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CMP pitches its corridor to different constituencies by downplaying the corridor

Caitlin Andrews and Jessica Piper
Oct 26, 2021 09:32 am


Good morning from Augusta. There is one week until the Nov. 2 referendum election.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “This is an important step forward,” said Rep. Michele Meyer, D-Eliot, after the Bangor City Council voted Monday evening to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products effective in June 2022, which advocates hope will spur a similar state ban.

What we’re watching today

Allies of the Central Maine Power Co. keep stretching their “retroactivity” argument across the political spectrum as the Nov. 2 referendum approaches. A political group funded by the energy company and its affiliates has put the retroactive parts of the ballot question at the center of its closing argument, telling voters that the law — which would retroactively allow the Legislature to approve or disapprove of permits for transmission lines and certain other projects on public lands — could have broader political implications. 

The latest example is a mailer sent to Democratic voters arguing former President Donald Trump attempted to use retroactive laws to repeal the Affordable Care Act and not mentioning the $1 billion corridor at all. It mirrors messaging aimed at Republicans this month arguing retroactive laws could be used to target gun owners. A future Legislature could do anything, but Question 1 only affects infrastructure.

Corridor backers have said publicly that they are aware that the referendum will not have a direct impact on other issues, such as guns, but see the passage of the question as a “slippery slope” that could lead lawmakers to pass more retroactive laws in the future. 

But the messaging around the health care law highlights the fragility of that argument: If the concept has been used on high-profile issues before, how would a referendum allowing the Legislature to retroactively decide on permits be the impetus for a new rash of retroactive laws?

Anti-corridor advocates have held fast to their message the same as the campaign winds down, highlighting the effects of construction and distrust in CMP. They have benefited from a significant cash infusion in the final weeks of the race, with energy companies rivaling CMP pouring another more than $9 million into the race in the first three weeks of October. 

The corridor is front and center in opponents’ late advertising, while CMP is making a more abstract point about the way their project would be challenged if Question 1 passes. Interestingly, that decision by corridor backers breaks from arguments that the editorial boards of the Bangor Daily News, Portland Press Herald and Sun Journal made to endorse a no vote, largely highlighting the value of the corridor itself.

The Maine politics top 3

— “Your guide to Maine’s Nov. 2 election from the CMP corridor to local races,” Jessica Piper, Bangor Daily News: “Voters looking to cast an absentee ballot instead of going to the polls next Tuesday can request one online until 5 p.m. Thursday. Many towns also have early voting available — check out this schedule from the secretary of state’s office.”

Maine’s reeling health workforce gets $14M in aid, but programs won’t start until winter,” Caitlin Andrews, BDN: “The announcement came four days before Mills’ COVID-19 vaccine mandate was to be enforced across the health care sector. Vaccination rates across providers spiked by late September as the deadline drew closer, with all sectors tracked by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention showing rates above 84 percent as of Sept. 30. But effects vary by region and facility and even a small amount of departing staff could challenge providers.”

The state saw increases in boosters and hospitalizations recently. About 5.5 percent of the state’s population has now gotten a booster shot, according to state data. More than 6,000 people got an additional dose after the first few days after Moderna and Johnson & Johnson boosters became available. The state’s COVID-19 hospitalizations saw a one-day surge to near-record numbers. MaineHealth, the state’s largest hospital system, is expected to give a press conference today at 10 a.m. to discuss capacity issues across its system.

— “Top Democrats turn back GOP proposals to rein in Janet Mills’ vaccine mandate,” Steve Mistler, Maine Public: “The proposals greenlit by the Legislative Council Committee include bills providing relief funds for towns hit by browntail moth infestations, subsidies for potato farmers affected by last summer’s drought and amending the Caribou Utilities charter to include broadband services.”

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Caitlin Andrews, Jessica Piper and edited by 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.


Democrats will set Legislature’s 2022 agenda, but GOP gets chance to make its case

Caitlin Andrews, Jessica Piper and Michael Shepherd
Oct 25, 2021 10:33 am


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.


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