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Senate rebuffs effort to rein in governor’s emergency powers

March 11, 2021 GMT

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — The Maine Senate has rejected a Republican-led effort to end Democratic Gov. Janet Mills’ emergency powers during the pandemic.

Republican Sen. Rick Bennett of Oxford introduced the joint resolution Thursday that sought to end Mills’ emergency declaration, which has been in place for a year during the COVID-19 outbreaks.

“A central tenet of our democracy is separation of powers. The Legislature has a unique role in being the eyes and ears and the voice of the people. With this imbalance of government, there has been a pernicious degradation of our democratic traditions over the past months,” Bennett said.

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Three Democrats joined Senate Republicans in supporting the measure, but it failed on a 19-15 vote.

The governor’s office said it was not interested in politicizing the pandemic, and said the emergency powers allow the state to move quickly and efficiently to address the crisis.

In other pandemic news in Maine:

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VACCINE CLINICS

More than two dozen coronavirus vaccination clinics are set to open in Maine in the coming days.

The state is working with more than 25 health care organizations to offer the dedicated clinics, according to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. The clinics will be held Friday and over the weekend, and a few will happen the following week, the department said.

The dedicated clinics are for school staff and teachers who are ages 60 and older. The health department said every school district will notify eligible teachers and staff members about where they can sign up for the clinics.

Maine has extended eligibility for coronavirus vaccines to teachers, school staff members and people 60 or older. The department said teachers and school staffers of younger ages can get the vaccine at Hannaford, Walgreens and Walmart pharmacies dependent on availability.

“We are excited about those clinics, and we’re excited to open up eligibility at other clinics throughout the state,” said Jeanne Lambrew, commissioner of the health department.

Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah said Thursday that one in eight residents of the state has received the vaccine for the coronavirus.

Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, has said the state hopes to open up access to coronavirus vaccines for younger residents in April and May. Shah said the state is on track to do that.

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THE NUMBERS

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday that it has reported 46,441 cases of the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic. The agency has also reported 723 deaths.

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The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Maine has risen over the past two weeks from 146.14 on Feb. 23 to 167.14 on March 9. The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths in Maine did not increase over the past two weeks, going from 3.29 on Feb. 23 to 3.17 on March 9.

Friday will be the one-year anniversary of the first detected case of the coronavirus in Maine. The pace of new cases has slowed since the post-holiday spike. Shah touted the state’s response to the pandemic.

“Maine came together at its core rather than coming apart at the seams,” he said.

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VETERANS HEALTH CARE

Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine is working with a Democratic colleague on a proposal to try to reduce health care costs for veterans during the coronavirus pandemic.

Collins said the proposal would make sure that veterans who get their health care from the Veterans Health Administration aren’t liable for out-of-pocket costs for coronavirus preventive services. She’s working with U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois on the proposal.

Collins said the proposal ensures that “co-pays for preventive care do not pose a barrier to our veterans.”