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

Jennifer Mitchell / Maine Public

Tuesday’s storm left Maine with an additional 20 inches of snow in some areas and widespread power outages in others.

At Central Maine Power, spokeswoman Gail Rice says the combination of heavy, wet snow and powerful winds took its toll on the company’s power lines. She says outages peaked Tuesday night when 32,000 CMP customers reported power losses.

Maine Public/file

Described by his colleagues as a passionate defense attorney who was fearless in the courtroom, Daniel Lilley died Saturday at a Maine hospital, according to his Portland law firm.

The 79-year-old Aroostook County native was remembered by his peers as a brilliant trial lawyer who never forgot the value of the common touch.

BANGOR, Maine - Some teenagers could be allowed to work in the Maine forestry industry if a bill co-sponsored by Maine 2nd District Rep. Bruce Poliquin gains traction.

Poliquin and Idaho Congressman Raúl Labrador have reintroduced the "Future Logging Careers Act" to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to work in mechanized logging operations under parental supervision.

That's an option available to farming families that Dana Doran, executive director of the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine, says should also be available to families engaged in the forest products industry.

Rockweed coats the shoreline on the Maine coast.
Sarah Redmond / University of Maine Sea Grant

For 15 years, shore-front property owners, rockweed cutters and Maine Department of Marine Resources regulators have attempted to balance the competing interests that have tended to define the state’s rockweed industry. 

While many Maine communities have passed or are weighing moratoriums or bans on retail recreational marijuana businesses, the town of Houlton is enthusiastically encouraging recreational growers and retailers to make the move to Aroostook County.

Last month, the Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to designate a portion of its industrial park for use by retail recreational marijuana retailers. Council member Sue Waite-York says the town views Maine’s historic vote to legalize recreational pot as an opportunity.

Environmentalists and conservation advocates are lending their support to a number of bills that would promote the expansion of freight and passenger rail service to more areas of the state.

During a State House press conference Thursday, Tony Donovan of the Sierra Club said support is building for approval of a $50 million bond package to fund rail infrastructure improvement along with a number of other bills, including one tied to Maine’s recreational marijuana law.

An animal rights organization has filed a complaint against the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, claiming that mice at the research facility are being subjected to pain and suffering.

Alka Chanda of the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals says this is the first time her agency has filed a complaint with the National Institutes of Health against the Maine research facility, but Jackson has been on PETA’s radar for several years.

The city of Bangor is the latest Maine community to launch an innovative jail diversion program targeting those battling opioid addiction.

Modeled after a New Mexico initiative, the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion Program, or LEAD, provides assistance for addicts facing low-level drug offenses as an alternative to incarceration.

Robin Carr, a substance abuse prevention coordinator for Bangor Public Health and Community Services, says the program will be coordinated by Bangor police and the Health Equity Alliance.

A Portland firm that specializes in connecting employers with workers has expanded its website to included student internships into the mix of options for job seekers.

The Live + Work in Maine website is operated by Pro Search of Portland. College administrators, such as James Westhoff at Husson University in Bangor, say students are increasingly using internships to secure employment opportunities.

Susan Sharon / Maine Public

A bill that would expand Maine’s 15-cent deposit to miniature liquor bottles could be taken up by rank-and-file lawmakers as soon as next month.

Supporters of the measure, such as co-sponsor Rep. Betty Austin, a Skowhegan Democrat, say the deposit is needed to clear the highways of the discarded 50-milliliter liquor bottles, also known as “nips.” She says current practices suggest that many Mainers need to be more aware of where they’re drinking and what they’re doing with their empty bottles.

A.J. Higgins / Maine Public

It’s a dirty job, but digging for blood and sand worms along the Maine coast can pay well, particularly in areas of the state where it can be hard to make a living. Maine’s annual harvest of these popular bait worms, however, continues to decline, posing a quandary for marine biologists who cite climate change and predation as possible factors.

Wormers, as they’re called, would like to work with marine biologists to ensure a healthy and robust industry.

Maine Department of Corrections

For more than 30 years, the population in the Down East town of Machiasport has remained virtually unchanged, at about 1,100 residents. But that number could drop by more than 10 percent if state lawmakers agree to Gov. Paul LePage’s plan to close the Downeast Correctional Facility.

PORTLAND, Maine - A Cumberland County Superior Court judge has granted a motion for a $2 million attachment on the home of a Hiram man.  

Philip J. Macri  faces criminal charges stemming from an accident that claimed the life of a Steep Falls woman and seriously injured her daughter. 

Steven Silin, of the Lewiston firm Berman & Simmons, represents the injured girl and says Philip J. Macri fraudulently transferred his home to his father to prevent it from becoming a recoverable asset in a lawsuit.

Pat Wellenbach / Associated Press

For decades, waiters and waitresses in Maine restaurants have relied on etiquette for tips — 15-20 percent, depending on the quality of service and food. But some in the industry say that time-honored practice is now being ignored by many customers, now that Maine has a new minimum wage law.

BANGOR, Maine - New business could be touching down soon at Old Town Municipal Airport. But to make that happen, community leaders are asking Republican 2nd District Rep. Bruce Poliquin to strip off some deed restrictions from 15 acres of former federal property that was acquired by the facility 30 years ago. 

Poliquin says he plans on submitting legislation immediately to assist the airport.