Good morning from Augusta. Gov. Janet Mills’ State of the State address is tomorrow.
What we’re watching today
Maine Republicans are doing a balancing act even though the national party has few defenders after excusing Capitol rioters. Republicans across the country are being asked about their national party’s Friday censure of two party members who sit on a Democratic-led congressional panel investigating the Capitol riots of Jan. 6, 2021. In the document, the Republican National Committee says the panel is punishing “legitimate political discourse.”
It has refocused the attention on the deadly riots and the language used around them. Maine has lived through some similar history. After U.S. Sen. Susan Collins voted to convict former President Donald Trump on a riot-related impeachment charge last year, the Republican faced censures from some county party committees but beat back one at the state party level.
Collins had the strongest response to the new censure among prominent Maine Republicans in a Monday statement in which she called the idea that rioters were engaged in political speech “absurd.” Other Republicans have been far less willing to step out.
Former Gov. Paul LePage, the party’s presumptive 2022 gubernatorial nominee, did not answer a question on the censure. He condemned the riots as they were happening last year and told Trump supporters to “go home.” But he aped Trump’s false claims before that by saying the 2020 election had been “stolen” in favor of President Joe Biden.
Dodging a question on the censure itself was former U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, who is also running for a return in Maine’s 2nd District. He provided a statement saying those who attacked the Capitol “should be held accountable just like those who caused millions of dollars in damage to other federal buildings and killed a federal law enforcement officer” in 2020 protests.
It is also unclear how Maine’s members of the Republican National Committee feel about the censure, which was approved only by a voice vote. They are lobbyist Josh Tardy and former Assistant House Minority Leader Ellie Espling, who did not respond to requests for comment.
Both of them have strong alliances across the party. Nobody has monetized those connections more than Tardy, whose firm is probably Augusta’s most important one. Espling notably works in Collins’ office. Many Republicans are trying to move by the worst of Trump’s tenure while remaining open to the possibility that he could be the presidential nominee again.
What we’re reading
— A backer of Maine’s sweeping tribal sovereignty effort sees a “now-or-never” moment ahead of the 2022 elections. The biggest part of the newest iteration of that bid will get a legislative hearing next week after Gov. Janet Mills vetoed a gaming-rights bill last year. Progressives are still pushing the skeptical Democratic governor on tribal issues ahead of her reelection race.
— A tall-building war (by Maine standards) is afoot in Portland. The Roux Institute, a tech graduate school run by Northeastern University, plans to construct a 210-foot-tall building at a campus around the former B&M Baked Beans factory. It would be the state’s tallest building, one-upping a mixed-use building under construction in Portland that would be 180 feet.
— U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, said Russia President Vladimir Putin “wants to reconstitute the Soviet Union” in a Tuesday interview with MSNBC. The comments come amid diplomatic efforts by the U.S. and NATO allies to prevent a Russian invasion of Ukraine and while Congress negotiates sanctions that would kick in fully if Russia invades.
News and notes
— U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat from the 1st District, unveiled a hemp law overhaul on Tuesday that would raise the level of THC allowed to make it easier to grow legally, ease testing requirements and drop a 10-year ban on people convicted of drug-related felonies from getting a license. She said the measure “provides a clear path forward” for the hemp industry.
— A bill that would legalize the psychoactive compound found in “magic mushrooms” was rejected 8-3 by the Legislature’s health committee on Tuesday, according to the Portland Press Herald. It was opposed by the Mills administration and voted down by the panel even after Sen. Donna Bailey, D-Saco, offered to amend the proposal into a study on the issue. It faces votes in the legislative chambers, but it is on track to die this session.
Follow along today
— 9 a.m. The Veterans and Legal Affairs committee will work on several bills dealing with Maine’s adult-use marijuana system. Later in the day, it will work on liquor and campaign finance measures. Watch here.
— 9:30 a.m. The education panel will hold hearings on several bills, including one led by Aroostook County lawmakers that would establish a satellite clinic of the University of Maine School of Law in the region amid a lawyer shortage there. Watch here.
— 10 a.m. A bill from Rep. Grayson Lookner, D-Portland, that would ban solitary confinement in Maine will get a hearing before the criminal justice committee. Watch here.
— The health committee will hold hearings on two bills that aim to secure tobacco settlement money chiefly for tobacco prevention and other preventive programs. One of the measures, from Assistant House Majority Leader Rachel Talbot Ross, D-Portland, would also create an Office of Population Health Equity in Maine’s health department. 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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