Good morning from Augusta. The Daily Brief is back in earnest for the first time since June. If you haven’t seen them already, here are our plans for covering politics and government in 2020 and here’s a survey asking readers to weigh in on issue coverage. Here’s your soundtrack.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I don’t think he’s really very interested in doing anything but trying to defeat me by telling lies to the people of Maine,” U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, told Politico on Tuesday, referencing Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, the coming Senate impeachment trial and her 2020 re-election bid after a Schumer-linked dark-money group dumped hundreds of thousands of dollars of new ads into Maine. “And you can quote me on that.”
What we’re watching today
— The Legislature is back in Augusta. It’s the first day of the 2020 legislative session. We’ve told you that Democrats, who lead both chambers, will focus on health care and broadband expansion during the election-year session scheduled to end in mid-April. The 2019 session ended with minority Republicans blocking three of four bond proposals backed by Gov. Janet Mills. This session may be more politically fraught. The rote work will start today with floor sessions aimed at sending new bills to committees, though Mills and legislative leaders will roll out a health care bill at a 12 p.m. news conference at the State House.
The Maine politics top 3
— “Janet Mills issues posthumous pardon to lawyer who defended the Passamaquoddy tribe,” Jessica Piper, Bangor Daily News: “Donald C. Gellers … defended members of the Passamaquoddy tribe in criminal cases and later filed a massive land claims lawsuit for the tribe. He was convicted on marijuana charges in 1969, though evidence emerged suggesting that law enforcement officials conspired to take him down. He died in 2014.”
The whole story: Read at least some of Portland Press Herald reporter Colin Woodard’s 29-part series, “Unsettled,” which examined the tribe’s fraught relationship with the state. He interviewed Gellers, a central figure in the series, just before the lawyer’s death in 2014.
— “Portland puts off vote on marijuana licenses until at least March,” Penelope Overton, Portland Press Herald: “Maine’s biggest city won’t even vote on its marijuana regulations until at least March — the same month that state officials are predicting Maine will record its first recreational sales.”
— “East-west orientation makes Carmel stretch of I-95 prone to crashes,” Nick Sambides Jr., BDN: A former Maine transportation commissioner said the roadway that was the site of a 30-car pileup on Tuesday and has a long history of serious crashes has an east-west orientation limiting “exposure to sunlight that can melt ice from the road, creating hazardous conditions, for the same reason that homeowners in the northern hemisphere plant gardens on the southern areas of their properties.”
How Maine politicians are reacting to Iran escalations
Iran launched missiles late Tuesday at Iraqi bases where U.S. soldiers are stationed. No American casualties were reported, but it’s the first escalation by Iran since an American strike killed Qassem Soleimani, the Iranian general who managed clandestine and military operations.
— Pingree backs a resolution aimed at reining in Trump’s power to strike Iran as tensions escalate. U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat from Maine’s 1st District, tweeted on Tuesday that she backs a resolution expected to come up for a vote this week in the Democratic-led House that would hamper President Donald Trump’s ability to authorize offensive strikes on Iran without congressional approval. She also would support repealing a 2002 use-of-force authorization that has been used to justify strikes in the Middle East since then.
The whole story: This Washington Post analysis notes the context behind presidential administrations’ ability to keep using these authorizations — that Congress often doesn’t want to take a hard vote on it. It’s an issue, for example, between former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Democratic presidential nominating race.
— A Republican U.S. House candidate is walking a fine line between Trump and his fellow libertarian travelers on Iran. Former state Sen. Eric Brakey, one of three Republicans running for the 2020 nomination to face U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat from the 2nd District, had a piece in the Washington Examiner on Tuesday titled “A war in Iran is the last thing we need.” He makes a libertarian case for ending Middle East wars. He praises Trump’s “excellent foreign policy instincts” in a reference to the president’s past statements that he wants to bring troops home and says he has the power to end these wars.
The takeaway: Brakey is running in a primary in which candidates are racing to embrace Trump, but he rose in politics as an acolyte of Ron Paul, the non-interventionist libertarian-leaning Republican who gained a Maine following in the 2012 presidential race. This is an attempt to straddle those two worlds as Trump shows an interventionist side.
Today’s Daily Brief was written by Michael Shepherd. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, click here to get the newsletter on state politics and policy via email on weekday mornings.