News

AUGUSTA, Maine - New drivers in Maine would have to wait more months for an intermediate driver's license under one lawmaker's proposal.

The Legislature on Tuesday will hold public hearings on bills that would tackle texting while driving and increase requirements for young drivers.

Republican Rep. MaryAnne Kinney's legislation would require people younger than 21 years old to hold a driver learner's permit for a year, up from six months.

Driver education schools would be able to issue learner's permits under Democratic Rep. John Schneck's bill.

PORTLAND, Maine - Portland's City Council has failed to approve a proposal that would have allowed residents to vote on a $64 million school bond to fund school renovations.

Council members could not agree on a plan for voters to evaluate after a seven hour meeting Monday night. The bond would cover renovations for four of the city's elementary schools. Three plans were presented.

Many parents present at the meeting said they were in favor of the $64 million plan and were frustrated with the deadlock. Other residents voiced concerns over raising taxes to fund the bond.

State officials are applauding a decision by Amazon to begin collecting and remitting Maine sales tax beginning April 1.

Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner George Gervais says Maine businesses can go toe-to-toe with the very best out-of-state companies provided they are competing on an equal playing field.

In a written statement Monday afternoon, Gervais says that Amazon’s decision is an important first step in leveling the playing field.

Maine Warden Service

A tip to the Maine Warden’s Service resulted in charges for five hunters from Massachusetts and one from Maine after the group allegedly killed nearly 90 snowshoe hares during an illegal weekend hunting trip to Great Duck Island.

Cpl. John MacDonald of the Maine Wardens Service said the men were apprehended Saturday on Great Duck, about 10 miles off Mount Desert Island.

The issue of metal mining in Maine and how it should be regulated has been debated numerous times in the Legislature, but never settled. Environmentalists and residents of Aroostook County converged on the State House Monday for another go.

Lawmakers are reviewing seven different bills. One contains provisional mining rules unanimously approved by the Board of Environmental Protection in January. It would allow mining operators to apply for a permit, and mining companies would have to provide proof that they have the financial means to pay for cleanup costs.

The voter-approved surtax to provide additional money for Maine’s schools was both attacked and supported at a lengthy public hearing before the Legislature’s Taxation Committee.

School funding has long stirred political passions in Maine. In 2004 a group led by the Maine Education Association successfully passed a citizen-initiated referendum calling on the state to pay for 55 percent of the cost of local schools. Successive legislatures ignored that vote.

AUGUSTA, Maine - Two bills would repeal a 3 percent income surtax on Maine's highest earners that voters approved last November.
 
The surtax makes Maine have one of the nation's highest tax rates on top of earners with a 10.15 percent tax on earnings over $200,000.
 
Supporters say the surtax helps the state reach its annual target of providing 55 percent of school funding.
 
Republicans, including GOP Gov. Paul LePage, say it's making it tougher to attract talent. The Maine State Chamber of Commerce says Maine can't afford losing high earners.
 

BANGOR, Maine - Officials in Bangor are set to discuss the regulation of marijuana in the wake of the City Council chairman raising the possibility of the city getting into the pot business.
 
The City Council and staff will discuss marijuana Monday at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall. There is a moratorium on marijuana sales in the city in wake of state residents approving legalization of the drug last year.
 

AUGUSTA, Maine - Maine lawmakers are considering legislation that would require school lunch breaks to last at least half an hour. 

Most schools in Maine limit student lunch periods to 20 minutes. Michelle Lamb, of South Portland, says that short time period is a problem for students, including her 10-year-old son.

“My son often brings home a half-eaten lunch," Lamb says. "When I ask why, he says he didn’t have enough time to eat. He doesn’t tell me he wasn’t hungry, but he tells me he was too rushed to eat.”

Stephan Savoia / Associated Press

The NPR Two-Way blog will provide live coverage of the House Intelligence Committee’s public hearing on the investigations into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The live blog will include streaming video of the proceedings, with posts featuring highlights, context and analysis from NPR reporters and correspondents.

The live blog appears below the PBS News Hour video.

Courtesy Suzanne Massie

PORTLAND, Maine - The phrase "trust, but verify," springs from Russian, a language Suzanne Massie, of Blue Hill, knows well.  She has been a frequent visitor to the country, written books about its culture and, in the 1980's, became a bridge between the superpowers.

Massie has just returned from her latest trip to Russia, and speaks about it with Maine Public Radio’s Morning Edition host Irwin Gratz.

WESTBROOK, Maine - Maine-based Idexx Laboratories Inc. is being added to the NASDAQ-100 Index, months after being added to the Standard and Poor's 500.

CEO Jonathan Ayers said Monday that he's pleased Idexx is on the NASDAQ list alongside growth-oriented companies "who are innovators of the modern economy.''

Idexx was added to the Standard and Poor's 500 stock index in January. The announcement that it's joining the NASDAQ-100 index and two other NASDAQ indexes was made before the market opened Monday.

SACO, Maine - Officials in a Maine city are seeking public input on a proposal to ban all single-use plastic shopping bags.

The Portland Press Herald reports that a public hearing is set for Monday in Saco.

If the proposal is approved by the City Council in April, Saco will join the towns of York, Freeport and Kennebunk in banning single-use plastic bags altogether. Other communities have adopted fees for single-use plastic and paper shopping bags.

The Maine Legislature is considering a bill that prohibit the keeping of any kind of list or registry of gun owners in the state. It has some backing, but even supporters say the current version goes too far.

The measure, as drafted, would ban the keeping of any list of Maine gun owners in any form, including any computer database or paper document. Windham Republican Rep. Patrick Corey introduced the measure.

“The release of information about gun ownership has the potential for the discrimination, retaliation, harassment and victimization of gun owners,” he says.

Susan Sharon / Maine Public

Every year Francophonie Week in Maine recognizes French heritage and culture with a series of films, discussions and musical performances around the state.

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