Political news

Susan Walsh / Associated Press

Today is the 4th and — what is scheduled to be — final day of the confirmation hearing for Judge Neil Gorsuch. Testifying about the Supreme Court nominee will be experts and outside groups. Gorsuch himself will not be taking questions, or in the hearing room.

Those expected to speak on his behalf are judges and former law clerks he has worked with, along with some law school professors and other attorneys. Witnesses called by Democrats, who have concerns about Gorsuch, include other law professors, and representatives from women's and environmental groups.

Local property taxes are too high, and the state should do more to relieve that burden. That was the message from some who testified today before the Legislature’s Taxation Committee, which is considering several proposals aimed at providing more state aid to local government.

AUGUSTA, Maine - A police office diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder could have an easier time accessing worker's compensation under a Democrat's bill.

The bill would create a presumption that a first responder's diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder came about from their job. The presumption would be taken as true unless proven otherwise.

Assistant House Majority Leader Jared Golden's bill would apply to law enforcement officers, firefighters, corrections officers or emergency medical services workers.

Robert F. Bukaty / Maine Public

Even in this politically polarized era, there is one issue on which most state policymakers agree: Maine’s roads and bridges are in desperate need of repair. The only debate is how to pay for it, in a time of declining gas tax revenues.

Mal Leary / Maine Public/file

Gov. Paul LePage claimed Wednesday that he did not sign a bill last year that diverted over $13 million to several ailing biomass facilities, though he actually did.

At his town hall forum at Spire 29 in Gorham, the governor was asked by a woman in the audience why he vetoed a hotly debated solar bill, but signed a controversial biomass bailout.

“Well ma’am, I will tell you, both of them were disasters and I didn’t sign off. I did not sign that bill. It went into law without my signature,” LePage said.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press

The NPR Politics team is blogging the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearings on the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court. The live blog includes streaming video, with posts featuring highlights, context and analysis from NPR reporters and correspondents.

Public Domain

Lawmakers are considering a proposal that would abolish Columbus Day in Maine and replace it with Indigenous People’s Day.

Supporters argue that continuing to honor Columbus sends the wrong message of glorifying colonization, racism and genocide.

“This day will provide us an opportunity to honor our indigenous people and reflect upon what their contribution means to our state’s history. This bill displaces Columbus Day,” says Rep. Scott Hamman, a Democrat from South Portland who sponsored the bill.

AUGUSTA, Maine - Maine U.S. Sen. Susan Collins got her chance to question President Trump's labor secretary nominee Alex Acosta at his confirmation hearing Wednesday.

Collins told Acosta she is concerned about funding for the Trade Adjustment Act that provides job retraining programs.

“The so-called 'skinny budget' that was released last week proposes large cuts in the Department of Labor, but it is unclear what happens to TAA,” Collins said.

PORTLAND, Maine - Maine Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree spoke on the U.S. House floor Wednesday in opposition to the Republican replacement bill for the Affordable Care Act. 

Pingree shared the story of Maine resident Ed Saxby, who has stage 4 cancer, and says he won't be able to afford health insurance without the ACA's tax credits. 

Maine has left nearly $2 billion of federal funds on the table over the past five years, according to a progressive think tank, which attributes half of that amount to a decision to not expand Medicaid.

The Maine Center for Economic Policy says it undertook the study to bring together scattered reports about grants not sought and available funds not accessed by the state. Center Director Garrett Martin says that in addition to the loss of Medicaid expansion funds under the Affordable Care Act, the state missed out on matching highway funds estimated at $196 million.

Manafort's Plan to 'Greatly Benefit the Putin Government'

Mar 22, 2017
Matt Rourke / Associated Press/file

WASHINGTON - The Associated Press has learned that President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, secretly worked for a Russian billionaire to advance the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Manafort wrote a 2005 strategy plan that he said "can greatly benefit the Putin Government.'' At the time, U.S.-Russia relations under Republican President George W. Bush were growing worse.

AUGUSTA, Maine - Two lawmakers are behind bills calling for paid family leave.

Independent Rep. Owen Casas's conceptual bill would require employers to provide more time and flexibility to certain employees who become parents.

Democratic Rep. Mattie Daughtry's bill would create a paid family leave insurance program funded by employee contributions.

It would provide either two-thirds of a person's average weekly wage or 100 percent of the state's average weekly wage for up to six weeks in any 12-month period.

The U.S. is not putting enough effort into defending itself against cyberattack, according to U.S. Sen. Angus King, who delivered his concerns to colleagues on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

King says the emphasis has been on building new hardware and more sophisticated weapons while the Russians have focused on ways to disrupt the increasingly technology based defense systems.

“I did a quick calculation. For the price of one F-35 the Russians can deploy 4,000 hackers and trolls. And they have been remarkably successful at a very low price,” he says.

MOSCOW — A Ukrainian lawmaker has published a document that he said ties Paul Manafort, Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, to attempts to hide a $750,000 payment from a pro-Russia political party.

Jason Maloni, a spokesman for Manafort, calls the allegations "baseless" and says they should be "summarily dismissed."

Maine's Chief Utility Consumer Advocate Target of Bill

Mar 21, 2017

AUGUSTA, Maine — A bill by a Maine lawmaker whose son heads a utility that's butted heads with the state's public advocate wants to put the advocate's office under a board's oversight.

Republican Rep. Roger Sherman says he's sponsoring the bill because he's not always "sure" of Public Advocate Timothy Schneider's policy recommendations. Republican Gov. Paul LePage appointed Schneider, whose office makes policy positions independent of the governor's office.