Collins, King join Senate challenge to Trump on immigration

Good morning from Augusta. Maine’s U.S. senators are pushing a bipartisan immigration plan that has emerged as a rival to the one favored by President Donald Trump, but it’s unclear how much traction it will will gain amid a warning from the Republican president.

The new proposal takes a narrower path than what Trump wants. This amendment is sponsored by Sens. Angus King, I-Maine, and Mike Rounds, R-South Dakota. It emerged from the Common Sense Coalition, a bipartisan group of senators led by Susan Collins, R-Maine, one of more than a dozen co-sponsors of the bill.

It would give a 12-year path to citizenship to immigrants brought illegally to the U.S. as children, prohibit beneficiaries using their new citizenship to sponsor parents for citizenship and provide $25 billion for border security over the next 10 years.

While it’s similar to the Trump-favored bill from Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, that proposal goes further to cut legal immigration for family members of immigrants — which Republicans refer to as “chain migration” — and cancel a lottery-based immigration program.

While many concede it’s not perfect for them, the bipartisan bill’s sponsors like that simple approach. Many conservatives don’t. In a statement, King said it’s better to pass the narrow bill protecting so-called “Dreamers” than to get “bogged down in complicated, comprehensive and unrelated changes to our immigration policy.”

Rounds called it “a significant improvement from the status quo.” Collins called it a response to the immigration debate fracturing “along partisan lines.”

But on Wednesday, Trump issued a statement urging senators to oppose immigration bills that don’t meet his criteria, which includes the end of “chain migration” and the lottery program. Grassley said on the Senate floor that his bill could “actually pass” in the more conservative House of Representatives. Votes on the issue are expected today.

Correction: Sen. Mike Rounds is from South Dakota, not North Dakota. This item has been updated. 

Union activist: Legislature not immune to sexual harassment

In a brief legislative hearing, an AFL-CIO employee gave specific examples of harassment at the hands of lawmakers that she didn’t name. The most egregious example cited by Sarah Bigney, an organizer with the labor coalition, was when she said a former state senator groped her at a political committee fundraiser.

She also relayed stories from other women who work at the State House, saying a legislator once asked a woman if he could watch her pump breast milk and another asked a woman how many sexual partners she had in the past year.

Bigney was testifying before the Legislature’s State and Local Government Committee to bolster an effort from Assistant Senate Minority Leader Nate Libby, D-Lewiston, to tighten the Legislature’s anti-harassment training requirements.

Today in A-town

New legislative fights are brewing after the closure of a Washington County prison. The House and Senate convene this morning sometime around 10 a.m. A bill to fund the Downeast Correctional Facility for another year could get a vote in the House of Representatives after Gov. Paul LePage abruptly closed the Machiasport prison on Friday. Some lawmakers want to fast-track that bill but it’s unclear how fast it will move or how that debate will end. Sen. Joyce Maker, R-Calais, has also introduced a bill to authorize a pre-release facility in Washington County. That concept was part of a 2016 bond bill authorizing a nearly $150 million in renovations and building at the Maine Correctional Center in South Windham.

There’s more on the legislative calendars. The House also will consider a joint resolution to Trump and Congress that would block drilling for oil and gas off the coast of Maine. Trump announced early this year that he has opened U.S. shores to drilling, prompting immediate pushback from Maine and other states. After that, another joint resolution honoring the League of Women Voters of Maine will be considered.

There’s a long list of committee activities this afternoon, which you can peruse by clicking here.

Reading list

  • A judge has put the brakes on the closure of the Downeast Correctional Facility. But it might be only temporarily. A Superior Court judge on Wednesday announced that there has been a “stand down agreement” struck and that the dismantling of the prison will stop until a lawsuit levied by Washington County officials and labor unions to block the closure resolves.
  • Bath Iron Works is laying off 60 electricians but plans to hire hundreds of workers this year. The company said there isn’t enough work for electricians and has issued layoff notices effective Feb. 23. The shipyard is still hiring shipfitters, maintenance mechanics and tinsmiths and the affected employees are being offered those jobs.
  • The first candidate has qualified for public financing in this year’s governor’s race. Maine Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason, R-Lisbon Falls, met the threshold of collecting 3,200 qualifying contributions of $5 to become a Maine Clean Election candidate. Mason will receive $400,000 and is eligible for up to another $600,000 for the primary election if he continues collecting contributions. Mason is the first to qualify in the governor’s race and the only Republican who was trying.
  • MaineGeneral Medical Center says diabetes care is just too expensive to continue. The Augusta hospital announced last week it will close its endocrinology department, leaving about 4,000 diabetics seeking alternative care. The service ends April 27.
  • Bangor police are testing some cookies eaten at a daycare center to see if they had marijuana in them. A parent dropped off some cookies Wednesday at Watch Me Shine daycare. The staff ate them and soon said they were experiencing “a feeling of marijuana intoxication.” No children ate the cookies. Here’s your soundtrack.

More than a face on a coin

Today marks the 198th anniversary of the birth of Susan B. Anthony, the noted abolitionist and suffragette. New York, California, Florida and Wisconsin legally observe the date, although not in a way that gives state workers a day off. There’s been some rumbling to make it a national holiday, but her strong stance against drinking alcohol would probably doom that effort in Congress and state legislatures.

Anthony seems best known these days for being the first woman to be honored by having her image engraved on a U.S. coin. Her advocacy for women’s right to vote played a key role in passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which is sometimes called the “Anthony Amendment.”

She died in 1906 — 14 years before ratification of the 19th Amendment — but she famously voted in the 1872 presidential election, incurring a $100 fine that she never paid. Here is her soundtrack. –– Robert Long

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Christopher Cousins and Michael Shepherd and edited by Robert Long. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, click here to get Maine’s only newsletter on state politics via email on weekday mornings.

Michael Shepherd

About Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after covering state, federal and local issues for the Kennebec Journal for three years. He's a Hallowell native who now lives in Gardiner. He graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and is a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.