State representatives take part a special session of the Legislature at the State House, Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021, in Augusta, Maine. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

Good morning from Augusta. 

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I don’t expect our find will be life-changing and, to be honest, we are happy, so we don’t want to change our lives anyway, unless we can slow down aging,” said Mary Freeman, who owns land in western Maine where $1.5 billion in lithium was discovered but could be difficult to extract under strict state mining laws. Here’s your soundtrack.

What we’re watching today

The fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic will feature in some of the biggest fights during Monday’s choosing of the bills. The Legislative Council, a 10-member panel of legislative leaders, has a full slate ahead of them today as they discuss which of the 330 bills proposed by their peers should be allowed into the 2022 session beginning in January. The meeting starts at 10:30 a.m. Follow along here..

Much like this year, the pandemic will be a focal point of legislation on both sides of the aisle. While majority Democrats hold majorities in both chambers and have Gov. Janet Mills for at least one more year, minority Republicans have a new chance to put pressure on them. 

They submitted half a dozen bills meant to roll back some of Mills’ pandemic policies, including policies that would prevent people from being required to get a COVID-19 vaccine. It comes just before Mills’ vaccine requirement for health care workers begins to be enforced, the ramifications of which have varied widely across different health sectors. 

Some Democrats have expressed concerns about the staffing situations at some facilities, most notably at Central Maine Medical Center, which has asked for a testing exemption to the requirement as it has shut down some services. But they have also generally remained aligned with Mills in saying vaccinations are the best way to keep people safe. 

It seems unlikely Democrats would allow those bills to be heard next year ahead of a contentious reelection race between Mills and former Republican Gov. Paul LePage. It will be a major story if any Democrat does. Even if some were allowed through with majority votes on the panel, they would likely not make it through the Legislature until late winter at the earliest.

Republicans have also united behind what they are calling their “Give It Back” bill, which would seek to return a portion of surplus funds to taxpayers annually. It is similar to other measures from the past, but it springs up after boosted revenue projections due to federal aid. Republicans argue that boost means leftover money should be returned, but Democrats might be wary of setting up a fund with the economic recovery of the state still uncertain.

The Maine politics top 3

— “Referendum won’t end the high-stakes legal fight over the CMP corridor,” Lori Valigra, Bangor Daily News: “Previous legal wranglings set the stage for the fight to come. CMP could challenge this referendum on the same grounds that Maine’s high court invalidated an anti-corridor question in 2020. Opponents will continue a lawsuit over a disputed stretch of public land, which could delay the project by a year. CMP may point to its investment in the project to entice judges to uphold it, but opponents are already arguing that the company should have known that the construction carried a massive risk.”

— “Maine university system will kick out 200 students who refused COVID shot or exemption,” David Marino Jr., BDN: “The situation at Maine’s universities is an early example of how a vaccination requirement is playing out ahead of an Oct. 29 deadline for health care workers in Maine to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus or risk losing their jobs. Health care employers, including hospital systems, group homes for people with disabilities and nursing homes, have said they’re experiencing staffing shortages as the vaccination deadline approaches, though the mandate isn’t the only factor they’ve cited.”

— “Susan Collins lists 4 Republicans she’d prefer for president over Donald Trump,” Lia Russell, BDN: “The former president has been traveling the country for rallies and has made recent statements indicating he will likely run for a second term. He is also aggressively fundraising, but has so far refrained from making a public announcement on his plans for 2024.”

Angus King wants to revive ‘talking filibuster’

Maine’s junior senator floated Senate rule changes on Sunday, but stopped short of calling for the total elimination of the 60-vote threshold. Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, told MSNBC there are circumstances where the filibuster quote “makes sense” but suggested requiring the minority party to continuously speak to block a vote.

​​“I think some kind of talking filibuster, perhaps a rule that instead of having to have 60 votes to pass something, you’d have to have 41 votes to stop it. So that way, the minority would at least have to show up,” he said.

The change proposed by King, who said last week that the filibuster needed to see changes after Republicans blocked a Democratic-led voting rights bill, could frustrate Democrats who have called for the outright elimination of the filibuster. But it is similar to past proposals from moderates, such as Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, who have remained steadfast in their opposition to getting rid of the 60-vote threshold entirely.

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...