QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Ya know, it’s a big step, I think, for the government just to even admit they don’t know what it is,” Christopher Gardner, who runs the Facebook group Eastern Maine UFO enthusiasts, said of a report released last week by U.S. intelligence agencies acknowledging what the government knows about UFOs.
What we’re watching today
A requested rate hike and ill-timed outage are coming at a bad time for Central Maine Power. The Maine Senate is set to vote again Wednesday on a bill from Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, that would ask voters if they want to create the nonprofit Pine Tree Power Co. in November, amid a wide slate of unfinished business before the Legislature. After it failed earlier this month, a key lawmaker, Sen. Ned Claxton, D-Auburn, is wavering as prospects look slim for the bill to go to Gov. Janet Mills, who would assuredly veto it.
It will come amid a heat wave and potential rate increases that strike at the heart of supporters’ frustrations with the state’s big utilities. More than 10,000 Central Maine Power customers in southern and central Maine had no power on Monday as temperatures reached the low 90s. Only 1,400 outages remained early Tuesday, according to CMP’s website.
That coincided with an announcement from the company proposing a $72 million rate hike to pay for transmission upgrades and delivery charges. That is due to federal requirements, plus upkeep for aging infrastructure costs pegged to recovering from wind and snowstorms last year. Versant Power also unveiled a large increase request in January.
Those challenges are major reasons for people’s unhappiness and even opponents of Berry’s bill want better-regulated utilities. CMP ranked lowest in a J.D. Power survey for the third year in a row last November. Three who argued against Berry’s bill this weekend in a Lewiston Sun Journal opinion piece said they are seeking a sit-down with bill supporters and the utilities to talk about their problems, something that is unlikely to happen until final action on the bill.
“Is my customer satisfaction with [CMP] high? No, it’s not,” Auburn Mayor Jason Levesque said. “Is it fixable? Absolutely, and I think that’s the path forward.”
Those talks may be worth watching, depending on tomorrow’s vote. It may not be enough to assuage concerns over the bill, but Berry is reportedly speaking with the Mills administration on the measure today in a last-ditch bid to save it. A referendum effort aimed at the 2022 ballot could be on tap if he cannot.
The Maine politics top 3
— “Once billed as the future of law enforcement, drones are rarely used by Maine police departments,” David Marino Jr., Bangor Daily News: “With the ability to capture live images in the air quickly, surveillance drones could have significant law enforcement capability. Proponents point to their successful use in search and rescue missions, including in rescuing people from the recent collapse of a Miami-area condominium, and argue that regulations can prevent potential violations of privacy.”
— “‘It’s so frustrating’: Foreign-trained professionals face career barriers in Maine,” Ari Snider, Maine Public: “There tends to be an immediate de-classing when people come to Maine,” said [Stefanie Trice Gill, the founder of IntWork]. “So it goes from ‘I’m a doctor or a surgeon in the Congo’ to ‘Oh well, you’re not a doctor here, here’s the shelter, you need to understand how things work.’”
A new law aims to provide more flexibility for the state to recognize credentials from immigrants that have not transferred so far in Maine. The measure, sponsored by Rep. Kristen Cloutier, D-Lewiston, and signed by Mills this month would allow the state’s licensing department to waive certain examination and license requirements for immigrants who have professional experience in a field overseas. It was backed by the business lobby and health care providers, who cited it as one way to address labor shortages in key industries.
— “No decision expected for weeks in Nordic Aquafarms trial,” Abigail Curtis, BDN: “The civil trial to determine who owns the intertidal land that is critical to Nordic Aquafarms’ bid to build a $500 million land-based fish farm in Belfast wrapped up Friday, but the parties will need to wait to learn which side prevailed.”
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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