A.J. Higgins

Statewide News Reporter

A.J. came to Maine Public Radio in August 2007 after a stint as a staff writer for Blethen Maine Newspapers. His news coverage for the Kennebec Journal in Augusta also appeared in the Waterville Morning Sentinel, the Portland Press Herald and the Maine Sunday Telegram. Prior to joining the Kennebec Journal, A.J. served for 13 years as political editor and State House bureau chief for the Bangor Daily News.

He began working for the BDN in 1972 while still a senior at Bangor High School, when his first job was casting the lead plates for the printing presses in the paper’s stereotype department. In the ensuing 34 years, A.J. moved up to the editorial department, where he quickly immersed himself in nearly every facet of news reporting, editing and photography.

In addition to his extensive coverage in the greater Bangor area, he also worked in the paper’s Presque Isle bureau and was named bureau chief of the paper’s Hancock County operations in Ellsworth in 1988. He was assigned to the State House in 1993.

While A.J.’s reporting on Maine Public Radio has largely centered around coverage of events in Augusta, he has turned his reporting chops to issues and topics taking place across the entire state.

A.J. resides in Manchester with his wife, Diane.

Ways to Connect

Robert F. Bukaty / Associated Press

Businesses in Maine that rely on summer help are hoping that Congress will come to the rescue.

Because of new limits on the seasonal worker visa program, restaurants, hotels and other tourist-centered operations are scrambling to find seasonal employees. Until Congress opens the door to more H-2B foreign workers, those businesses are finding ways to attract locals onto the payroll.

Pat Wellenbach / Associated Press file

The Maine PUC has added five more towns to the list of communities will no longer receive regulated for basic landline service under a plan that was approved last year by the state Legislature.

PUC spokesman Harry Lanphear said, as part of the approved schedule, the PUC will no longer regulate provider-of-last-resort services, or POLR, in Scarborough, Gorham, Waterville, Kennebunk and Cape Elizabeth.

A new 20 percent tariff on Canadian lumber imposed by President Donald Trump could produce mixed results for Maine’s forest products industry.

The president’s call for the new import duty is in response to complaints from American lumber companies that claim Canadian mills enjoy unfair subsidies from the Canadian government, which allows them to sell their products in the U.S. at cheaper prices than American companies.

A.J. Higgins / Maine Public

A global effort to promote science and scientific research produced ripples Saturday in Maine, where marches and demonstrations were held in six communities.

Maine students attending private, for-profit colleges are quicker to borrow and slower to repay their student loans when compared to the their counterparts across the country, according to the Center for Responsible Lending.

The North Carolina-based debt-monitoring group reviewed recent data from the U.S. Department of Education and found that on average, 75 percent of Maine’s for-profit students borrowed compared with 41 percent and 66 percent of students in public schools and private schools, respectively.

Ten community organizations around the state will share $1.5 million in grants from the Maine Health Access Foundation to create or expand medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction.

The Penobscot Community Health Care center in Bangor is among those benefiting from the award, and it will use the money to develop a regional, rapid-access clinic as part of its primary care services.

Robert F. Bukaty / Associated Press

An ongoing dispute over a planned 12-megawatt floating offshore wind operation off Monhegan Island has now taken stage before the Maine Legislature.

Sen. Dana Dow, a Waldoboro Republican, has submitted a bill that would move the current project site a little more than two miles from the island to an area that would be more than 10 miles away.

BANGOR, Maine - Eight different community organizations throughout the state will share nearly $5 million provided by the Lerner Foundation to raise the aspirations of Maine students.

Former independent Maine gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler is president and board chairman of the foundation.  He says the state's community and business leaders must become more involved with mentoring students in rural parts of the state.

"Too many kids in Maine don't have the kind of hope and dreams and expectations of what's possible to drive success," Cutler said.

A.J. Higgins / Maine Public

Maine still has lots and lots of trees, but the decline of the paper industry has devastated rural communities that depend on forest products.

A.J. Higgins / Maine Public

If there were too many mice in Milbridge, Dr. Cathleen London might have built a better mousetrap. Instead, the rising numbers of uninsured patients with allergy conditions inspired her to adapt an emergency auto-injector at a fraction of the $600 cost offered by the company that manufactures EpiPens.

A national effort by a libertarian think tank to convince public school teachers that there is a division within the scientific community over whether human activity has accelerated global climate change is apparently having little to no effect in Maine.

In fact, at the Maine Education Association in Augusta, President Lois Kilby-Chesley says the DVDs and booklets sent out to about 25,000 teachers by the Illinois-based Heartland Institute are being used by faculty members as examples of how critical thinking can be used to debunk preposterous theories.

BANGOR, Maine - The cost of gas in Maine is creeping up, and by mid-summer could climb another 45 cents per gallon.

The latest GasBuddy.com survey of Maine gas stations shows that the average price rose 2.1 cents to $2.26 per gallon last week. During that same time, the national average rose 4.3 cents to $2.32 per gallon.

Robert F. Bukaty / Maine Public

Maine marine resources officials say the state’s elver season is getting off to a slow start, with only small numbers of the tiny eels being netted by harvesters. The quality and quantity of the juvenile eels is expected to improve as temperatures climb in April.

Maine’s elver season opened on March 22, but the fishing has been poor, according to state Department of Marine Resources spokesman Jeff Nichols, who says colder-than-normal temperatures have kept landings down.

After struggling with budget shortfalls and years of declining student enrollments, the University of Maine at Machias is now slated to become a regional campus of the flagship University of Maine campus in Orono.

Members of the University of Maine System trustees voted in favor of the new partnership Monday, which will replace the former UMM president slot with an academic dean.

UMS spokesman Dan Demeritt said UMaine Machias will retain its current name and degree-granting authority.

BANGOR, Maine - Maine restaurants and inns are reporting a banner year for 2016, with more than $3.6 billion in total sales.

Steve Hewins, president and CEO of the Maine Restaurant Association and the Maine Innkeepers Association, said lodging and restaurant sales rose 7 percent over 2015, with total sales generating $300 million in state tax revenue.

Hewins says the industry hopes that the two past highly successful tourist seasons are the beginning of a trend.