Good morning from Augusta. The Maine Legislature will hold floor sessions on Wednesday for the second time this month.
What we’re watching today
Critics of Maine’s biggest utility are continuing legislative efforts that could serve as a bridge to a pivotal set of referendums in 2023. It has been a wild few months for state utility policy. Once thought by many observers to be inevitable, the $1 billion Central Maine Power Co. corridor looks like a longshot bet to survive in court after voters rejected it in November. But CMP breathed easier when another political battle was delayed into next year at the earliest.
That is the proposed consumer-owned utility from Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, which failed to overcome a veto from Gov. Janet Mills after passing the Legislature narrowly last year. Proponents of taking the matter to the Maine ballot in 2022 failed to get enough signatures to do that this year and are instead eyeing the 2023 election now.
It requires utility critics to keep CMP in the public eye until then, even though the Legislature with the Democratic governor’s veto pen may not be their friendliest avenue for change. That starts on Tuesday with a public hearing on a Berry bill that would prevent utilities from disconnecting public safety buildings without approval.
The measure came in response to an incident last year when CMP threatened to cut power to Buckfield’s fire station because of a payment snafu. The issue was ironed out and the utility has said disconnection was never a true threat, but it led to a political opening to discuss other CMP issues, as evidenced by the written testimony from Sen. Rick Bennett, R-Oxford, a fellow critic.
What we’re reading
— Former Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling alleges he is being evicted over tenant advocacy and fighting rent hikes. It could be the first time in Maine history that someone tries to fight eviction by claiming illegal retaliation, with one of the state’s most prominent progressive politicians in the starring role.
— Maine is trying to get two dozen government entities to sign onto a $26 billion opioid settlement by a Wednesday deadline. Any holdouts mean the state will not get its full share of the money, which could be up to $145 million over 18 years. Attorney General Aaron Frey expressed confidence that the cities, towns and counties would get a deal done.
— Mills called the White House to secure more doses of monoclonal antibodies after arguing the federal allocation was not commensurate with Maine’s COVID-19 case level. The state will receive 120 doses of the treatment of high-risk patients this week, up from 66 last week. A main reason for the initially low allocation appears to be the state’s backlog in processing positive tests.
— Brunswick has gained jobs at double the rate of Portland over the last 20 years. One of the major reasons is Brunswick Landing, a former naval air base that has blossomed into a massive mixed-use development with more being built on undeveloped land in the coming years.
Follow along today
— 9:30 a.m. Bills including one to cement Maine college athletes’ right to make money on sponsorship deals and encourage climate education in schools, will have public hearings before the education panel. Watch here.
— 10 a.m. The health committee will be briefed on the child welfare system by Christine Alberi, the system’s ombudsman, as well as officials from the Maine Children’s Alliance and the state employees’ union. Watch here.
— The energy committee will be briefed by Mills’ energy office on the transportation roadmap released last month that found Maine needs more money to meet its lofty goals of increasing electric vehicle usage over the next decade. Watch here.
— 1 p.m. Bills that aim to increase the number of family law magistrates and funding for guardians ad litem will have public hearings before the judiciary panel. Watch here.
The Daily Brief is written by Bangor Daily News politics editor Michael Shepherd and made possible by BDN subscribers. Enjoy unlimited access to all we have to offer by subscribing.
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