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A special legislative committee has approved its second bill to create rules for the recreational marijuana market in Maine. The bill contains several concessions designed to win the support of Gov. Paul LePage and other Republicans, who scuttled the initial effort last year.

Reps agree that the bill isn’t perfect. Critics of the measure passed in committee worry that it falls short of creating a viable regulated marijuana market that can compete with, and eventually diminish, a thriving underground cannabis trade.

Maine Public

In the wake of the Parkland, Fla. school shootings last week, Democrats in the Maine Legislature are hoping to introduce a number of last-minute gun control bills next week, including a ban on “bump stocks,” devices that are used to boost the performance of semiautomatic rifles. However, one Republican leader says it’s too late in the session to take up such major legislation.

AP Photo

A Scarborough-based ambulance provider has settled with the U.S. Attorney's Office for $825,000 over allegations that it billed Medicaid for unnecessary ambulance rides.

In a separate settlement, Portland-Based Maine Medical Center will pay $600,000.

The U.S. Attorney's Office says that starting in 2007, North East improperly billed Medicare to transport patients who'd been discharged, in ambulances and that ambulance transport wasn't medically needed for those patients.

Members of the state legislature’s Transportation Committee have split along party lines over a proposal to charge an annual fee on new electric cars and hybrid powered vehicles.

Governor Paul LePage says a fee of $250 on electric vehicles, and $150 on hybrids, will assure that the owners of those cars and trucks pay something towards the maintenance of roads and bridges. Much of Maine’s highway infrastructure is currently funded by a tax on gasoline.

The coast guard is trying to assess the potential for environmental concerns following a tugboat crash off the coast of Kennebunkport.

The coastguard responded Wednesday to a call from crewmen on the tugboat Helen Louise which alerted them of a collision with the Captain Mackintire tug they had in tow.

According to a coast guard representative, they collided during a fuel transfer but fuel did not enter the water during the transfer. The Captain Mackintire sank. 

A Maine farmer who says his pregnant cow was shot and killed near a snowmobile route on his property will no longer let the public ride on the trail.

The Morning Sentinel reports that Clayton Tibbetts had permitted a local snowmobile club to maintain a route through his farm in Madison until the cow was found dead last week. Tibbetts says he doesn't know if a snowmobiler killed the animal, but the carcass was found about 30 feet away from the trail.

This fall Mainers may be able to vote on a citizens’ initiative for state-funded home care for older residents and adults with serious disabilities.

The Secretary of State's office has confirmed the home care initiative has gathered enough petition signatures to get on the ballot.

PORTLAND, Maine - The federal government is taking comments from the public about a plan to try to better manage a piece of the scallop fishery that has been a source of conflict in recent years.
 
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is looking to tweak the scallop fishing rules in the Northern Gulf of Maine. Small-boat fishermen in the area have complained in recent years that they are being squeezed out of the fishery by bigger boats, which operate under a different set of rules.
 

Robbie Feinberg / Maine Public

Maine was the first state in the country to embrace a new “proficiency-based” high school diploma. Maine's current ninth-graders are set to graduate under these new requirements, which apply to subjects from math to English and social studies. However, the Maine Department of Education is considering a change in that law that would potentially make it less onerous to graduate.

Siobhan Bolinger / Smiling Hill Farm via AP

SCARBOROUGH, Maine - Police in Maine say they are searching for a suspect who shot and killed a pregnant goat at a family dairy farm in Scarborough.
 
The Scarborough Police Department said Thursday someone trespassed onto the farm's property and shot the 5-year-old goat named Ava while the animal was sitting in a fenced-in pen over the weekend.
 
Smiling Hill Farm and Hillside Lumber says Ava was found dead during the Sunday morning feeding. The Portland Press Herald reports the farm is offering a $1,000 reward for the identification and arrest of the shooter.

The LePage administration is telling two key legislative committees that it will not take any steps to implement the expansion of Medicaid that was approved by voters until money is appropriated to pay for it.

Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Commissioner Ricker Hamilton outlined the administration's stance in a letter to the co-chairs of the Appropriations and Health and Human Services committees.

A company that was the subject of a Portland Press Herald investigation after it won the right to bid on a lucrative energy contract at the University of Maine has withdrawn from negotiations.

It’s Thursday, and time again for Across the Aisle, our weekly foray into Maine Politics. This week, Cynthia Dill, an attorney and former state lawmaker, Meredith Strang Burgess of Burgess Advertising and Marketing, who served in a Augusta as a republican, and former independent legislator Dick Woodbury, who is an economist. They spoke with Keith Shortall.

AP Photo

Drug overdose deaths in Maine increased by 11 percent last year, with a total of 418 deaths, according to data released Thursday by the attorney general’s office.

“Forty-two more people died last year than the year before,” says Attorney General Janet Mills. “You know, every death is preventable. Every one of those deaths is more than a statistic.”

Mills says the higher number is driven by an increase in fentanyl-related deaths. Traffickers often lace heroin with the synthetic opioid because it's cheaper, but it’s 50-100 times more potent and far more lethal.

Some Maine lawmakers are trying to revive an effort to ban bump stocks in the state, but others say moves at the federal level may make it unnecessary.

President Donald Trump has directed the Justice Department to work toward a nationwide ban on the devices, which allow semi-automatic weapons to mimic machine guns.

Democratic state Rep. Scott Hamann told the Bangor Daily News on Wednesday that he might withdraw his own proposed ban if Washington renders it unneeded, but he was not yet prepared to do so.

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