Action Under the Dome for Monday, January 4

Monday, January 4, 2021
Ann Luther

In any other odd-numbered year, the Maine State Legislature would be initiating regular sessions this week, but with the pandemic still raging, the session calendar is empty and is expected to remain so for several weeks. This won’t be a normal year. Here’s what to expect in the weeks ahead.



New SOS: New Secretary of State (SOS) Shenna Bellows will be sworn in at noon today. Congratulations, Madam Secretary. Wish we could be there in person, but we can follow along by live streaming here.

U.S. Congress Counts the Electoral Votes: On Wednesday, January 6, Congress will convene in a joint session to count the votes from presidential electors in the 50 states. The presiding officer will be the president of the Senate, Vice President Mike Pence. Read more about what process to expect, from the Associated Press. In a move that will delay but not alter the outcome, it now appears that 12 Republican Senators and 140 Republican Representatives will vote to challenge the count. Read more from Politico

Here in Maine: The list of bills requested by legislators was posted online late last week. Someone counted  the bills on the list: we’re told there are 1,689 of them. Some of these are duplicates and will be consolidated, but still. The election-related bills begin on page 137 of the listing by subject. We’re going to have a busy year. These bills are now in the Revisor’s Office for final drafting. As they emerge with statutory language and sponsors, they will be taken up by legislative committees. Under the joint rules recently adopted, the job of referring bills to committees will fall to the Clerk of the House and the Secretary of the Senate. Normally, these offices would recommend a committee, but the actual referral would be by vote of the legislative chambers. Once bills are referred, committees will begin meeting and holding virtual public hearings, but the committees won’t even begin committee orientation for another couple of weeks.

Census Update: Trump’s Race Against the ClockThe 2020 Census missed a key deadline last week, setting up a dramatic countdown to Inauguration Day. Because of delays caused by the pandemic, the Census Bureau missed its statutory December 31 deadline for delivering Congressional apportionment data to the president. The population data will be used to redistribute Congressional seats and electoral votes among the states. The Trump administration is pushing to get that data before it leaves power, so that it can implement a plan to omit undocumented residents from the count. In a December ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to block that plan, despite the fact that it is widely seen as unconstitutional, on the basis that the challenge was premature. 

Last week, the Census Bureau announced that it will provide the data as early in January as possible. A second set of data, due to be delivered by March 31, will be used by the states to draw congressional and state legislative districts. Advocates for an accurate Census, including the League of Women Voters, are suing to extend both deadlines. We'll be closely watching developments in the courts, in Congress, and on the political scene. 



To create the kind of change voters want to see in our democracy, our next administration and Congress must support the passage of HR 1 — For the People Act — a once-in-a-generation democracy reform package to clean up our political system, get big money out of politics, hold elected officials accountable for corruption, expand and protect voting rights, and create a democracy that values the voices of all Americans. Read more about HR 1 from the Brennan Center here. Contact Senator King and Senator Collins and urge them to support HR 1 in 2021.