Metal towers stand on land cleared on an existing Central Maine Power power line corridor on April 26, 2021, near Bingham.  Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

Good morning from Augusta. There is one week until the Nov. 2 referendum election.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “This is an important step forward,” said Rep. Michele Meyer, D-Eliot, after the Bangor City Council voted Monday evening to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products effective in June 2022, which advocates hope will spur a similar state ban.

What we’re watching today

Allies of the Central Maine Power Co. keep stretching their “retroactivity” argument across the political spectrum as the Nov. 2 referendum approaches. A political group funded by the energy company and its affiliates has put the retroactive parts of the ballot question at the center of its closing argument, telling voters that the law — which would retroactively allow the Legislature to approve or disapprove of permits for transmission lines and certain other projects on public lands — could have broader political implications. 

The latest example is a mailer sent to Democratic voters arguing former President Donald Trump attempted to use retroactive laws to repeal the Affordable Care Act and not mentioning the $1 billion corridor at all. It mirrors messaging aimed at Republicans this month arguing retroactive laws could be used to target gun owners. A future Legislature could do anything, but Question 1 only affects infrastructure.

Corridor backers have said publicly that they are aware that the referendum will not have a direct impact on other issues, such as guns, but see the passage of the question as a “slippery slope” that could lead lawmakers to pass more retroactive laws in the future. 

But the messaging around the health care law highlights the fragility of that argument: If the concept has been used on high-profile issues before, how would a referendum allowing the Legislature to retroactively decide on permits be the impetus for a new rash of retroactive laws?

Anti-corridor advocates have held fast to their message the same as the campaign winds down, highlighting the effects of construction and distrust in CMP. They have benefited from a significant cash infusion in the final weeks of the race, with energy companies rivaling CMP pouring another more than $9 million into the race in the first three weeks of October. 

The corridor is front and center in opponents’ late advertising, while CMP is making a more abstract point about the way their project would be challenged if Question 1 passes. Interestingly, that decision by corridor backers breaks from arguments that the editorial boards of the Bangor Daily News, Portland Press Herald and Sun Journal made to endorse a no vote, largely highlighting the value of the corridor itself.

The Maine politics top 3

— “Your guide to Maine’s Nov. 2 election from the CMP corridor to local races,” Jessica Piper, Bangor Daily News: “Voters looking to cast an absentee ballot instead of going to the polls next Tuesday can request one online until 5 p.m. Thursday. Many towns also have early voting available — check out this schedule from the secretary of state’s office.”

Maine’s reeling health workforce gets $14M in aid, but programs won’t start until winter,” Caitlin Andrews, BDN: “The announcement came four days before Mills’ COVID-19 vaccine mandate was to be enforced across the health care sector. Vaccination rates across providers spiked by late September as the deadline drew closer, with all sectors tracked by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention showing rates above 84 percent as of Sept. 30. But effects vary by region and facility and even a small amount of departing staff could challenge providers.”

The state saw increases in boosters and hospitalizations recently. About 5.5 percent of the state’s population has now gotten a booster shot, according to state data. More than 6,000 people got an additional dose after the first few days after Moderna and Johnson & Johnson boosters became available. The state’s COVID-19 hospitalizations saw a one-day surge to near-record numbers. MaineHealth, the state’s largest hospital system, is expected to give a press conference today at 10 a.m. to discuss capacity issues across its system.

— “Top Democrats turn back GOP proposals to rein in Janet Mills’ vaccine mandate,” Steve Mistler, Maine Public: “The proposals greenlit by the Legislative Council Committee include bills providing relief funds for towns hit by browntail moth infestations, subsidies for potato farmers affected by last summer’s drought and amending the Caribou Utilities charter to include broadband services.”

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Caitlin Andrews, 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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