In this June 30, 2021, file photo, Maine Senate Minority Leader Jeff Timberlake, R-Turner, is seen in the Senate chamber. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Good morning from Augusta. U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh will be at Bowdoin College in Brunswick this afternoon for an event with Gov. Janet Mills highlighting the state’s WorkShare program.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “There’s no bargaining,” U.S. Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine who caucuses with Democrats, told The New York Times of efforts to negotiate with Republicans to raise the debt ceiling. “They’re just stamping their feet and saying no.” Here’s your soundtrack.

What we’re watching today

The pandemic will again be a topic of discussion in the next legislative session, with Republicans pushing to reverse key state’s strategies. At least six of the 330 bills proposed by lawmakers for the 2022 session would make exceptions or prevent Mainers from being required to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in a response to Gov. Janet Mills’ decision to require the shot for health care workers. 

Some measures, including one from Senate Minority Leader Jeff Timberlake, R-Turner, and his No. 2, Sen. Matt Pouliot, R-Augusta, look to prevent people from being required to get the shot outright. Sen. Rick Bennett, R-Oxford, wants to reinstate religious exemptions from vaccine mandates. Rep. Randall Greenwood, R-Wales, wants to install unvaccinated people as a protected class under the Maine Civil Rights Act.

Even if top lawmakers let the bills through, it is unlikely they would succeed or be heard in time to have much effect. All bills submitted by lawmakers for the session beginning in January must be approved by a Democratic-led panel of legislative leaders, so these are unlikely to advance. But they provide a clear Republican wish list going into the election between the Democratic governor and former Gov. Paul LePage, who has opposed mandates but talked about COVID-19 policy less than other Republicans.

Mills’ requirement for health care workers will be in force at the end of the month. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is expected to issue a rule this fall on how employers with more than 100 employees should go about requiring workers to get vaccinated, making it likely the deadline will not be far behind. Because of an agreement between Maine’s labor department and the federal agency, that will also include all of the state’s public sector employees along with at least 169,000 members of the private workforce. By the time bills are having their first hearings in January, the requirement will likely be in effect.

The Maine politics top 3

— “Maine lawmakers eye aggressive slate of child welfare overhauls in 2022,” Caitlin Andrews, Bangor Daily News: “Ahead of their return to Augusta in January 2022, lawmakers are proposing new bills and suggesting that stronger oversight, better resources or stronger criminal penalties will prevent more deaths from occurring, although it is unclear how supportive the state will be of some changes after the opposed certain proposals earlier this year. They are among 330 bills being floated for the next legislative session, but they must be approved by a panel of top lawmakers before then.”

— “CMP allies talk less about $1B corridor in campaign to quash referendum,” Jessica Piper, BDN: “[Central Maine Power Co.] has pivoted in the past few months from highlighting the benefits of the corridor as a source of clean energy to arguing that the referendum would negatively affect other projects. Its recent ads, run by the group Mainers for Fair Laws, do not mention the corridor directly, instead arguing that ‘retroactive laws’ are bad for business. Corridor opponents have pushed back on that in their own ads, arguing only CMP’s project would be affected.”

Two non-corridor land leases could be affected by the referendum. The Maine Bureau of Public Lands confirmed both were telecommunications or electric transmission leases on public lands, matching the language of the law altered by the referendum. Anti-corridor activists insist the corridor would be the only one affected by the referendum, with Tom Saviello, leader of the group No CMP Corridor, dismissing a former Maine high court justice who said one of the other leases would be affected as “senile” in a Facebook comment. Corridor opponents also argued that the Legislature could simply re-approve other leases if they are affected by the referendum.

— “Bangor to rename park after Maine’s 1st Black legislator,” David Marino Jr., BDN: “[Gerald] Talbot played a significant role in passing legislation to create legal equality, including the Maine Human Rights Act and Maine Fair Housing Bill, and sponsored the first gay rights legislation in Maine history in the 1970s. Talbot also served as the first president of the Portland chapter of the NAACP and went to the March on Washington in 1963.”

State treasurer: Congress must raise debt limit

Maine’s top finance official warned of ripple effects if the U.S. defaults on its debt later this month. Maine State Treasurer Henry Beck, a Democrat, called on the state’s congressional delegation to work to raise the debt ceiling, saying that the federal government’s failure to make good on its obligations would be harmful to the economy.

“It is in all of our interests, regardless of party, to avoid that outcome,” he said.

Meanwhile in Washington, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, echoed calls from party leaders for Democrats to raise the debt ceiling alone through budget reconciliation, Insider reported. She suggested some Republicans might back a raise if Democrats abandoned their social spending plan, a nonstarter for congressional Democrats and President Joe Biden.

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Caitlin Andrews and 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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