Politics

Political news

Gov. Paul LePage has nominated a hydrogeologist to the citizen board that enforces and interprets Maine’s environmental laws: Mark Dubois, who works for Poland Spring, the largest producer of spring water in the country.

Dubois’ nomination to the Board of Environmental Protection is generating opposition from groups who worry his appointment could grease the skids for the company’s aggressive expansion plans.

A.J. Higgins / Maine Public/file

In its first-ever meeting Tuesday night, the city of Bangor's Board of Ethics began a review of a nondisclosure incident involving City Councilor Cary Weston.

Panelists assigned a work schedule to guide their review of the incident involving Weston, who is the co-owner of a Bangor public relations firm that does business with the city-funded Greater Bangor Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Pat Wellenbach / Associated Press File

The Maine Legislature is considering a proposal to dismantle the citizen-passed legislation that increases the minimum wage to $12 an hour over several years.

The bill, subject to a public hearing Wednesday, would reduce the current minimum wage from $10 an hour to $9.50 in June, reaching a maximum of $11 an hour in 2021. It would also eliminate the yearly cost of living adjustment that would have begun that same year.

The legislation was endorsed by the LePage administration. Labor Commissioner John Butera called the existing wage law a burden on businesses and seniors.

The groups that pushed an unsuccessful ballot measure to build a casino in York County are appealing a $500,000 fine by the Maine Ethics Commission.

The fine — a record penalty by the Maine Ethics Commission — was assessed several days before voters rejected the casino initiative in a landslide vote in November.

Lawmakers are considering a bill that would prohibit former public sector employees who receive retirement benefits from going back to work in related jobs.

Supporters of the bill say it’s unfair when a retiree comes back into the workforce and deprives current workers of the chance for advancement. They also argue that the practice contributes to the unfunded liability of the retirement system.

Maine U.S. Sen. Angus King says efforts to reach a deal on legislation to grant legal status to those protected under DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, are off to a fast start. 

“What I hope will happen is that the president will stay quiet and let us work through this in the Senate," King says. "I think we can come up with a strong, bipartisan bill.”

Steve Mistler / Maine Public

Another of Gov. Paul LePage's handwritten notes - which he's sent in the past to legislators, lobbyists and constituents - has surfaced.

LePage sent the letter, dated Nov. 6, 2017, to state Sen. Tom Saviello, who last year led an effort to override LePage's veto of a new law imposing a 5-cent deposit on so-called nips, mini-bottles of liquor. 

"Here's a nickel for you. There (sic) everywhere!!!" LePage wrote, enclosing a crushed nips bottle with the note.

Susan Sharon / Maine Public

Embattled Jackman Town Manager Tom Kawczynski, whose white separatist and anti-Islam views first came to light last week, has been fired. After meeting behind closed doors Tuesday morning, Jackman selectmen reached an agreement to part ways with Kawczynski, who said his "fight" has just begun.

Ethics Committee To Begin Probe Into Bangor Councilor

Jan 23, 2018
Gabor Degre / Bangor Daily News

Bangor’s ethics watchdog group Tuesday will launch its first ever investigation into a sitting city councilor.

The City Council voted earlier this month to ask the Board of Ethics to investigate whether Councilor Cary Weston violated conflict of interest rules by not disclosing the extent of his marketing firm’s financial relationship with the Greater Bangor Convention & Visitors Bureau, an organization that receives city funding.

Robert F. Bukaty / Associated Press File

Maine’s two U.S. senators had a hand in the Common Sense Coalition, a bipartisan group that crafted the framework for ending the federal government shutdown.

Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine led the effort to reconvene the coalition, which was instrumental in ending the federal government shutdown five years ago. She says members of both parties, and independent U.S. Sen. Angus King of Maine, met in her office to craft a resolution ending the current stalemate.

A series of hearings on plans to open New England and most of the nation's coastline to offshore drilling will be postponed because of the U.S. government shutdown.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is rescheduling this week’s meetings in Maine, New Hampshire, Boston and Providence while some of its funding is suspended and employees are furloughed. The hearing in Hartford, Connecticut, is still set for February.

J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press

Maine U.S. Sen. Susan Collins is among a group of senators that met through the weekend to put together a continuing resolution that would fund the federal government through Feb. 8.

“Republicans as well as Democrats, all of whom are committed to getting to a solution - that is a powerful voting bloc in the Senate,” Collins says.

U.S. Navy

Because the partial shutdown of the federal government has started on a weekend, the effect on the Maine is minimal — but that starts to grow on Monday.

“This just should not have happened,” Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said in an interview with Maine Public Radio. “This is a failure to do what we are supposed to do.”

Collins said she has reconvened the Common Sense Coalition, made up of moderate senators from both parties to try to craft a compromise. Independent U.S. Sen. Angus King of Maine is also a member of that group.

via Facebook

Jackman selectmen have scheduled a  Tuesday morning meeting with town manager Tom Kawcynski, following revelations last week that Kawcynski is promoting and recruiting members for a white separatist organization and community. 

 

Kawcynski says his beliefs, which he does not consider racist, do not interfere with his job.  He's held the post for the past seven months and serves at the pleasure of the board of selectmen. 

 

Jacquelyn Martin / Associated Press

Members of Maine’s congressional delegation are divided over funding the federal government for another month, as talks continue in Washington. They acknowledge that a partial shutdown is possible if an agreement can't be reached.

But that would not have a big immediate impact on Maine. Programs such as Medicaid and Social Security will continue to send benefit checks, and many federal workers will stay on the job, including law enforcement and the military.

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