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.

Ways to Connect

Lawmakers are considering a proposal that would give them, and the public, more time to review a state budget before they are asked to vote on it.

For years, lawmakers have complained about receiving the hundreds of pages of a state budget often just hours before they vote on it. Rep. Steve Woods, a Republican from Greene, says that needs to change.

“This is my fourth term, and every year we get the budget the morning before we have to vote on it. It does not give you time enough to review the budget thoroughly,” he says.

Local property taxes are too high, and the state should do more to relieve that burden. That was the message from some who testified today before the Legislature’s Taxation Committee, which is considering several proposals aimed at providing more state aid to local government.

Public Domain

Lawmakers are considering a proposal that would abolish Columbus Day in Maine and replace it with Indigenous People’s Day.

Supporters argue that continuing to honor Columbus sends the wrong message of glorifying colonization, racism and genocide.

“This day will provide us an opportunity to honor our indigenous people and reflect upon what their contribution means to our state’s history. This bill displaces Columbus Day,” says Rep. Scott Hamman, a Democrat from South Portland who sponsored the bill.

AUGUSTA, Maine - Maine U.S. Sen. Susan Collins got her chance to question President Trump's labor secretary nominee Alex Acosta at his confirmation hearing Wednesday.

Collins told Acosta she is concerned about funding for the Trade Adjustment Act that provides job retraining programs.

“The so-called 'skinny budget' that was released last week proposes large cuts in the Department of Labor, but it is unclear what happens to TAA,” Collins said.

Maine has left nearly $2 billion of federal funds on the table over the past five years, according to a progressive think tank, which attributes half of that amount to a decision to not expand Medicaid.

The Maine Center for Economic Policy says it undertook the study to bring together scattered reports about grants not sought and available funds not accessed by the state. Center Director Garrett Martin says that in addition to the loss of Medicaid expansion funds under the Affordable Care Act, the state missed out on matching highway funds estimated at $196 million.

The U.S. is not putting enough effort into defending itself against cyberattack, according to U.S. Sen. Angus King, who delivered his concerns to colleagues on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

King says the emphasis has been on building new hardware and more sophisticated weapons while the Russians have focused on ways to disrupt the increasingly technology based defense systems.

“I did a quick calculation. For the price of one F-35 the Russians can deploy 4,000 hackers and trolls. And they have been remarkably successful at a very low price,” he says.

The voter-approved surtax to provide additional money for Maine’s schools was both attacked and supported at a lengthy public hearing before the Legislature’s Taxation Committee.

School funding has long stirred political passions in Maine. In 2004 a group led by the Maine Education Association successfully passed a citizen-initiated referendum calling on the state to pay for 55 percent of the cost of local schools. Successive legislatures ignored that vote.

AUGUSTA, Maine - Maine lawmakers are considering legislation that would require school lunch breaks to last at least half an hour. 

Most schools in Maine limit student lunch periods to 20 minutes. Michelle Lamb, of South Portland, says that short time period is a problem for students, including her 10-year-old son.

“My son often brings home a half-eaten lunch," Lamb says. "When I ask why, he says he didn’t have enough time to eat. He doesn’t tell me he wasn’t hungry, but he tells me he was too rushed to eat.”

The Maine Legislature is considering a bill that prohibit the keeping of any kind of list or registry of gun owners in the state. It has some backing, but even supporters say the current version goes too far.

The measure, as drafted, would ban the keeping of any list of Maine gun owners in any form, including any computer database or paper document. Windham Republican Rep. Patrick Corey introduced the measure.

“The release of information about gun ownership has the potential for the discrimination, retaliation, harassment and victimization of gun owners,” he says.

Maine already allows people 21 and older to carry a concealed firearm without a permit, and now lawmakers are considering a measure that would lower that age to 18.

Supporters, like Rep. Rich Cebra, a Republican from Naples, say 18-year-old Maine citizens should have the same rights as those over 21.

“Law-abiding, responsible young people who fit in that category should be allowed to exercise their rights as any other adult in Maine,” he says.

A proposal that would take away health insurance and retirement benefits from state lawmakers had a quick hearing at the State House on Wednesday. It didn’t get much support in committee.

Rep. Brad Farrin, a Republican from Norridgewock, is proposing that members of the Legislature, who work part time, no longer receive paid health insurance or retirement benefits. He says few other Mainers who work part time get those kinds of benefits.

The Legislature is considering a bill that would establish a grant program to pay up to half the cost of jail-based drug treatment programs.

Saco Sen. Justin Chenette says his proposal has support from county sheriffs, including York Sheriff Bill King.

“Problem of addiction has evolved into a public health and public safety crisis. While enforcement and drug interdiction should certainly be a part of our response, our community members need treatment to combat their addiction,” King says.

AUGUSTA, Maine - The top leaders of the Marine Corps faced hostile questioning by members of the Senate Armed Services Committee over the posting of sexually explicit photos of female Marines to social media sites.

Maine Sen. Angus King, an independent, told Marine Commandant Robert Neller that he was at first angry as he read reports of the scope of activity, "Anger and disappointment to, really, sadness. This is a sad day for the Marine Corps and for our armed services," King said.

AUGUSTA, Maine - A Harpswell lawmaker is proposing a system for boaters to safely dispose of maritime flares.  But state Fire Marshal Joe Thomas says it’s not needed.

Rep. Joyce McCreight, a Democrat from Harpswell, introduced the bill after local lobstermen told her of boxes of old flares that have been stored in garages and barns that they didn’t know how to dispose of.

“ 'What am I supposed to do with my expired flares?' " McCreight says one lobsterman asked her. "He told me he and other lobstermen have sheds, garages, basements, full of these explosive devices.”

Maine law currently prohibits police officers from engaging in fundraising for any reason, even to assist a fellow officer’s family in crisis. The legislature is considering a proposal that would carve out a narrow exception to that ban, but opponents say there are good reasons why the law is in place.