In this June 30, 2021, file photo, a man walks around the rear of the State House in Augusta. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: “He was a wonderful man with an even keel,” guitarist Denny Breau said of Frank Coffin, a well-known Maine bassist who died Friday after a recent cancer diagnosis. “He never got upset and we never had one cross word in all these years — and that’s unusual for musicians.” Here’s your soundtrack.

What we’re watching today

Maine’s redistricting panel will meet again Wednesday although the data needed to draw maps remain more than a month away. The 15-member commission is waiting on a decision from the Maine Supreme Judicial Court as to whether and how it can proceed with the congressional and legislative reapportionment process when the U.S. Census Bureau releases the necessary data in mid-August.

Maine faces a time crunch with its redistricting process, as pandemic-related census delays meant the data necessary to draw new districts were not available in time for a constitutional deadline last month. Lawmakers have been united so far in asking the court for more time so the responsibility stays with the Legislature and is not kicked to the courts.

Other states have taken different approaches when faced with the same problem. The Democratic-led Legislature in Illinois approved state legislative maps last month that were drawn using population estimates from the American Community Survey. Illinois Republicans, however, filed a lawsuit arguing the use of estimates was “discriminatory” and calling for more input into the redistricting process. (Unlike Maine, Illinois law does not require maps to be drawn on an independent or bipartisan basis.)

In Colorado, which faces a more complicated apportionment process than Maine as it gained a congressional district this cycle, members of the state’s independent commission have sought public feedback on preliminary maps that were drafted using population estimates. But commission members acknowledged that the maps are preliminary and would need to be adjusted when the final census data are released.

What Maine might do is not yet clear, but commission members are expected to discuss today to what extent they can begin work before the data are released next month.The meeting will be livestreamed here on the commission’s YouTube channel beginning at 9:30 a.m.

The Maine politics top 3

— “Maine’s high court upholds Portland hazard pay law, but it won’t take effect until 2022,” Michael Shepherd, Bangor Daily News: “The Maine Supreme Judicial Court upheld a lower court’s decision on Tuesday, saying the ordinance was properly enacted under the state Constitution and the city code. But the justices found that the law’s effective date of Jan. 1, 2022, was ‘unambiguous on its face.’”

The ruling was a partial victory for supporters and detractors of the law. The ruling came out of a challenge by the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce about the constitutionality of the law and whether it was properly enshrined under city code. But two Whole Foods employees intervened to try to get the effective date pushed back to December 2020. The courts turned back both of those arguments, paving the way for a January implementation.

— “Maine schools saw the nation’s 4th largest enrollment drop last year,” David Marino Jr., BDN: “Many of those students transitioned to homeschooling, which saw a 5,000-student increase from 2020 to 2021, according to Department of Education data. Some others went without instruction. Maine students are not required to go to school until their sixth birthday, and prekindergarten and kindergarten were the grade levels with the largest percentage drops.”

— “Coalition of Indigenous tribes in Quebec is suing to stop Hydro-Quebec powerline construction,” Fred Bever, Maine Public: “[Lucien Wabanonik, a spokesperson for five tribes], said that while the Canadian transmission line would not directly cross tribal lands, more than a third of the dam system providing electricity for the project are on lands the tribes never ceded to the province.”

No independent gubernatorial candidate for now

An anti-corridor activist who teased a run said he is still thinking about jumping into the governor’s race but will not decide until late this year. Former state Sen. Tom Saviello was critical of both Gov. Janet Mills and her Republican challenger, former Gov. Paul LePage, in a video released Wednesday morning. But despite a website indicating he might be a candidate, Saviello said he would not decide on whether to run until after the November election, when an anti-Central Maine Power Co. corridor ballot question is set to be decided.

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Jessica Piper and edited 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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