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.

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On this last day of the legislative session, Gov. Paul LePage submitted a bill he says will provide Maine's nursing homes with the money they need to keep their doors open for the remainder of the budget cycle. But the problem for Democratic legislative leaders is that the bill would take millions from the state's Fund for a Healthy Maine that underwrites substance abuse programs.  And as A.J. Higgins reports, they also think it's being proposed too late in the session.

The state ethics commission handed down the second-largest fine in its history today, after a lengthy investigation concluded that supporters of a proposed Lewiston casino failed to satisfy state campaign finance report filing requirements. As A.J. Higgins reports, two political action committees and their backers have agreed to pay a $15,000 fine to the state.

A new law that imposes higher fines and harsher penalties on those responsible for the crime of sex trafficking has been widely lauded by prosecutors and women's advocacy groups. But some Maine attorneys are questioning provisions of the law that impose mandatory minimum fines for offenders, as well as some of its underlying rationale that imposes a criminal justice solution to solve what could just as easily be defined as a social problem. A.J. Higgins has more.

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The Raye for Congress campaign is demanding that 2nd District congressional primary rival Bruce Poliquin apologize for encouraging Republicans to vote Sen. Susan Collins out of office. Kevin Raye said Poliquin should be standing up for Collins instead of trying to elect her Democratic opponent, Shenna Bellows.

Rebounding from a divisive state convention two years ago, Republicans say there's a new spirit of unity in the air for this year's event, which opened today in Bangor. In this off-year election, Republicans are pinning their hopes on returning GOP majorities to the Maine House and Senate, sending Republicans to Washington from the state's two congressional districts and reelecting Gov. Paul LePage. LePage figures prominently in the platform passed by delegates who strongly support the governor's positions on welfare reform and lower taxes.

U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME)
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It was a day of firsts at Bath Iron Works, where members of all four unions opted to give their collective endorsement to a single candidate. And bucking a long-time tradition at the shipbuilding facility, Thursday also marked the first time that the unions chose to support a Republican over a Democrat. A.J. Higgins has more.

A tragedy on the Canadian border a year ago has offered lessons for emergency responders here who must be prepared to confront a train derailment anywhere in the state. Fire and police officials who were called to the Lac Megantic derailment last year discussed the experience with their Maine counterparts during a two-day conference in Augusta. But as A.J. Higgins reports, those insights prompted some firefighters to recall their own rail disaster right here in Maine.

It was a day of firsts at Bath Iron Works, where members of all four unions opted to give their collective endorsement to a single candidate. And bucking a long-time tradition at the shipbuilding facility, Thursday also marked the first time that the unions chose to support a Republican over a Democrat.

The Maine State House in Augusta, Maine
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The state's failure to require welfare recipients to meet work participation standards has triggered a $7 million fine from the federal Office of Family Assistance. Gov. Paul LePage and Republican leaders blame Democrats, saying that if GOP-backed welfare reform bills had passed, the state would not be in such a predicament. But Democrats say the penalty will be waived by the feds and that LePage's blustering is a campaign ploy.

A photograph of the Maine State House in Augusta, Maine.
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Budget battles, medicaid expansion, solar energy subsidies and Narcan use were just some of the headline grabbing issues out of Augusta this legislative session. MPBN state house bureau chief AJ Higgins and leaders from both political parties discuss what the legislature accomplished, what the governor veteod, and what's still left to be done.

The Raye for Congress campaign is demanding that 2nd District congressional primary rival Bruce Poliquin apologize for encouraging Republicans to vote Sen. Susan Collins out of office. Kevin Raye says Poliquin should be standing up for Collins instead of trying to elect her Democratic opponent, Shenna Bellows.

In the past, Republican primary opponents for Maine's 2nd Congressional District haven't been shy about expressing their criticisms of each other or the political system. But they usually draw a line at recommending that disgruntled voters should elect Democrats instead.

Narcan Kit for Drug Overdoses
Courtesy: The Press of Atlantic City

A bill that would expand access to a lifesaving drug used to prevent overdose deaths appears headed for passage in the Maine Legislature. And a new amendment that includes training for law enforcement has apparently eased some of the concerns of Gov. Paul LePage, who had previously threatened to veto the measure. The governor's spokeswoman now said her boss might let the bill become law without his signature.

An effort to establish so-called "virtual" charter schools in Maine hit a major roadblock in Augusta today, as the Maine House approved a moratorium on online public school classes. In states such as Pennsylvania, more than 3,000 students are enrolled in home-based, online classes from kindergarten through the twelvth grade. But Maine lawmakers say they want to study the issue further, before they open the doors.

The explosion of outside money in state elections shows no signs of abating, according to a campaign spending watchdog group that claims it is also becoming harder to tell where the money is coming from. In its 11th Money and Politics Project report, Maine Citizens for Clean Elections says rather than hearing from the candidates themselves, voters now are more likely to hear about a candidate from third parties with an interest in the outcome of the race.

Political analysts from across the state say that while Mike Michaud's sexual orientation may have triggered headlines and talk programs, the six-term Democratic 2nd District congressman is unlikely to lose votes from his bid to become the country's first openly-gay governor. In fact, some election watchers say Michaud's announcement could actually attract more support from Maine's more progressive 1st Congressional District.

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