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

Rebecca Conley / MPBN

The dust still hasn’t settled in the GOP primary race for Maine’s 1st Congressional District.

Unofficial results show Mark Holbrook leading Ande Allen Smith by about 60 votes. The close contest may be one for the record books, according to the secretary of state’s office.

Meanwhile, Gov. Paul LePage’s efforts to influence the outcome of a couple of GOP state Senate primaries appears to have produced mixed results.

A.J. Higgins / MPBN

It took 16 years and more than $60 million, but the Penobscot River Restoration Project is now complete, and one of the state’s mightiest rivers has been reconnected to the sea.

A.J. Higgins / MPBN

The state of Maine is expected to review the way that solar energy system owners are credited for the electricity that they add to the grid, a process known as “net metering.” Solar advocates worry that the the state’s Public Utilities Commission could make changes that would effectively pull the plug on the state’s solar market.

Chris M Morris / Flickr/Creative Commons

A conservation group that took a stand 40 years ago to protect the Bigelow range in western Maine has re-emerged to draw public attention to state policies they say could endanger the public lands.

The Friends of Bigelow say the LePage administration is ignoring state law, forestry science and public policy by overcutting the 36,000-acre Bigelow Preserve. But state forestry officials say the area contains more forest today than it did 10 years ago.

MADAWASKA, Maine - Forty-nine workers will lose their jobs at the at the Twin Rivers Paper Co. in Madawaska when the company shuts down one of its No. 3 paper machines that produces a coated paper that is becoming less marketable.

David Deger, vice-president for strategy and marketing at the company, says the mill will expand operations in other areas even as it institutes its reduction in force.

Afternoon court proceedings at the Cumberland County Courthouse were delayed Friday afternoon to allow members of Maine’s legal community and the public to attend a memorial service for Portland attorney Peter DeTroy.

The 68-year-old lawyer, who died of a heart attack Saturday, May 28, was recalled by his colleagues as a mentor and peacemaker who devised creative approaches to resolving disputes.

Maine businesses have long struggled to find enough seasonal workers to meet the summertime demands of the tourist industry, but state labor officials say this year could be particularly difficult.

Extended school calendars, fewer students and new limits on the number of available foreign workers are all putting pressure on the summer labor pool and prompting some employers to look at other potential sources.

Gov. Paul LePage reiterated his opposition Wednesday evening to a fall ballot question that, if approved by the voters, would legalize the recreational use of marijuana.

LePage told an audience of about 50 at a town hall meeting in Bangor that he couldn’t understand how Maine could make any money off the drug and said Colorado’s legalization effort has failed to meet revenue expectations. But the conservative Tax Foundation says Colorado’s revenue from marijuana sales may exceed projections by 100 percent this year.

A Bangor nonprofit that provides addiction counseling and services for the poor will be closing its two faith-based drug and alcohol treatment centers after accepting more than $1 million in Medicaid overpayments from the state.

Leeanne Hewey, a board member for Manna Industries Inc., said that the board has been advised by Manna executive director Bill Rae that the publicity surrounding Manna’s financial problems now threatens contributions that fund its other services.

Budget gaps throughout the seven campuses of the University of Maine System have been common-place for years and were once projected to reach nearly $90 million dollars. But a series of cost-cutting measures are paying off for the university system which is pursuing additional restructuring under its One University Initiative. Trustees say the program will eliminate redundancies, but some faculty members say it's degrading the students' educational experience.

Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin of Maine’s 2nd District is drawing fire for a last-minute decision to change his vote on a measure that would have prohibited federal contractors from discriminating against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

The measure failed by a single vote and Poliquin is being assailed by civil rights advocacy groups and by his Democratic opponent in his bid for re-election.

BANGOR, Maine - Representatives of the Chevron Corporation and several state and federal agencies have resolved issues stemming from the oil leaks into the Penobscot River more than 60 years ago at a Hampden oil terminal.

Scott Whittier, a division director for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said the consent decree filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court will assist in efforts to clean up the Penobscot.

Susan Sharon / MPBN

Maine is trying to cope with the challenges posed by decreased property tax revenues in the aftermath of five paper mill closures in just two years.

The Maine National Guard is getting smaller.

Brig. Gen. Doug Farnham says the state will lose about 120 positions over the next three years as the guard realigns its forces.

Farnham, the adjutant general for the Maine National Guard, says the reduction’s phase-in through attrition over the next three years will allow his forces to prepare for the change, which will bring total numbers down to about 2,100 by year’s end.

Susan Sharon / MPBN

More than 1,000 people packed an Orono meeting Monday evening to offer their opinions on the possible creation of a North Woods national monument.

U.S. Sen. Angus King, who served as moderator, said the event at the University of Maine and a smaller one earlier in the day in East Millinocket were set up as a chance for National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis to hear how Maine people feel about a 90,000-acre national park in the shadow of Mount Katahdin. He heard plenty from both sides.

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