Two prominent Mainers will be the guests of Maine’s two Democratic U.S. representatives at President Biden’s State of the Union address Tuesday night.

Dr. Nirav D. Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, was invited by Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, and Chief Kirk Francis of the Penobscot Nation was invited to be the guest of U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, D-2nd District.

Chief Kirk Francis of the Penobscot Nation, left and Dr. Nirav D. Shah, Director of the Maine Center for Disease Control

Shah has been appointed principal deputy director at the U.S. CDC. He will assume the new role in March working directly under CDC Director Rochelle Walensky in Atlanta. Shah gained prominence while helping lead Maine through the coronavirus pandemic.

“The people of Maine, myself included, would not have gotten through the COVID-19 pandemic without Dr. Shah. From the earliest days of the pandemic, Dr. Shah has been a calming, insightful, and empathetic voice of reason, putting science first and spearheading Maine’s extraordinary vaccination success. No other public health official in the country had their face on candy bars during a world-changing pandemic – but Dr. Shah did, because he is so beloved by Mainers,” Pingree said in a statement Tuesday.

Chief Francis, a resident of Indian Island, is serving his sixth term. The Penobscot Nation is one of four federally recognized Wabanaki tribes in Maine.

“I’ve been proud to work alongside the Congressman to bring the Wabanaki tribes in Maine one step closer to being afforded the same federal benefits available to the other 570 tribal governments,” Francis said in a statement. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to bring awareness to this issue of basic fairness which has bipartisan support in Maine.”

Golden sponsored legislation that would have allowed Maine’s tribes to benefit from all future federal Indian laws for the first time since 1980. It was approved by the U.S. House last year but failed in the Senate.

The measure would have amended the federal law that governs the historic 1980 land claims settlement between Maine and the Penobscot, Passamaquoddy and Maliseet tribes to remove one of several restrictions on their sovereignty. In the 1980 negotiations to settle the tribes’ claim to two thirds of the state, Maine demanded that no federal Indian law – past or future – that undermined Maine’s authority would apply to the Maine tribes unless Congress specifically included them.

Golden said he is looking forward to working with Chief Francis, as well as the leaders of the Wabanaki tribes, on legislation in the 118th Congress.

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