Natalie Williams | BDN

Natalie Williams | BDN

Chief Kirk Francis of the Penobscot Nation speaks at the Bangor Daily News office in this Jan. 30, 2020, file photo.

Good morning from Augusta. A reminder that while Maine law only requires you to clean your windshield of snow, it’s courtesy to clear it off the roof and back of a vehicle after a snowstorm. Drive safe today!

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I want my dad to be proud of me when I finish the race,” said Caleb Hayes, 15, of Belfast, who will compete in the Can-Am Crown International Sled Dog Races beginning Feb. 29 in Fort Kent.I don’t care what place I get in — I just want my family to be proud of me.” Here’s your soundtrack.

What we’re watching today

Expanded gaming rights for Maine tribes — which have not fared well before voters and the Legislature — will be debated in Augusta today. Wednesday will mark the second of two days of public hearings on the high-profile slate of 22 recommendations by a state task force looking to expand tribal sovereignty. Gaming rights and criminal jurisdiction are expected to dominate the hearing before the Legislature’s judiciary panel today. 

There are many sticking points in the negotiations after Gov. Janet Mills criticized the recommendations for their “sweeping nature” on Friday, which surprised some who crafted them, but gaming has been a longtime area of concern for tribes who feel they have been shorted by lawmakers and voters who have approved casinos in Bangor and Oxford.

Roughly a dozen efforts to allow tribal gaming have failed in the Legislature since 1993. Voters rejected bids in 2003 and 2011 for tribal gaming facilities — the first for a Penobscot Nation and Passamaquoddy tribe casino and the second for a tribal facility in Washington County. The state’s highest court declined to take the issue of gaming up two years ago.

Chief Kirk Francis of the Penobscot Nation noted during deliberations that his tribe lost a substantial portion of high-stakes bingo revenue to the casinos. The task force recommends allowing tribes to negotiate the right to gaming facilities with state and federal compacts, bypassing the ballot box.

The casinos are sure to oppose any liberalization of those laws and it’s sure to be an area of concern for Sen. Lisa Keim, R-Dixfield, and state Rep. Barbara Cardone, D-Bangor, who both sit on the Judiciary Committee. They hold key votes on what happens with the bill next.

The Maine politics top 3

— “Justice Department finds Maine in violation of law for limiting disability services,” Erin Rhoda, Bangor Daily News: “The U.S. Department of Justice has determined that Maine has been violating federal law for years by not providing a man who has several disabilities and medical conditions with the help he needs in his home to go about his daily life, in a finding that could have ramifications for many more people with disabilities.”

The governor’s supplemental budget offers some funding toward reducing waitlists for programs that help adults with disabilities, but she hasn’t thrown her support behind a long-term solution. By one estimate, the supplemental funding in this year’s budget would only cut the waitlist in half. Two bills in the Legislature aim to create a more permanent funding fix, but the Mills administration has not backed either of them while saying that fully funding the system as it stands would make future changes difficult.

— “New Maine poll shows Susan Collins and Sara Gideon nearly tied in 2020 race,” Michael Shepherd, BDN: “U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine was nearly tied with a top Democratic rival in a poll released Tuesday by Colby College that showed a bump for House Speaker Sara Gideon since the 2020 race was last surveyed months ago.”

There’s also a new campaign finance complaint in the U.S. Senate race, this one against Collins over polling her campaign in 2017. That makes half a dozen ethics charges in the Senate race, though most have partisan origins and are unlikely to lead to serious consequences for any campaign. The Maine Ethics Commission administered a fine of just $500 for a complaint against Gideon last fall, while the federal agency responsible for evaluating complaints doesn’t have enough commissioners to take enforcement action. Even so, the existence of a complaint can make good messaging for either side — so don’t be surprised if they continue to pop up.

— “Poll: Bernie Sanders leads Maine in fractured Democratic presidential primary,” Shepherd: “Only [Vermont Sen. Bernie] Sanders and [former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana] finished above a 15 percent threshold that will be required for candidates to receive Democratic delegates from Maine during a March 3 primary, though 12 percent of Democrats were undecided. If these results held, Sanders would get 14 of the state’s 24 pledged delegates to the national convention with Buttigieg getting the other 10.”

More money, more ads

The Senate Majority PAC, a Democratic-led super PAC, and its “dark money” arm, Majority Forward, are out with a new six-figure ad campaign. The latest TV and digital ads criticize Collins over her vote to acquit President Donald Trump in the impeachment trial earlier this month. Majority Forward will spend $555,000 on TV ads over the next three weeks, according to Amplify Media, while the PAC is running similar ads on social media.

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Michael Shepherd, Jessica Piper and Caitlin Andrews. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, email clumm@bangordailynews.com (we’re setting up a new subscriber page soon) to subscribe to it via email.

To reach us, do not reply directly to this newsletter, but contact the political team at mshepherd@bangordailynews.com, candrews@bangordailynews.com or jpiper@bangordailynews.com.




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