Good morning from Augusta. We answered some top reader questions about Question 1, the referendum over the $1 billion hydropower corridor. Here’s the Q&A.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “We can help, but these final students have to act,” University of Maine System Chancellor Dannel Malloy said of the lingering students who have not gotten vaccinated against COVID-19. They have until today to register their vaccination status or request an exemption before they are withdrawn from their classes.
What we’re watching today
Corridor proponents are talking about the project more after focusing on the retroactive effects of Question 1. The campaign over the question aiming to kill the corridor through western Maine is entering the homestretch, with less than three weeks left until Election Day. Roughly four-fifths of more than $60 million spent on the referendum has come from Central Maine Power Co. and its allies, who are trying to save the project with a “no” vote on Nov. 2.
Clean Energy Matters, CMP’s main political committee, has generally championed the value of the transmission line that would bring Quebec hydropower to the regional grid that faces grassroots opposition. But they have taken more of a back seat in recent weeks to an allied group, Mainers for Fair Laws, that has blanketed the state with ads and mailers discussing retroactive portions of the law.
One recent mailer from that group, fronted by former Republican congressional hopeful Adrienne Bennett, did not mention the corridor at all. “What do politicians want? More power,” it read in bold text, saying Question 1 was “dangerous and too risky for Maine.”
The retroactive parts of Question 1 are targeted at the corridor, banning high-impact transmission lines in the Upper Kennebec River region and subjecting them to legislative approval going back to 2020, and then making the Legislature approve of such projects on public land going back to 2014. CMP allies have identified two other leases that would require approval under that language, but they are not politically fraught like the corridor.
After letting Bennett’s group do much of the advertising for the last month, Clean Energy Matters came back with an ad this week highlighting carbon reductions related to the project in an appeal to Democratic-leaning voters by saying it was key to reaching Gov. Janet Mills’ climate goals. It was the committee’s first ad in a month uploaded to YouTube.
This bifurcated, tactical campaign strategy is notable given the stakes for the energy giants dueling over the corridor and the regional stakes of the project that is on the chopping block during a likely low-turnout, off-year election.
The Maine politics top 3
— “David Flanagan, CMP executive known for reviving businesses, dies at 74,” Lori Valigra, Bangor Daily News: “[David Flanagan], of Manchester, was known as a turnaround specialist for troubled companies and organizations. As CEO at [CMP] from 1994 to 2000, he is best known statewide for restoring power during the 1998 ice storm, closing the Maine Yankee Nuclear Power Plant and keeping rate increases below the rate of inflation.”
Flanagan was a major figure in state politics, though his own 2002 gubernatorial run flamed out. As a Deering High School student in the late 1960s, he helped run the congressional campaign of Peter Kyros, the father of a high-school friend. Flanagan began his career in Maine’s Democratic establishment in the next decade, but he was later noted for ties across the political spectrum. In 2002, he tried to succeed Gov. Angus King by following his strategy of gaining momentum as an independent by spending his own money on early TV ads. It did not work and Flanagan withdrew, sensing he had no chance of winning. But he remained a major force in politics and business to the very end of his life.
— “Providers serving Mainers with intellectual disabilities may lose 1 in 10 workers to mandate,” Caitlin Andrews, BDN: “The problems cannot be divorced from a larger worker shortage during the pandemic and long-term issues facing an industry in which workers must provide intensive levels of care. The vaccine mandate looks to have sharply driven up vaccination rates at all types of providers, but it is clear that it will push some to the brink, including many serving people with disabilities.”
— “Aroostook’s potato crop is so bountiful farmers need airplane hangars to store it,” Hannah Catlin, BDN: “While the yield is largely good news, the sheer size of the 2021 harvest is creating new problems for some farmers, who now need to find and then adapt to makeshift storage facilities that aren’t built to preserve the quality of the potatoes.”
Golden: Democrats should expand Medicare quickly or not at all
The Maine representative, one of a few Democratic holdouts in the House, said the party needs to root out “budget gimmicks” in their social spending bill. Negotiations are continuing on the budget reconciliation bill, which was originally set to cost $3.5 trillion but will now likely end up with a much smaller price tag. But Democrats are debating internally which parts can be salvaged and which will be cut.
Among the provisions under discussion is a plan to add dental, hearing and vision benefits to Medicare. U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat from the 2nd District, wrote a letter to House committee chairs Thursday calling those provisions “among the most meaningful and effective measures Congress could take to lower costs and increase access to health care.”
But he cautioned against a proposal to delay the rollout of benefits, including not adding dental until 2028, saying it seemed like a “deliberate effort” to artificially lower the cost of the bill and would amount to an “empty promise” to seniors.
“I urge you to reexamine the provisions expanding the Medicare program to root out budget gimmicks and to ensure that these new benefits are targeted to seniors in need financially, that they are fully paid for, and are implemented quickly,” Golden wrote.
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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