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Political Brew: Maine political analysts find plenty to stir the pot

Democrat Betsy Sweet and Republican Phil Harriman said they hope lawmakers will resume work this month and get the bill passed quickly.

MAINE, USA — Democrat Betsy Sweet and Republican Phil Harriman agreed that freeing pro basketball player Brittney Griner from a Russian prison is good. Still, they had very different thoughts on the details.

Sweet said Griner's imprisonment was partly a result of the inequity in pay between women and men pro athletes... "If that was LeBron James who was taken, he would have been out on day 2," said Sweet. "It reflects that she (Griner) has to be there first because of the pay inequity between women and men in basketball. She had to go overseas to play…She wouldn't be over there playing if treated equitably here."

Harriman said the way Griner was released was concerning. 

"It sure appears that was a very lopsided switch. We got an American citizen home, and (Russia) got a convicted weapons dealer, one of the more dangerous people on the planet in my view to his home. There are other Americans in Russian jails, and we can't forget about  them."

Both analysts praised the passage by Congress of the Respect for Marriage act. Sweet said it was "awesome", while Harriman said he was "delighted with the result". Both said they hope that the new law will prevent the Supreme Court from taking any steps to overturn existing federal protection for same-sex marriage.

In Maine, the news of the week was Governor Janet Mills' plan to provide $474 million for heating assistance and related emergency needs and the Legislature's inability to pass the strategy as Mills had asked quickly. The Governor announced the plan Tuesday afternoon and asked Legislators to give it the next day.

Harriman defended Senate Republicans, who blocked the final passage of the plan, saying it needed more careful attention by lawmakers. "(474) million is a lot, and for the Legislature to be asked on day one before committees are even formed to pass such a massive bill was not what they should do. They must back up a few steps to get it passed."

Sweet said speed was essential because of the significant impact of high fuel prices and the onset of winter col.

"It's not ideal procedurally, but we must look at our crisis. If you back it up, the soonest anyone gets a  check is in March or April when the heating season has passed. "

Sweet also highlighted another portion of the bill that would extend a current rental subsidy program that's paying for some homeless people to stay in hotels.

"For the thousands of people living in hotels right now that are going to be kicked out  December 31 with nowhere to go. Our shelters are full, and before we think whether it's a good move or a bad move, we have thousands of people who will be on the streets. That's a crisis".

Both said they hope lawmakers will resume work this month and pass the bill quickly.

Both also praised the election of Rep. Rachel Talbot Ross as Maine's new Speaker of the House, the first black Mainer ever to hold that position. They said it was a historic achievement for Talbot Ross's family. Her father was Maine's first black legislator many years ago, and her uncle was also elected to the Legislature in the 1970s.


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