In this June 18, 2019, file photo, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, arrives at the Capitol in Washington to extend her perfect Senate voting record to 7,000. Credit: J. Scott Applewhite | AP

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: “This level of funding is not sustainable,” said Maine Transportation Commissioner Bruce Van Note while announcing a three-year road and bridge work plan that uses more money to fund fewer projects amid underfunding and rising construction costs. “The system will not fail immediately and Maine DOT will work to avoid any serious safety impacts, but holding actions only work for a short time and reliability of the system will suffer.”

What we’re watching today

The Senate’s top Republican has indicated there may be witnesses in next week’s impeachment trial. What that means isn’t yet clear. U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine indicated last week she was working with a “fairly small group” of fellow Republican senators to ensure both sides can call witnesses in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, looks ready to decide on the question of witnesses later on in the trial, according to Politico.

Those two goals may or may not be contradictory. Collins has largely supported McConnell’s tack en route to the trial as Democrats pressure Republicans to allow witnesses. In the 1999 trial of President Bill Clinton, there was one vote on witnesses later in the trial.

Some Republicans are floating the idea of a tit for tat with Democrats on the issue, with Politico reporting that McConnell is amenable to a suggestion from Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, that if Democrats call former Trump adviser John Bolton, Republicans could call Hunter Biden. Collins has said witnesses should be “relevant” to the inquiry.

McConnell is looking to balance the two wings of his party on the issue. What we don’t know is how his rules will handle witnesses. Any bid for majority votes to call individual witnesses could put Collins under pressure from Democrats who would want to peel her off in a bid to get the witnesses they favor.

The Maine politics top 3

— “2 years after high-profile murders, child welfare workers still struggle to know when kids are at risk,” Erin Rhoda, Bangor Daily News: “Maine’s child protective workers are still struggling to determine during their initial investigations whether children are safe at home and, later on, whether children would be safe if they were reunified with their parents, according to a new report by an independent overseer of the state’s child protective services system.”

More money on the way? Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, hinted to WCSH earlier this month that part of her 2020 supplemental budget proposal would be aimed at the child protective system, which has been the subject of late-breaking budget efforts over the last two years. The governor and her administration have been tight-lipped on when they will drop the proposal, but the short legislative session set to end in April means it has to come soon.

— “Maine panel issues milestone report on tribal relations with gambling looming as main hurdle,” Caitlin Andrews, BDN: “The task force dedicated to proposing revisions to state law governing Maine’s indigenous people debuted a broad set of changes Tuesday, but the issue of gambling is already looming as a potential roadblock to those changes staying together as one bill.”

— “Susan Collins is the 4th GOP senator to back resolution reining in Trump’s Iran powers,” Jessica Piper, BDN: “[Collins] will join at least three other Republican senators in supporting a war powers resolution designed to rein in [Trump’s] ability to conduct offensive military operations in Iran without consulting Congress.”

Quick hits

A special election date has been set for a Brewer legislative seat. Whoever wins the March 3 election to replace the late Rep. Archie Verow will serve out the remainder of his term. The Brewer Democrat died in December. Candidate nominations are due to the secretary of state’s office by 5 p.m. on Jan. 23.

Say goodbye to Alex Cora. We all knew it was coming, but the Red Sox weren’t going to wait to see what kind of punishment their manager was going to get after “possibly” being involved in a sign-stealing scandal. Here’s your soundtrack.

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

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...