Political news

On Thursday, the Trump administration announced a draft proposal that would open large swaths of federal waters to potential oil and gas drilling, including the coast of Maine.

The proposal would open most of the outer continental shelf to oil and gas drilling for a five-year lease period to start in 2019. The prospect of rigs churning up the seabed in the Gulf of Maine, alongside struggling shrimp stocks, valuable scallops and the state’s iconic lobster has environmental advocates furious.

The week after Christmas is usually a short and slow one for town officials in New Paltz, N.Y. — but not this time.

"When we opened town hall Wednesday we had almost 100 voicemails from people inquiring about how they could prepay their taxes," says Daniel Torres, the town's deputy supervisor.

And the phones kept ringing. People started lining up. Torres says the clerk's office has a only few people working in it.

"The clerk's office was so overrun. After a certain while we couldn't even pick up the phones anymore," he says.

Haven Daley / Associated Press File

The Trump administration announced Thursday that it will rescind Obama-era rules that went easy on enforcement of federal marijuana laws. The news dismays supporters of Maine’s law, and opponents say it will reopen the debate.

President Donald Trump’s decision to dissolve his controversial voter fraud commission has made Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap something of a hero among progressives and voting rights advocates.

It was Dunlap who successfully sued the commission, forcing it to turnover its working papers — one of several lawsuits the administration says influenced its decision to disband the fraud commission.

Independent U.S. Sen. Angus King of Maine says Congress is facing major decisions in the next few weeks, but is acting as if it has all the time in the world.

The Senate is in just two days this week, and the House does not reconvene until next week.

“There is no reason that we are playing this kind of game that I can figure out. I don’t understand why we didn’t do it in September, why we didn’t do it in October,” King says.

Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap speaks during a voter registration meeting at the National Association of Secretaries of State conference Saturday, July 8, 2017, in Indianapolis.
Darron Cummings / Associated Press

President Donald Trump announced Wednesday that he’s dissolving a special commission on voter fraud.

His decision follows a recent ruling by a federal judge in favor of Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, who sued the commission and asserted it wasn’t providing him documents about its work.

In a statement issued Wednesday, Dunlap said the president’s decision to disband the commission came without warning, but “wasn’t entirely a surprise.”

The grandfather of a Camden high school student says Maine Gov. Paul LePage was rude in his response to her letter expressing concern about the repeal of net neutrality rules.

Hope Osgood, 16, wrote to LePage saying she’s worried that allowing internet providers to slow down or speed up certain websites would affect her schoolwork.

LePage responded with a handwritten message scrawled across Osgood’s note, suggesting that she “pick up a book.”

Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press File

Gov. Paul LePage had a one-sentence response to a 16-year-old who wrote to him worried about the repeal of net neutrality rules: Read a book.

Robert F. Bukaty / Associated Press File

Maine’s Legislature returns to work Wednesday to kick of its second regular session, and the debate on key issues is expected to get off to a fast start.

Lawmakers reconvene in the morning to open the session, but the real action begins in the afternoon. The Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee has set up overflow hearing rooms to handle the expected crowd opposing Secretary of State Matt Dunlap’s bill that would place restrictions on people gathering petition signatures near polling places on Election Day.

Gov. Paul LePage’s Energy Office has been holding listening sessions around the state in advance of a state energy plan due out next month.

Office Director Steve McGrath has only been on the job a few months, but says he is learning a lot about the energy sources used by Maine people. He says the listening sessions have been helpful in developing the forthcoming state energy plan.

“I was trying to get the best ideas that everybody had in the state to try and move the state forward and get us cheaper energy with less effect on our environment,” he says.

Tom Porter / Maine Public File

At first glance, a new bill from Maine’s secretary of state contains mostly a list of minor housekeeping changes to state election laws. But tucked inside is a big change that could make it much harder for groups pushing citizen initiatives onto the state ballot.

A Republican state lawmaker is proposing changes to a Maine law approved last spring that requires Maine Guides to undergo a background check in order to be licensed. 

Sen. Paul Davis, a Republican from Sangerville, is proposing to lift the background check requirement for marine-based guides.  Davis says they are already subject to one through another agency.

“They have to get a permit through the Coast Guard, I know that," he says. "And when they get that permit, or license, they have to have a background check.”

Susan Sharon / Maine Public/file

Thousands of Maine workers earning minimum wage will get a raise come Jan. 1, their second increase since voters increased the minimum wage at the ballot box in 2016.

The citizen-approved law increased the wage to $9 an hour last year and it will rise to $10 an hour on Jan. 1. It will continue to increase by $1 each year until it reaches $12 by 2020.

It's Thursday and time for Across the Aisle, our weekly roundtable on politics. This week, Cynthia Dill, an attorney who served in the Legislature as a Democrat; Dick Woodbury, an economist and former independent lawmaker; and Mike Cianchette, former chief counsel to Republican Gov. Paul LePage. They spoke with Keith Shortall.