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Political Brew: Mills' bond proposals, Biden's COVID relief package, and the Equality Act

Our analysts this week are the longtime co-host of the WGAN Morning News Ken Altshuler, and Ray Richardson of WLOB Radio.

MAINE, USA — In lieu of a typical "State of the State" address, Gov. Janet Mills this week delivered a virtual "State of the Budget" address.

Part of her plan includes $111 million in "Back to Work" bonds: $50 million for industries such as farming, fishing, and forestry; $30 million for broadband expansion; $25 million for career training; and $6 million for child care.

But because this comes on top of other bonding priorities in the legislature, Ray Richardson believes Mills' plan is going to be a tough sell.

"Bonding sounds really wonderful, sounds like an investment," Richardson said. "But the truth is bonding is borrowing, which means we have to pay it back and pay it back with interest."

Ken Altshuler says enactment won't be "a coast," but "it will pass with some minor modifications.”

“I think it will be easier than people think,” Altshuler said.

President Joe Biden would like to have some bipartisan support for his $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.

Altshuler thinks eliminating the provision to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour could make a difference, and said, "The progressives are not happy, but you're going to have more Republicans on board."

But Richardson believes it would make more changes than that to attract GOP support. He says Biden has insisted that Congress "go big."

Richardson said, "Some things will be popular with the American people, the $1,400 stimulus, $400 per week unemployment benefits... Ultimately I think it passes on a party-line vote."

The bill passed in the House early Saturday morning. Maine Rep. Jared Golden was one of two Democrats to break party lines and vote against the bill. 

Credit: NCM

RELATED: Golden one of two Democrats to vote against $1.9T COVID-19 relief bill

RELATED: House passes $1.9T pandemic bill on near party-line vote

A bill known as the Equality Act has become a flashpoint in Congress.
Backers say it will prohibit discrimination against transgender Americans. It passed in the House, with support from both of Maine's representatives.
But many Republicans say it would threaten religious liberties, and damage women's sports programs by allowing people who formerly identified as male to compete with females.

"This is one of the last monstrous bills that I've seen," Richardson said.
"People who are going through a transgender process, my heart goes out to them,” Richardson said. “We should not treat them unequally under the law. But this goes well beyond that."

RELATED: House approves Equality Act with expanded LGBTQ legal safeguards

In addition to "eradicating in law 'male' and 'female,'" and "denying science," Richardson also believes this is a dangerous "war on women's sports."
Altshuler calls these arguments a "red herring."

He said, "We heard some of the same arguments about gay marriage. 'If we have gay marriage, religious freedom will be eroded, and women will be using men's bathrooms,' it's nonsense. Everybody deserves freedom from discrimination, and right now you have the right to not rent an apartment to a transgender. That is outrageous."

Altshuler and Richardson also discuss the latest hydropower transmission corridor referendum, intelligence failures around the U.S. Capitol insurrection, and an election reform bill now in Congress.

Political Brew airs Sundays on The Weekend Morning Report.