News

PORTLAND, Maine - The federal government says more than 1 million Mainers are currently dealing with drought conditions.

The latest report by the U.S. Drought Monitor says 80 percent of the state's population is affected by moderate to extreme drought.

The report Thursday says almost 10 percent of the state, including Cumberland, York and Sagadahoc counties, is in an "extreme drought.'' The entire area experiencing moderate to extreme drought now runs from York County eastward to part of Washington County.

FARMINGTON, Maine - The associate director for the Maine Office of Substance Abuse is facing a charge of operating under the influence.

Police say 62-year-old Joan Smyrski of Jefferson was charged with drunken driving after being stopped Sunday evening in the Franklin County town of Avon. She was freed on $150 cash bail.

The Sun Journal reports that Smyrski is scheduled to speak about opioid-prescribing limits at the Maine Nurse Practitioner Association's annual fall conference in November.

AUGUSTA, Maine - Maine U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin was among members of the House Financial Services Committee who harshly criticized Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf. 

Stumpf has come under fire for bilking customers after the bank opened accounts without customers' permission.

“I’m looking at this pattern of you folks ripping off your customers, getting caught, paying a fine and doing the damn thing all over again,” Poliquin said.

Advocates for Maine’s public campaign finance program are touting what they say is a significant decrease in private donations to candidates vying for seats in the state Legislature.

Andrew Bossie with Maine Citizens for Clean Elections says the 22 percent dip in private donations correlates with increased participation in the state’s clean election program.

An organization that works with southern Maine’s refugee and immigrant communities is getting $300,000 to work with survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence.

The Immigration Resource Center of Maine in Lewiston, formerly called United Somali Women of Maine, will use the grant from the federal Office on Violence Against Women to maintain and expand its culturally specific sexual assault services for East African sex assault victims living in Southern Maine.

LEWISTON, Maine - The United States Department of Agriculture is committing nearly $400,000 to increase food access for the Somali community in Lewiston.

Members of the Somali Bantu community in the city are partnering with the Cumberland County Food Security Council on the project. The funding is expected to support Somalis' agriculture and help them reconnect with their cultural heritage.

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine — The Maine Community College System has requested a 13 percent increase in state funding with a bulk of the new money set to go toward the expansion of workforce development programs.

The Portland Press Herald reports Maine’s allocation to the seven-campus system would jump from $62 million in 2017 to $70 million in 2019 if the increase is approved by lawmakers.

PITTSFIELD, Maine — Maine State Police say they’ve charged an 18-year-old Manchester man with driving a Dodge Neon at 146 mph on Interstate 95. That’s more than twice the 70-mph speed limit.

Police say 18-year-old Tyler Barrows was stopped in Pittsfield, Maine, on Wednesday and was charged with criminal speeding, a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

A panel created by an executive order fro Gov. Paul LePage has rejected his assertion that the Maine Human Rights Commission has been biased in the way it treats complaints, with a particular bias against businesses.

Amy Sneirson, executive director of the independent agency, says the report is helpful in recommending more staff and new equipment.

“I think it is very helpful to see what an objective group of folks found when they looked at us, and I think our commissioners will find it very interesting,” she says.

Maine Public

The Maine Association of Broadcasters has announced the recipients of the 2016 MAB News and Creative Awards, honoring the best of Maine broadcasting. Maine Public received five awards across a broad range of specialties in the competition’s Television category.

Each year the Maine Association of Broadcasters honors “the best of the best” work from member stations based on the judging results from state broadcast associations in other states. The 2016 awards reflect work completed between June 2015 and May 2016.

AUGUSTA, Maine - State revenues are above projections by nearly $16 million after the first two months of the budget year. State tax receipts reflect the summer tourist season.
 
State Finance Commissioner Richard Rosen says Maine’s economy continues slow but steady growth, with income tax revenues reflecting lower unemployment rates. “We can all feel it," he says. "You see the 'Help Wanted' signs nearly everywhere you go, and there is upward pressure on wages.”

Patty Wight / Maine Public

The Maine Heritage Policy Center released a report Wednesday that says a ballot measure that would raise the minimum wage in Maine would eliminate jobs and drive up the cost of goods and services.

The Policy Center is joined in its opposition by some Maine businesses that don’t support a statewide mandate, despite the fact that they already pay above the minimum wage.

STANDISH, Maine - Many Maine families who rely on shallow private wells have been forced to change the way they live due to the area's drought.

The Portland Press Herald reports well drillers are being inundated with calls from people who want dry wells drilled deeper or those who fear their water source is close to drying up. Homeowners have also turned to companies to deliver tanks full of drinking water to temporarily refill their wells.

AUGUSTA, Maine - The Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Elections Practices is asking lawmakers next session to ban political action committees set up by candidates from paying those candidates or their family members.

PORTLAND, Maine - Personal income in Maine rose seven-tenths of a percent in this year's 2nd quarter, federal figures show, but Maine still ranks 45th among states.

Earnings generated more than half of the increase, reflecting a rise in paychecks being seen around the nation. 

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