Political news

Jan David Hanrath / Flickr/Creative Commons

Mainers concerned, dismayed or angered by the election of President Donald Trump have made their voices heard by protesting in the street and clogging the phone lines of their representatives in Congress. But there’s a much quieter movement playing out in libraries across the state.

Lawmakers are considering a bill that would prohibit gubernatorial candidates from participating in the state’s public campaign financing program. The Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee held a public hearing on the proposal Friday.

The proposal is supported by the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a conservative advocacy group. Mike Quatrano told lawmakers that public funding through the Maine Clean Election Act has done little to curb spending by outside groups that can spend unlimited amounts to influence an election.

The U.S. Senate has voted to confirm Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Environmental activists are upset that the vote was allowed to happen before next week’s public release of emails between Pruitt and energy company executives.

The Senate voted 52-46 to confirm Pruitt after failed attempts to delay action on the vote. Lisa Pohlman, executive director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine, says those senators that forced a vote may well live to regret their decision.

Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew is seeking a waiver from federal officials to ban the use of food stamps to buy candy or sugary drinks.

Mayhew says about $13 million a year in Maine is being spent on soda by those who receive supplemental nutrition assistance, commonly known as food stamps. She says taxpayer dollars should be limited to buying nutritious foods, especially since childhood obesity rates have tripled since 1980.

“We don’t need to debate whether or not soda and candy are nutritional,” she says. “They are not.”

Andrew / Associated Press

President Trump began his press conference Thursday afternoon naming his new nominee for labor secretary, R. Alexander Acosta. He then moved on to a range of topics, from the resignation of Michael Flynn as national security adviser and U.S.

While a partisan fight looms in the Legislature over changes that could make it harder for groups to use Maine’s citizen initiative process to pass new laws, bipartisan support is emerging to crack down on aggressive tactics used to get on the ballot. Lawmakers weighing new reforms must strike a tricky balance between policing fraud and protecting political speech.

PORTLAND, Maine - Maine legislators are looking to put new restrictions on the harvest of marine worms.
Legislators are considering a proposal called "An Act To Protect the Marine Worm Industry.'' The proposal states that a person would no longer be able to fish for or take marine worms from Dec. 1 to March 31.
Worm harvesting is a sizeable industry in Maine. The state's bloodworm harvest typically totals 400,000 to 500,000 pounds per year. The worms are typically used as bait.

PORTLAND, Maine - Maine Sen. Angus King is among a group of lawmakers backing a proposal to eliminate a tax penalty that is currently levied on student loans forgiven for families after the death or disability of the borrower.
King, an independent, says the federal government forgives some student loans in the case of death or disability, but the IRS treats the cancelled debt as income. That can result in tens of thousands of dollars in tax liability.

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a resolution that opponents argue will reduce federal funding for several health services provided to the poor.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine’s 1st District says the Republican-sponsored resolution jeopardizes important funding.

“Title X family planning services are an essential lifeline for Mainers who need access to high-quality preventive and reproductive care. From cancer screening to STI testing to birth control,” she says.

It’s Thursday and time for Across the Aisle, our weekly roundtable on politics. This week, Cynthia Dill, an attorney and former Democratic lawmaker; Dick Woodbury, and economist who served in the Legislature as an independent; and former Republican state lawmaker Meredith Strang Burgess of Burgess Advertising and Marketing.

Charles Reed/U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement / Via The Associated Press

Reports of large scale, nationwide deportation raids are stoking fear in Massachusetts immigrant communities. Immigrants — both those with legal status and those living here illegally — are questioning exactly who is vulnerable for deportation.

With his executive order on Jan. 25, President Trump expanded the priorities of immigration officials in terms of who to focus on for removal.

PORTLAND, Maine - Maine Republican Gov. Paul LePage says President Donald Trump needs to pick someone to serve as his right-hand person so his administration can run more smoothly.
LePage supported Trump during the state's Republican caucus and the presidential election. He appeared on WGAN-AM radio on Thursday and said "we've got to tell him that the TV show's over and he's got to move on now.''

All four members of the Maine’s Congressional Delegation say they support an investigation into Russian attempts to influence last year’s elections, but they differ on how best to accomplish that goal.

Maine’s two senators both serve on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which they say is already investigating possible Russian efforts to influence the U.S. election, and will expand that probe to look into communications between the Russians and former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn before he took office.

Andrew Harnik / Associated Press

After careful consideration, Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine says she will oppose the confirmation of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.

Members of the Legislature’s State and Local Government Committee are considering a proposal to more than double the governor’s salary.

Maine pays its governor the lowest salary in the country, just $70,000 a year. The national average is nearly twice that.

Rep. Brad Farrin, a Republican from Norridgewock, is sponsoring a bill to raise Maine’s salary to $150,000 a year.