In this Nov. 6, 2019, file photo, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is surrounded by reporters as she heads to vote at the Capitol in Washington. Credit: J. Scott Applewhite | AP

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I don’t think reporting what you do impacts your free speech at all. You just do the paperwork and you can say whatever you want,” said Rep. John Andrews, R-Paris, according to Maine Public, when discussing a bill proposed by the Maine Ethics Commission aimed at regulating indirect lobbying.

What we’re watching today

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins is home today before a pivotal week on impeachment. The Republican senator will appear at an assembly at Fruit Street School in her home city of Bangor this morning as impeachment articles against President Donald Trump are expected to finally be sent to the Republican-led Senate by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, has told his caucus to plan for a trial next week.

Collins, who bucked her party by voting in 1999 to acquit then-President Bill Clinton, has supported McConnell’s path toward the trial so far. He has said he has the votes to start it without determining who — if any — the witnesses will be. That’s how the 1999 trial worked, but it differs from this one in that it was negotiated by Republicans and Democrats.

At the same time, Maine’s senior senator has said she’s open to calling witnesses and that the pool could include John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser. She has also criticized McConnell — who has pledged “total cooperation” with the White House — and top Democrats for prejudging the trial’s outcome as she sees her role as a juror.

Trump isn’t going to be removed in the Senate (it takes two-thirds of votes), but Collins could be one of the deciding votes on how many witnesses are called in his Senate trial as she faces a targeted 2020 election in which her every move is being watched closely.

The Maine politics top 3

— “Regulator’s staff finds no systemic problem with CMP’s billing system,” Lori Valigra, Bangor Daily News: “Maine Public Utilities Commission staff has found no systemic problems with [Central Maine Power’s] billing and metering system but ordered the company to hire an independent company to test specific issues that have not been resolved. … However, the staff also recommended that CMP be fined $4.9 million in its annual distribution revenue because of poor management.”

Who to believe? The utility is facing a class-action lawsuit for myriad complaints of overbilling. One business owner wrote a Thursday Op-Ed in the Bangor Daily News alleging his company was billed $11,000 for one day when it was supposed to be only $36. Yet the PUC’s finding echoes a 2018 audit and CMP’s long-term explanation that weather was a main culprit in the high bills. It’s hard to square all of this with well-sourced reports from ratepayers.

— “Top Maine Democrat worked for BIW union’s parent when he said lawmakers could reconsider tax break,” Michael Shepherd, BDN: “On Thursday, [Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash] said he didn’t work on shipyard issues in that job, though he was near the end of a four-month stint for which he was paid between $20,000 and $25,000 when he and House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, sent the Dec. 20 letter on a $45 million state tax break to the shipyard extended in 2018.”

— “Bucksport man’s conviction for a having a gun with marijuana goes before Maine’s top court,” Charles Eichacker, BDN: “Three years after Maine officially legalized the possession of recreational marijuana, the state’s highest court is now considering one of the first constitutional challenges from a Mainer who ran into trouble for having the substance.”

Golden gets a vote on union legislation …

Maine’s freshman congressman got a quick promise from leaders to hold a House vote pro-union legislation. On Thursday, U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat from Maine’s 2nd District, led a group of more than 70 Democrats including Rep. Chellie Pingree of the 1st District to bring the Protecting the Right to Organize Act to vote. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, vowed on Twitter to hold a vote by mid-February on the proposal that aims to further insulate union elections from employer influence among other union-strengthening provisions. It is likely to pass there, but it will face an uphill climb in the Republican-led House.

… and one of his opponents released a … memorable ad

Evil bureaucrats storm a hospital room in the first ad by a Republican 2nd District candidate. We told you about former state Sen. Eric Brakey’s first ad of the 2020 campaign in yesterday’s Daily Brief, but we hadn’t yet seen it. It’s an acting marvel, with evil bureaucrats storming a hospital room to tell a woman that her doctor-recommended procedure is denied. Brakey then breaks the fourth wall to say the U.S. should “personalize health care and get the bureaucrats off our backs.”

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Michael Shepherd. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, email (we’re setting up a new subscriber page soon) to subscribe to it via email.

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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...