Susan Collins named one of the most powerful women in Washington

Good morning from Augusta, where legislative committees are in a rush to dispense with all the bills on their dockets by the end of the week. Proceedings at the State House will take on a different tone after the weight of final action on bills lawmakers have been debating for months comes to bear. Soon, the House and Senate will begin two-a-day sessions and possibly expand its calendar from three to four or five days per week. 

There’s something about a healthy debate followed immediately by a vote of whether to put something into law that injects an element of excitement into the machinations of state government.

How’s your Internet connection? Mine’s slow, but there are a number of lawmakers proposing ways to improve broadband speed and access, which has become a major economic development focus for Maine in recent years. The Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee will consider six bills related to the expansion of broadband through a variety of means ranging from the development of new long-term planning and goals to the installation of new funding mechanisms to build out infrastructure. 

Take a look at EUT’s agenda for this afternoon by clicking here

The Judiciary Committee will spend the afternoon considering six bills related to tribal-state relationships, including a bid by Rep. Henry John Bear of the Houlton Band of Maliseets to include a Native American from the Aroostook Band of Micmacs in the House of Representatives. Maine has a history of tribal representatives sitting in the Legislature. Those members can propose and debate bills but are not allowed to take official votes on the enactment of bills, largely because of laws that govern how many constituents each representative must represent. 

Also up for consideration by the Judiciary Committee today is a bill from Rep. Matthew Dana II of the Passamaquoddy Tribe that seeks to amend the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act by removing the requirement that the Passamaquoddy and Penobscot tribes abide by municipal duties, obligations, liabilities and limitations of municipal laws within their tribal territories. 

The Health and Human Services Committee will debate and make recommendations on a range of bills this afternoon, including measures to improve independent living situations for Mainers and a bid by Democratic Rep. Mark Dion of Portland to establish an office of the inspector general to provide watchdog and performance auditing oversight of the Department of Health and Human Services

The Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee has been considering some measures that could affect hunting and fishing rules in Maine and is likely to vote out some recommendations this afternoon. There are two bills that would affect bear hunting, which has been a hot topic in recent elections in Maine, including the slim defeat of a referendum question last year that would have prohibited certain hunting methods. A bill from Rep. Denise Harlow, D-Portland, would borrow some of the terms of that initiative and prohibit the use of dogs and traps to hunt bears. 

Another bill, proposed by Rep. Mike Shaw of Standish, would create a comprehensive hunting license and eliminate many of the add-ons that sportsmen must currently purchase, on top of their basic hunting license, to hunt turkeys, waterfowl and other species. The bill would also raise the cost of a hunting license, though proponents argue the net cost for an avid hunter would be reduced in the long run. — Christopher Cousins 

Something remarkable that we already knew about Sen. Susan Collins

Maine has a long history of sending especially influential people to Washington to represent it, ranging from Ed Muskie to Margaret Chase Smith to George Mitchell to Olympia Snowe. Republican Sen. Susan Collins is no exception and anyone who is paying attention knows she has built a reputation as a power broker who holds considerable sway on Capitol Hill.

On Monday, a well-known publication called CQ Roll Call in its annual “Power Issue” named Collins one of the 25 most influential women in Congress and one of the top five women who shape the congressional debate.

“Her moderate status helps her shape legislation in a divided government,” reads the article. “If a provision can’t win her support, it likely won’t become law.”

Collins was quoted as saying that while women bring a range of ideologies to government, one truth that binds them is that “women of the Senate are more likely to collaborate and to realize that we can disagree on an issue but still seek common ground.”

CQ Roll Call will incorporate the rankings into an electronic book called “Powerful Women: the Most Influential Women in Congress,” which goes on sale today. — Christopher Cousins

Reading list

Your cat, with the same rights as you

I don’t know how Gallup comes up with these questions. In the results of a new poll, the organization found that 32 percent of Americans think animals should be given the same rights as people. That’s up from 28 percent of people who felt that way in 2008. As far as I know, animals did not vote in the poll.

My cat, Chester, is sitting here next to me as I write the Daily Brief, glaring at me as he waits for his breakfast. He is clearly demonstrating his freedom of assembly but I’m glad he’s not exercising his right to bear arms. — Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.