Daily Brief: Legislature postponed again; what’s new with Shenna Bellows?

Good Monday morning. Once again, the weather is putting a kink in the legislative schedule as yet another snowstorm barrels into Maine. 

“This will be the 4th storm in only a 10-day period for the area, and the snow pack continues to grow,” writes CBS 13 meteorologist Charlie Lopresti. “This historical stretch will provide the current youth of Maine ‘I remember when I was a kid’ quotes 40 to 50 years from now.

The National Weather Service expects the storm to bring 8-14 inches of snow, with accumulation of more than 1 inch per hour at times. With much of the state covered by a winter storm warning, committee meetings — where the nuts and bolts of lawmaking is done — have once again been postponed. 

That includes scheduled briefings on metallic mining in the Environment and Natural Resources Committee and on the University of Maine System in the Education Committee and a tour of the Maine State Prison for members of the Criminal Justice Committee. 

No sessions of the House or Senate were planned for today, so once again, the State House will be largely devoid of lawmakers. 

Don’t forget to sign up to receive the Daily Brief in your inbox every weekday morning. With any luck, we won’t be starting with severe weather reports for much longer.

— Mario Moretto.

Shenna Bellows stumps for clean elections, ranked-choice voting

Shenna Bellows, the Democratic Party’s nominee for the U.S. Senate last year, hasn’t gone quietly into the night after being trounced by Sen. Susan Collins, who cruised into re-election with 68 percent of the vote.

While she won a smaller portion of the vote than previous Democratic opponents of Collins, Bellows’ supporters were impassioned and her campaign energetic, leading many to wonder whether she will make another run for elected office. While Bellows hasn’t committed to anything yet, it’s clear that she’s not done with work in the public sphere just yet.

The former head of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine and leader in the state’s marriage equality campaign has made cameo appearances at the annual “Unity Rally” for progressive activists in January and at a book-reading event with same-sex marriage advocate Marc Solomon in Portland last week.

Apparently some aspect of her campaign apparatus is still in effect as well. On Friday, supporters received an email from Bellows for Senate, in which the candidate made an appeal for donations and support for two causes she’s supporting.

“I’ve been thinking seriously about what is most important to me moving forward,” she wrote. “I am convinced that we must break the stranglehold that big money and entrenched special interests have on our politics. Until we restore our democracy to the people, we will see only limited progress, if any, on every issue we care about.

“That’s why I am so excited about two important elections reform movements going to the ballot here in Maine: ranked choice voting in 2016 and clean elections in 2015.”

Ranked-choice voting, an effort spearheaded by former independent Maine Sen. Dick Woodbury of Yarmouth and current Maine Rep. Diane Russell, D-Portland, would establish instant runoff elections for all state-level elected offices in Maine. The clean elections initiative would allow publicly financed candidates for the Legislature and governor to qualify for additional campaign cash, stiffen penalties for campaign ethics violations and require disclosure of top donors on political advertising.

Bellows said she planned to help “advance these two initiatives in any way I can over the next two years,” and urged her supporters to donate their own time and money as well.

Reading list

Home on the ice

IceFishingShacks012915 031.JPGWith all the snow piling up and temperatures hovering somewhere between frozen and really, really frozen, I thought I’d point you to this photo project by BDN photojournalist Ashley Conti, who spent time recently documenting the variety of ice shacks found on Hermon Pond. The photos remind us that even in Maine’s frigid winter, there’s plenty of reason to go outside. (BDN photo by Ashley Conti.)

Mario Moretto

About Mario Moretto

Mario Moretto has been a Maine journalist, in print and online publications, since 2009. He joined the Bangor Daily News in 2012, first as a general assignment reporter in his native Hancock County and, now, in the State House. Mario left the BDN in 2015.