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

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.

A $5 million outdoor education facility and trail system near Baxter State Park and the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument could be open by fall, pending the approval of state permits.

The money for the Maine Waterside Trails project has been donated by millionaire philanthropist Gilbert Butler, founder of the New York-based Butler Conservation Fund.

Susan Sharon

A little bottle is getting some big attention from the Maine Legislature.

“Nips” liquor bottles have moved from hotel minibars and airline service carts into convenience stores across Maine, and the discarded empties are piling up along the roadways. Lawmakers have proposed placing a deposit on the little containers.

Courtesy National Park Service

BANGOR, Maine - Maine U.S. Sen. Angus King and 2nd District Rep. Bruce Poliquin met in Ellsworth Monday to announce they will introduce companion legislation in the Senate and House to revise boundary policies at Acadia National Park.

Recent disputes between Downeast wormers, clammers and seaweed harvesters with the National Park Service over inter-tidal boundary rights prompted the legislation.

BANGOR, Maine - Further efforts by President Donald Trump to reorganize the National Security Council continues to generate criticism after Trump removed the country's most senior intelligence and military officials as regular members of the Principals Committee and installed a top political adviser on the committee.

Sen. Angus King says he has serious concerns over the changes, as well as the appointment of Steve Bannon, Trump's chief strategist.

The business of financing terrorist activities will be probed by a congressional panel determined to identify and frustrate efforts to harm Americans at home and abroad.

Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin of Maine’s 2nd District has been named to the Subcommittee on Terrorism and Illicit Finance on the House Financial Services Committee, a role he says will allow him to continue his efforts in investigating and thwarting terrorism financing.