Maine's senators working on narrower election bills after Democrats' voting-rights push fails

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Jan. 20—Good morning from Augusta. We're seeking questions from readers with questions about navigating a complex tax season, particularly those who started businesses or changed jobs.

What we're watching today

Maine's senators were deeply divided on Democrats' stalled voting-rights push, but they may align on a narrower election security fix. After a long day of debate, two Democrats broke ranks to vote with Republicans, preserving the 60-vote filibuster to block the majority party's signature voting and elections overhaul. Democrats are vowing to keep trying to pass their preferred changes, but there is no path for them to get there at the moment.

Republican Sen. Susan Collins, who voted to end the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees in 2017, spoke passionately in recent days about leaving it for legislation, citing a bipartisan letter she led that year calling for its preservation. Independent Sen. Angus King, who caucuses with Democrats, signed that letter, but he said on the floor Wednesday that overriding more restrictive laws passed in conservative states was more important than the Senate rule.

All of it leaves the question of what is next, just over a year after the riot at the U.S. Capitol coinciding with the certification of President Joe Biden's 2020 victory.

A Collins spokesperson said the senator is leading a bipartisan group focusing on areas including better defining the role of the vice president in that process after former President Donald Trump sowed misinformation by saying then-Vice President Mike Pence could have rejected certain votes himself. King's office also told The Hill he is drafting a bill addressing that. The Collins-led group also has some other areas of focus, including funding for election security and protections for election officials from harassment and unwarranted removal.

It's unclear if any new package can win 10 Republicans with Democratic leaders also not embracing this outline as machinations on the wider proposal have been going on. Disappointing as the defeat may be to them, it may be what the Senate is able to get.

What we're reading

— Collins and King were the only members of Maine's congressional delegation to stop short of backing a ban on trading individual stocks for members of Congress, an idea that is gaining steam in the House but has been the subject of a dispute between a bipartisan group of rank-and-file members and leaders.

— Mainers' general physical and mental health has eroded during the pandemic, a survey from University of Maine and University of Vermont researchers found. Among the findings were 40 percent of people here have gained weight and people experiencing food insecurity were nine times more likely to experience stress. We will have a long way to go once COVID-19 subsides.

— Most of the money raised in a never-going-anywhere bid to recruit Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, to primary Gov. Janet Mills went to former Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling's nonprofit. The Strimling-led effort received a publicity bump in the summer but wound down in December, when he transferred $13,000 of the $20,000 raised from unions.

— The Maine Department of Labor accidentally shared the personal data of 146 people who received unemployment insurance in 2021 with other claimants, the state said on Wednesday. It was a tax document upload error and the state is offering free credit monitoring.

Follow along today

— 9 a.m. The Legislature's energy committee will discuss a stakeholder group's report on distributed generation (that's making power near where it will be used). Watch here.

— 9:30 a.m. We expect Rep. Lois Reckitt, D-South Portland, to present changes to the judiciary panel on her proposed equal-rights amendment that may broaden in a bid to win more bipartisan support. Watch here.

— 1 p.m. The health committee will work on a Republican-led bill to bar COVID-19 vaccine mandates for five years that is headed for defeat in the Democratic-led Legislature.

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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