Mal Leary

MPBN’s Political Correspondent

Journalist Mal Leary spearheads Maine Public's news coverage of politics and government and is based at the State House.

A lifelong journalist and Maine native, Mal has worked as both a reporter and editor in broadcast and in print, in both Washington, D.C. and in Maine. He has won numerous awards for his reporting on state government issues and politics.

For several years he owned and operated Capitol News Service, which was located in the State House complex providing news coverage to radio stations as well as newspapers.

Mal is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and Investigative Reporters & Editors and has long been an advocate for open government. He is the SPJ Sunshine Chair in Maine and is currently the president of the National Freedom of Information Coalition based at the University Of Missouri Journalism School and is a Vice President of the Maine Freedom of Information Coalition.

Mal is married with three grown children, several grandchildren and lives in Augusta, within sight of the Capitol dome.

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A bill that would set a firm cap on the number of elver fishing licenses issued each year in Maine received broad support at a public hearing before the Legislature’s Marine Resources Committee. The bill would also allow a small number of new fishermen into the fishery.

The elver, or baby eel, fishery is one of the most lucrative in Maine. Considered a delicacy in several Asian countries, elvers were fetching close to $2,000 dollars a pound last year. But because of the pressure on the resource, the fishery has been closed to new fishermen since 2013.

AUGUSTA, Maine -  Maine firefighters and their families turned out in force Monday to support legislation banning the use of flame retardants in new furniture. 

Former state Sen. Linda Baker, of Topsham, believes her husband, a firefighter, died from cancer caused by flame retardants.  Baker urged passage of the bill.

“This bill will help ensure that the remaining manufacturers remove these toxic chemicals from their products being sold in Maine,” Baker said.

The Legislature’s Appropriations Committee has voted unanimously to recommend a $64 million supplemental state budget to meet needs in state government through the end of June.

Some of the money will go to programs that are short on cash, but most of it is going into the state’s so-called rainy day fund.

Members of two legislative committees heard more details Thursday about a plan to expand treatment for opioid addiction to several hundred more Mainers. The surge in overdoses last year to an average of one death a day helped drive the proposal.

AUGUSTA, Maine - When President Donald Trump unveils his infrastructure plan - expected to happen within the next few weeks - Maine U.S. Sen. Angus King says he hopes it will include an expansion of broadband.

King says Maine has the backbone for broadband in place but many rural areas still lag behind.

“It’s like a superhighway, it’s like an interstate without exits," King says. "It’s very hard to get
the broadband from the superhighway out into the communities, particularly rural communities.”

The U.S. Senate has voted to confirm Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Environmental activists are upset that the vote was allowed to happen before next week’s public release of emails between Pruitt and energy company executives.

The Senate voted 52-46 to confirm Pruitt after failed attempts to delay action on the vote. Lisa Pohlman, executive director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine, says those senators that forced a vote may well live to regret their decision.

Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew is seeking a waiver from federal officials to ban the use of food stamps to buy candy or sugary drinks.

Mayhew says about $13 million a year in Maine is being spent on soda by those who receive supplemental nutrition assistance, commonly known as food stamps. She says taxpayer dollars should be limited to buying nutritious foods, especially since childhood obesity rates have tripled since 1980.

“We don’t need to debate whether or not soda and candy are nutritional,” she says. “They are not.”

Maine Supreme Court Chief Justice Leigh Saufley is asking the Legislature for more funding, in order to maintain support staff and security.

In her address to a joint convention of the House and Senate, the chief justice thanked lawmakers for their support of funding for courthouse improvements and legislation to provide for digital technology in the courts, but she said many challenges remain.

Saufley announced a statewide conference this summer to discuss how to address the ongoing domestic violence problems in the state.

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a resolution that opponents argue will reduce federal funding for several health services provided to the poor.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine’s 1st District says the Republican-sponsored resolution jeopardizes important funding.

“Title X family planning services are an essential lifeline for Mainers who need access to high-quality preventive and reproductive care. From cancer screening to STI testing to birth control,” she says.

Last summer, Progressive stirred controversy by asking to raise auto insurance premiums for older Mainers based solely on their age. Legislation is before lawmakers to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Maine Insurance Superintendent Eric Cioppa proposed clarifying language to the current law.

“Prohibition on refusal to issue solely because an applicant ages is 65 or over, and a clarification that the prohibitions against discriminatory rating practice apply to new applicants as well as existing insured,” he says.

All four members of the Maine’s Congressional Delegation say they support an investigation into Russian attempts to influence last year’s elections, but they differ on how best to accomplish that goal.

Maine’s two senators both serve on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which they say is already investigating possible Russian efforts to influence the U.S. election, and will expand that probe to look into communications between the Russians and former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn before he took office.

Members of the Legislature’s State and Local Government Committee are considering a proposal to more than double the governor’s salary.

Maine pays its governor the lowest salary in the country, just $70,000 a year. The national average is nearly twice that.

Rep. Brad Farrin, a Republican from Norridgewock, is sponsoring a bill to raise Maine’s salary to $150,000 a year.

Courtesy Maine House Democrats

Republican leaders in Augusta, including Gov. Paul LePage, are calling for Democratic state Rep. Ryan Tipping of Orono to step down as co-chairman of the Taxation Committee, citing his connection to a referendum campaign committee. Tipping rejects the criticism as politically motivated, and is refusing to step down.

J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press/file

AUGUSTA, Maine - Maine U.S. Sen. Angus King says that the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation into Russian attempts to influence U.S. elections will also probe former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s communications with Russian officials.

Seeweb / Flickr/Creative Commons

More than 900 schools and libraries across the state depend on funding from the Maine School and Library Network to help pay for high-speed broadband connections. But the revenues that make that possible are decreasing every year.

Six years ago, the fee on charges for in-state telephone calls brought in just over $4 million to help pay for the fiber connections that are the backbone of the broadband system. But by last year, those revenues had dropped to under $3 million, as more and more Mainers have moved from making calls to texting or other forms of cellphone messaging.