Good morning from Augusta. Gov. Janet Mills will reveal her plan to use $1.13 billion in federal stimulus funds in Madison at 1 p.m. Tuesday. Here’s your soundtrack.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “The attorney representing [Shaw’s parent company] quit, and the company has not been able to replace them,” said Joe Piccone, business representative for Teamsters Local Union No. 340, which authorized a strike of supermarket truck drivers and mechanics in southern Maine. “We just want the company to show up with an offer. That’s really the bottom line.”
What we’re watching today:
A long-awaited debate on whether Maine should alter its relationships with the tribes in the state appears to be delayed until next legislative session. Judiciary Committee members took a historic vote last year when they approved three bills that would give tribes more authority over their lands, taxation, hunting, natural resources, criminal jurisdiction and more. But those bills died when that lame-duck Legislature adjourned, however, and the committee was set for a day of hearings on three separate bills to begin today.
However, it appears those bills will now be taken up next session, according to a Facebook post made by Penobscot Nation ambassador Maulian Dana Monday. The news seems to have caught some members of the Judiciary Committee by surprise; Rep. Laurel Libby, R-Auburn, said Tuesday morning she had learned about the change from Dana’s post. Public testimony is still being taken on the bills, but committee members are voting to move them to next year.
The Legislature has been debating whether to alter the state’s side of a 1980 settlement between the Penobscot Nation and the Passamaquoddy Tribes, which altered state and federal law for the four Wabanaki tribes going forward. At the time, the $81.5 million settlement that set up a trust fund and returned 300,000 acres of land to the tribes was heralded as a great legal victory.
But feelings have soured since then. The tribes argue their status — effectively like municipalities — stymied economic development and prevents them from accessing federal benefits other federally recognized tribes enjoy. The agreement does not affect all four tribes equally, but all four have been in favor of changing it.
The tribes have gained the support of environmental and racial justice advocates in addition to Democratic legislative leaders, plus U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat from the 2nd District. But the Mills administration has had reservations about some of the taxation and land use rights tribes are asking for, as well as the general ramifications of making “sweeping” changes to the law. Casinos and land owners have also opposed the bills. But everyone is going to have another year to mull them over.
The Maine politics top 3
— “Parties joust over spending, tax cuts as new Maine budget battle brews,” Caitlin Andrews, Bangor Daily News: “Top legislative Democrats were open on Monday the idea of going along with revenue sharing and property tax relief. But there will likely be friction as Republicans look to constrain spending and Democrats see the money as a historic chance to change government.”
— “Northern Light will offer vaccine at its Bangor health center as Cross Center winds down,” David Marino Jr., BDN: “While demand was once high in Maine, it has tailed off as more people received their shots, causing many rural clinics to close throughout the state. Health officials in Maine and nationwide are beginning to transition away from mass vaccination clinics and toward more personalized ways of getting people vaccinated, such as in doctor’s offices or at schools. The state has also seen a shift to walk-in vaccinations.”
Teenagers could be eligible for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine by the end of this week. The federal government is expected to authorize the two-dose vaccine for children between the ages of 12 and 15, a federal official said. The Pfizer vaccine is already the only COVID-19 vaccine available to 16- and 17-year-olds, and is only available at a handful larger Maine vaccine sites because it comes in packs of 975 and must be kept at a cold temperature until use. Minors must have permission from a parent or guardian to get a vaccine in Maine.
— “Maine’s iconic food businesses are getting creative to meet your pandemic needs,” Lori Valigra, BDN: “All three companies saw sales increases during the pandemic, and all three are growing their companies using services offered by the Maine Center for Entrepreneurs, which has programs for startups and for mature companies that want to figure out the best way to grow. The center has information on government programs, educational tools, data on new markets, business contacts in new areas, mentors and resources that companies can use as they pivot or expand product lines.”
Lawmaker tests positive for COVID-19
The legislator was among the hundreds of people present at the Augusta Civic Center last week. But only one other person has been identified as a close contact for that person, according to a Monday memo from Maine House Speaker Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford, and Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash.
The case was reported to Suzanne Gresser, the executive director of the Legislature’s administrative office, Sunday evening. She said the close contact is undergoing testing. She declined to name the lawmaker or their chamber, citing privacy reasons.
It is not clear how many other legislators have tested positive for the virus. Sen. Rick Bennett, R-Oxford, tested positive in the days before the first session began and staff have tested positive since.
Today’s Daily Brief was written by Jessica Piper, Caitlin Andrews 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.
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