Political news

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine Gov. Paul LePage is taking a step aimed at reining in a state tree growth program that once benefited Rep. Bruce Poliquin.

The executive order signed this week by the Republican governor offers Maine Bureau of Forestry expertise to municipal officials in reviewing, recommendations about forest management plans and assistance in bringing woodland owners into compliance.

The bureau will report its findings by Dec. 15.

Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine is urging colleagues to reauthorize funding to continue research aimed at curing diabetes, which she says is a major driver of medical costs.

“Treatment of diabetes accounts for 1 out of 3 Medicare dollars. In fact, medical costs for Americans with diabetes are more than double,” she says.

Collins, who chairs the Senate Aging Committee, says reauthorization of research programs due to expire in September will be crucial to finding new treatments and a cure for the disease.

Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine has apologized to GOP Rep. Blake Farenthold after being captured on a live microphone making fun of him.

The Texas congressman has also apologized. He earlier blamed "some female senators from the Northeast" for blocking health care legislation and said he wished he could challenge them to a duel "Aaron Burr-style."

Both of Maine’s senators voted against a Republican health care bill Tuesday, but their votes weren’t enough to block the Senate from moving forward to debate legislation that could dramatically reshape health care in the U.S. Health advocates are worried the proposal will be disastrous for Maine.

Only two Republican senators opposed the move to proceed. U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine was one of them, and U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska was the other. Combined with opposition from Democrats, the tally was 50-50, and then Vice President Mike Pence broke the tie.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin of Maine’s 2nd District says he won’t support repealing Obamacare without a replacement plan.

Poliquin’s comments Tuesday come as the GOP tries to find a path forward on its longtime campaign promise to undo the law. The Sun-Journal reports that Poliquin said he is standing by a "common-sense" decision he made in 2015 to stick with the Affordable Care Act until there is a viable replacement plan.

Gov. Paul LePage says he has vetoed a bill that would ban the use of hand-held devices while driving, saying it is unnecessary.

He told Bangor radio station WVOM Tuesday that he is tired of social engineering through legislation.

“We have a distracted driving law, we have a texting law. If they are not working, let’s figure out why they are not working and make them work,” LePage says.

Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine is asking Gov. Paul LePage to end his practice of selectively deleting negative comments and blocking certain users from his official Facebook page.

The Department of Labor is calling for clarity in state laws governing marijuana use as it affects the workplace.

Maine’s citizen-initiated law legalizing the recreational use of marijuana raises more questions it answers. That was the message from Julie Rabinowitz of the Department of Labor to the marijuana legalization implementation committee in Augusta Monday.

The U.S. Senate is expected to vote on health care next week, though it’s unclear whether they’ll take up a revised version of their bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act or a bill that would just repeal the health care law.

Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine says she doesn’t support either. Speaking to reporters on Friday, she referenced the findings of Congressional Budget Office report on the repeal-only bill.

“That would lead to 32 million people losing health insurance coverage. So I simply cannot support that approach,” she says.

Patty Wight / Maine Public

Maine Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins is defending Attorney General Jeff Sessions.  Earlier this week, President Donald Trump criticized Sessions for recusing himself from the investigation into Russian meddling in last year's election. 

"I've served for 20 years with Jeff Sessions, and he's a person of integrity," Collins said Friday at an event at the Maine Medical Research Institute in Scarborough. "So he absolutely did the right thing."

Robert F. Bukaty / Associated Press/file

Two months after ruling out a bid for the U.S. Senate, Gov. Paul LePage suggested Thursday that there's a possibility he may challenge independent U.S. Sen. Angus King next year.

The Republican governor also acknowledged that he's being pressured to run by the Trump administration.

LePage told Portland radio station WGAN that he may reconsider if Auburn state Sen. Eric Brakey's Senate bid doesn't gain traction.

Robert F. Bukaty / Associated Press/file

Maine lawmakers Thursday night enacted a $105 million transportation bond that voters will consider in November. 

But a research and development bond, and one to fund student loan debt forgiveness, failed to get enough support. Both are tabled in the House.

“We could have let it go today or we could let it stay there to give it another chance when we come back on August second, to anticipating some vetoes that will be on our desk,” said House Speaker Sara Gideon.

Legislation that would move the state a step closer to recreational use of marijuana was enacted Thursday night, but it may face a veto.

The legislation would set up testing facilities in the Department of Agriculture to ensure that the quality of pot sold in the state for personal use meets minimum standards. Supporters argued the measure is needed so the facility is operational next year, when the citizen-passed law allowing recreational use of pot takes effect.

Rep. Teresa Pierce, a Falmouth Democrat, supported the bill.

Child care advocates are voicing opposition to proposed changes in regulations governing in-home child care facilities.

The state Department of Health and Human Services says it wants to streamline an assortment of policies in order to increase access to affordable child care, particularly for parents in rural areas of Maine. The proposals are scheduled for a public hearing before a legislative committee Thursday evening.

It’s Thursday, and time for Across the Aisle, our weekly roundtable on Maine politics. This week, Cynthia Dill, an attorney and former Democratic legislator who writes a column for the Portland Press Herald, and Meredith Strang Burgess of Burgess Advertising and Marketing, who served in the Legislature as a Republican.