The sun shines on the dome at the State House in Augusta in February 2020. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Good morning from Augusta. 

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “The community has to rally around and deal with our stigma perspective on individuals who have used drugs,” said Sara Yasner, coordinator of the new Penobscot County Overdose Response Team, which aims to connect people with addiction help within 72 hours of surviving an overdose, “and notice the strengths that exist in someone who’s gone in the direction of recovery.”

What we’re watching today

The Legislature’s long-awaited return to the State House promises to bring a busy day that may begin with a standoff over masks. The State House entrance saw a small group of people actively discouraging people from wearing masks into the building after a Facebook page called for lawmakers to join in a protest of mask rules mounted last week by seven of their conservative colleagues. Some have said they will attempt to come back into the building maskless on Wednesday, but the scope of any sustained protest remains to be seen.

It will again test House Speaker Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford, as well as the House Republican leadership team ahead of a long day of votes. In a Tuesday letter, Fecteau told the seven lawmakers that he would reappoint them to committees after booting them and replacing them with Democrats as long as they followed the Legislature’s mask mandate, which Republicans have protested since it is stricter than Gov. Janet Mills’ rules for private businesses.

A demonstrating group, Maine Stands Up, is connected to Rep. Heidi Sampson, R-Alfred, who is one of the lawmakers stripped of their committee seats and a party in a lawsuit challenging Mills’ state of emergency. Sherry Stanley of Owls Head, who brought two dwarf Nigerian goats to the protest, said she was motivated by the concept of “medical freedom.”

Lawmakers have a lot to move through. Here’s what may get voted on. There is a long list of divided committee reports that the House will try to cut through on Wednesday. We are likely to see votes on a resolve to end investing in the fossil fuel industry or for-profit prisons through Maine’s retirement system, an uphill attempt to close the Maine Information and Analysis Center that lost a committee vote and various efforts to make the state’s constitutional officers a popular election. An effort to expand dental coverage under Medicaid is also expected to pass initially, though it awaits funding. Both chambers convene at 10 a.m. today.

The Maine politics top 3

— “Consumer-owned utility bill takes major step forward in Maine Legislature,” Caitlin Andrews, Bangor Daily News: “Supporters have said the proposal would give Mainers the ability to decide their energy fate, although some noted risks involved. Sen. Mark Lawrence, D-Eliot, a committee co-chair, said he would have preferred the process play out over years and was concerned about how the proposal would affect climate change. But he voted for the bill, calling it well-crafted.”

The governor’s nominee to lead the state’s high court is sailing toward confirmation. The Legislature’s judiciary committee voted in favor of advancing Superior Court judge Valerie Stanfill’s nomination to be the next chief justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. Stanfill was nominated by Mills after former Chief Justice Leigh Saufley announced last year that she would step down to become dean of the University of Maine School of Law.

— “Rural areas outpace Maine tourism centers in Memorial Day travel,” Jessica Piper, BDN: “The number of cars traveling through Maine DOT count stations across the state was up 42 percent compared with last year but still 8 percent lower than in 2019. These changes were not uniform, however, as traffic lagged in southern Maine but rebounded more in northern and rural parts of the state that saw levels exceeding 2019.” Here’s your soundtrack.

— “With long-planned expansion on hold, crowded Bangor jail gets creative in reworking its space,” Judy Harrison, BDN: “The Penobscot County Jail is starting work on a $75,000 project to reconfigure space at the consistently overcrowded Bangor facility now that a long-discussed expansion is indefinitely on hold.”

Republicans test new message against Golden

The House Republicans’ official campaign arm is attacking the sophomore congressman over support from environmental groups. The National Republican Congressional Committee released a set of digital and radio ads arguing Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat from the 2nd District, is backed by “radical environmentalists” who support building offshore wind turbines, a project that has worried lobstermen. Golden showed early support for an offshore wind project developed by researchers at the University of Maine, but so did the rest of Maine’s delegation including Sen. Susan Collins and Golden’s predecessor, former Rep. Bruce Poliquin, both Republicans.

The ads, which come several weeks after a 501(c)(4) group launched ads attacking Golden over a prescription drug bill, are notable mostly for their timing. With the 2022 midterms still far away, the campaign suggests national Republicans are willing to invest significant financial resources in an effort to unseat Golden next year.

Since Maine’s 2nd District is the most Republican-leaning district represented by a Democrat, according to the Cook Political Report, the interest is not surprising. Both Golden’s 2020 opponent, former state Rep. Dale Crafts, and Rep. Mike Perkins, R-Oakland, have said they may challenge Golden, though there is time for others to jump in.

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.

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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...