The Hathaway Creative Center in Waterville is pictured on Feb. 8, 2019. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Good morning from Augusta. The state’s redistricting commission is holding a key meeting this morning at 9:30 a.m. Information on how to access the virtual hearing is here.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Even though, 20 years on, an event of that magnitude hasn’t happened since, you see its impact in all sorts of ways,” said Paul Doughty, a retired firefighter from Union who was deployed to the site of the World Trade Towers as part of a search-and-rescue mission on 9/11. “You’re not assuming that something like that will happen. But you are prepared for it if it does. It’s still something that’s etched in our memories, and still affects us to this day. It really underscores why we do what we do.”

What we’re watching today

Maine’s redistricting commission meets again this morning with just over two weeks left until its deadline. Yet neither caucus is likely to present maps today, as Republicans and Democrats have barely begun negotiations on the new congressional and legislative district boundaries. Expect a debate about when the sides will need to put maps on the table so the public and the commission can debate them in the light of day.

Congressional boundaries could be the least controversial part of the process. The commission has agreed to focus on moving towns within Kennebec County, according to its agenda. Most ways of adjusting the boundaries within that county will likely lead to the 2nd Congressional District becoming marginally more favorable to Democrats, but Republicans are likely to argue in favor of keeping Waterville, a college town where voter registration heavily favors Democrats, out of the rural swing district.

Legislative boundaries could be a more difficult fight. Maine’s significant population shift toward the southern part of the state could be dealt with multiple ways for House and Senate districts, including adjusting the boundaries of districts, or adding new districts in southern Maine while combining some northern ones.

The commission is running short on time, however, particularly if members hope to receive feedback from the public on proposed maps. Nearly two-thirds of the 45-day period allocated to the commission by the courts has already passed with almost nothing to show for it. After the commission’s period is up, the Legislature then has 10 days to vote on the maps. If lawmakers fail to reach an agreement, the matter goes to the courts.

The Maine politics top 3

— “Maine’s youth prison continues to use dangerous tactics, watchdog says,” Callie Ferguson, Bangor Daily News: “The prison’s use of prone restraints — where the prisoner is held in a belly-down position — was the most alarming example of ‘urgent safety concerns’ that Disability Rights Maine recently discovered at Long Creek Youth Development Center, according to a letter the agency sent to Maine Department of Corrections last week. Experts had previously warned the prison to stop the practice because it can lead to serious injuries or death and goes against how guards are trained.”

— “Early COVID-19 outbreaks in Maine schools show challenges of in-person class during surge,” Jessica Piper, BDN: “Early cases associated with schools may be largely a reflection of transmission elsewhere. Maine schools mostly succeeded in limiting in-school transmission of the virus last fall and continue to take precautions, but high levels of community spread and the more contagious delta variant are challenging schools that have returned to in-person learning.”

Outbreaks are one problem, but many more schools are being hit with cases right now. Maine recorded 14 school outbreaks so far this year after updating that data on Thursday evening, but cases are widespread amid the delta surge. As an example, the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel reported on Thursday that more than a dozen schools in their coverage area alone were at least dealing with isolated cases. Many of those fall short of outbreak status, defined as three or more cases with some epidemiological link such as sharing a room.

— “169,000 Maine workers face vaccination or testing under new Joe Biden mandate,” Lori Valigra, BDN: “‘Historically courts have come down in favor of compulsory vaccinations, but this is a fairly broad mandate that will undoubtedly be tested in the courts,’ Hannah Wurgaft, an associate labor lawyer at Brann & Isaacson, said.”

Many Maine workers would be affected by the new mandate, although relatively few businesses would be. Only about 2 percent of Maine business firms — 690 out of nearly 35,000 — employ more than 100 people, according to 2020 data from the state labor department. Of course, they have an outsized effect on the workforce. While the new vaccine requirement will be new for most of them, some are already subject to other federal or state mandates or have begun to require vaccines on their own.

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.

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...