Good morning from Augusta. The Maine Legislature adjourned around 1 a.m. Friday with much work left to do. Lawmakers will return to the State House on June 30 to deal with more bills, vetoes and — potentially — budget issues.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “This has been a dry town forever. It’s a small farming community, with a lot of older people and a lot of churches,” said Terri Hall, a selectperson in Charleston, one of 35 Maine towns that still do not allow alcohol sales. “Nobody has a desire to change that.”
What we’re watching today
A dramatic evening flip stalled the high-profile bill to upend Maine’s utility structure, but proponents may still get it to a skeptical governor’s desk. The bill from Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, to ask voters to buy out Maine’s two big electric utilities and place an elected board in charge of the grid looked to be steaming toward Gov. Janet Mills’ desk. She and allies are still signaling an almost-certain veto of the historic measure.
But the Legislature ended up adjourning without sending the bill to her desk after a surprise failure in the Senate. After it initially passed the Senate in a 19-16 vote on Wednesday, Sens. David Woodsome, R-North Waterboro, and Ned Claxton, D-Auburn, flipped their votes to oppose the bill in a final vote, which left the measure one vote short of passage.
The move set proponents of the measure scrambling to try to save it. Woodsome’s vote was a particular surprise, since he is a co-sponsor of Berry’s bill. But he said after the vote that he was conflicted about the business plan underlying the proposals and had lingering doubts.
He said he had refused to meet with lobbyists on both sides of the issue and things got “a little heated” between him and proponents after he took his vote.
“I guess when it came to the cliff, I wasn’t ready to jump,” Woodsome said.
Claxton said he took his vote against the measure after local officials expressed concern about how Berry’s bill handles tax issues around the new consumer-owned utility. While the bill says payments in lieu of taxes must be equal to taxes paid by Central Maine Power and Versant Power, Mills and others have worried that the provision may not be enforceable.
Supporters are now preparing an amendment to the measure that would subject the new utility to property taxes instead, Claxton said early Friday. If that moves forward, he committed to voting for the measure. A new vote will likely come when lawmakers reconvene late this month after Berry unsuccessfully pushed House Speaker Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford, to pick up the bill at the end of the House session early Friday.
Given the veto threat, any success may be short-lived. But getting it to the governor’s desk would both place pressure on her and lend momentum to a promised effort to gather signatures to get the takeover bid on the Maine ballot in 2022 — when Mills is up for reelection.
The Maine politics top 3
— “In meeting with secretary of interior, Wabanaki tribes ask for support in quest for sovereignty,” David Marino Jr., Bangor Daily News: “U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland met with leaders of the Houlton Band of Maliseets, Aroostook Band of Micmacs, Penobscot Nation and Passamaquoddy tribes at Pleasant Point and Indian Township. The group discussed issues the Wabanaki tribes face due to federal and state laws from 40 years ago, which grant them less control over their own affairs than other tribes across the nation.”
Haaland will join Mills and the state’s congressional delegation at Acadia National Park on Friday. The group will address the media at 11:30 a.m. as the first Native American to run the Interior Department visits with tribal leaders and local officials. Her trip is meant to highlight planned improvements at Acadia under the Great American Outdoors Act, a bipartisan bill signed into law last year by former President Donald Trump. There is much fanfare around the trip, with famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma scheduled to play alongside Wabanaki musicians. He surprised visitors at the Jordan Pond House on Thursday with impromptu concerts.
— “As COVID-19 crisis ebbs, Susan Collins endorses 9/11-style commission,” The Associated Press: “Its inquiry could include a look at the origins of the virus; early warnings and other communication with foreign governments; coordination among federal, state and local agencies; the availability of medical supplies; testing and public health surveillance; vaccination development and distribution; the uneven effect on minorities; and government relief policies.”
A lightning-rod Supreme Court justice voted to uphold the Affordable Care Act on Thursday, as Maine’s senior senator once predicted. Justice Brett Kavanaugh was part of a 7-2 majority that kept the health care law in effect in a Thursday ruling. His 2018 confirmation amid sexual assault allegations that he denied was the major issue in the early part of U.S. Sen. Susan Collins’ ultimately successful 2020 reelection campaign. In her defiant floor speech defending Kavanaugh at the time, Collins cited a past decision to argue that Kavanaugh would likely not undermine the law from the high court.
— “1st summer season of cannabis sales expected to buoy Maine’s tourism recovery,” Lori Valigra, BDN: “We’re seeing a huge increase in interest about coming to Maine to try cannabis after we legalized it,” said Charlie Langston, managing director of Wellness Connection, which has a cultivation facility, extraction laboratory and two adult-use storefronts and two medical ones in Maine. “We get calls all the time from people planning vacations, wondering about how they can get cannabis when they’re here.”
Today’s Daily Brief was written by 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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