Free Press columnists Nate Kroms Davis and Becca Shaw Glaser
Free Press columnists Nate Kroms Davis and Becca Shaw Glaser
Becca: Pop quiz. What two things do these three Maine legislative bills have in common: LD 194, An Act To Prohibit Contributions, Expenditures, and Participation by Foreign Government–owned Entities to Influence Referenda; LD 1383, An Act To Amend Maine’s Municipal Land-Use and Eminent Domain Laws Regarding High-Impact Electric Transmission Lines; and LD 1363, An Act To Amend Certain Laws Relating to High-Impact Electric Transmission Lines?

Nate: They are all good, and Governor Mills vetoed them all?

Becca: Halfway right. She vetoed them, but also, had they become law, each could have harmed CMP. And we think Mills is a big fan of CMP, right?

Nate: I can’t figure out the governor’s attitude towards CMP. I don’t know that she is a fan, exactly. It may be more that she views CMP as an immutable part of the Maine political landscape and believes that she has no realistic choice but to work with them. I hope that the voters of Maine are under no such illusions!

Becca: I think you are making her sound more innocent/less of a politician than she really is. And there are close connections. Her brother, Peter Mills, the executive director of the Maine Turnpike Authority, is a founding board member of Western Mountains & Rivers Corporation, a nonprofit set up in 2017 specifically to “negotiate” with CMP about its corridor. Slippery, given that CMP gave WM&R its sole start-up funding, of $250,000, further promised $50,000 each year for an additional five years, and the “memorandum of understanding” between them includes millions more dollars from CMP (that we, the CMP-captives, probably end up paying for in fees). Have you heard that?

Nate: No, I hadn’t. But you know that I assume everyone to be an angel by default.

Becca: Oy, Nate. Your continuing innocence is like a homegrown vegan cupcake, especially given that you yourself are a politician now.

It’s not often that I get actually excited by anything that a government body does, but this year there were a few; Mills has vetoed most of them. The one that hurt me most was her refusal to close Long Creek, the youth jail. The law would have created a plan to responsibly, carefully close it by June 2023, using the $18.6 million yearly budget to actually help the kids through community-based programs and services, such as job training, mental health support and housing. Last year I spent some time with a teen who had been recently released from Long Creek after many years. Sure, more things than jail contributed to this teen’s traumas, hardship and behaviors, but try locking a kid up for their entire adolescence with a few dozen other wounded children and COs wielding absolute power over them. Think they’re going to come out in better shape than when they went in? The research says no, such as in the 2018 Maine Public article “Another Study Shows Juvenile Jails, Like Long Creek in Maine, Are Ineffective,” which found that youth incarceration in large facilities increased recidivism and that “incarcerating youth is generally less safe, especially for low-risk offenders and for those with complex mental health needs.”

Mills also vetoed two bills we desperately need to get prescription drug prices down; a progressive real estate transfer tax which would have seen higher rates for the rich; workers’ rights laws, including decriminalizing sex workers while going harsher on those who buy sex (I only support the first part of that); a veto on Maine tribes having casinos (a neighbor said to me, “How is that not racist?” since Maine already allows casinos, as long, it seems, as they aren’t owned by Indigenous people), and much more.

Why is Mills vetoing some of the most hopeful legislation to make it to a governor’s desk in all of Maine’s history? I’ve read some of her “veto messages,” and they don’t hold up to scrutiny. She’s already absolutely hated by the right-wingers in the state. Is she just taking for granted that Democrats are so afraid of LePage winning that they’ll rally for her, despite her vetoes of excellent bills and her seeming to be a stooge for CMP? Some of us are sick of decades of voting the lesser of two evils.

Nate: You’re right that it’s a curious political strategy (if indeed it is a political strategy). I think she’s probably losing more votes on the left than gaining them on the right – though it depends on whoever else might enter the race for governor.

Becca: Which of the many things she vetoed is most on your radar?

Nate: There are so many to choose from! I was profoundly disappointed by her veto of the prohibition on aerial spraying of glyphosate. And though she hasn’t yet vetoed it, I’m awaiting a likely veto of the Pine Tree Power bill with dread.

Becca: I did hear Rep. Seth Berry, your fav person, on the radio today vowing to go ahead with a referendum for 2022 if she vetoes it.

Nate: Right. I think it’s heading for the voters one way or the other, and I think it will pass.

Becca: Has CMP/Hydro-Quebec’s $20 million in ads swayed your opinion yet?

Nate: Yes, I oppose them even more!

Governor Mills is coming to Rockland this Friday, July 16, and will serve as the honorary chairperson for the Farnsworth’s “Women of Vision” Award.