Legislature.

Redrawing congressional districts boundaries might be the easiest part, as lawmakers are likely to look at moving a few towns from the 1st District to the 2nd District to achieve equal populations between the two without disrupting current boundaries too much, and the political consequences are likely to be marginal. But there are many more ways to redraw the state’s 35 Senate and 151 House districts.

It appears that some of the biggest legislative debates will be about how to account for a massive population swing to the south at the expense of the north. The northernmost district held by Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, needs to add more than 5,000 people to hit the average number of residents. Democrats may look to add a district in southern Maine. More scuttlebutt should come in the next week.

The Maine politics top 3

— “Janet Mills gives health care workers another month to get vaccinated against COVID-19,” Caitlin Andrews, Bangor Daily News: “The additional time will give employers more space to use a total of $146 million in funding authorized earlier this year to nursing homes and other providers meant to support recruitment and retention efforts. The state has also gotten 10,000 more doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine to be used specifically for health care workers.”

— “Susan Collins calls Texas abortion law ‘extreme’ under more scrutiny for Kavanaugh vote,” Jessica Piper, BDN: “The ruling has no immediate effect in Maine, which has among the strongest legal protections for abortion rights in the U.S. The Maine Legislature passed several laws expanding access to abortion in 2019, including allowing Medicaid to cover the procedure and allowing nurse practioners and physician assistants to perform abortions early in pregnancy.”

But Collins’ attitude about the ruling differed from her own Maine party. A Thursday fundraising email from the Maine Republican Party criticized Gov. Janet Mills’ defense of Maine’s abortion-rights laws, and said the party planned to recruit candidates who would “fight for the unborn.” Republicans failed to tighten abortion laws when they had full control of Augusta in 2011, although lawmakers have continued to introduce bills since then. A fight over abortion in 2022 could be tough for anti-abortion rights activists: Pew Research polling found 64 percent of Mainers believe abortion should be legal in most or all cases.

— “Maine bolsters substance abuse outreach program in effort to stem tide of opioid deaths,” Charlie Eichacker, Maine Public: “The administration of Gov. Janet Mills has invested $2.5 million, largely from federal funds, to launch the OPTIONS initiative, which stands for Overdose Prevention Through Intensive Outreach Naloxone and Safety. All but two counties, Knox and Hancock, now have at least one liaison.”

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.

To reach us, do not reply directly to this newsletter, but contact the political team at mshepherd@bangordailynews.com, candrews@bangordailynews.com or jpiper@bangordailynews.com.

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...