Mal Leary

Maine Public 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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Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine’s 1st District questioned Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue Wednesday about proposed cuts in the agency’s budget that could affect organic farmers.

The House Appropriations Committee is holding hearings on the Agriculture Department budget, and Pingree serves on the subcommittee that oversees agriculture. She told Perdue the agency should not decrease funding for programs that have helped organic farmers.

Independent U.S. Sen. Angus King of Maine is urging top Navy officials to find more ships to help interdict drugs coming into the country.

King says there are only enough ships to prevent 25 percent of the known drug shipments coming into the country, and called it a matter of national defense. At a budget hearing Tuesday, he urged Navy officials to divert some warships from current missions to help stop the flow of drugs that are killing Americans every day.

A measure that would have given voters the chance to amend the state constitution and change how citizen initiative questions get on the ballot is dead — at least for this session.

On Tuesday, the Maine Senate approved the measure by the two-thirds needed to send a constitutional amendment to voters, but the House didn’t.

Maine Public/file

The United States Supreme Court has upheld a Maine law that limits noise generated by protestors outside medical facilities.

The case arose when a pastor challenged the state law's noise limit that was used to restrict his anti-abortion protest outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Portland.

Robert F. Bukaty / Associated Press

Congress is in the middle of reauthorizing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps. The House Agriculture Committee has released its draft bill, but advocates in Maine say they’re worried that President Donald Trump may push for cuts or further conditions that could place a burden on low-income families.

Maine voters will decide on an initiative that would provide elderly and disabled people help with daily activities, like bathing and medication management. The Maine Senate Friday voted to hold a public hearing on the measure first, but the House chose to send the issue directly to the public.

Most Senators argued that a public hearing would help to educate the public about the issue they will vote on, but others argued that a campaign before the election would serve that same purpose, and that voters will be educated by the campaign in the fall.

After an emotionally-charged debate, the Maine House passed legislation Thursday that would ban what is called “conversion therapy” for minors. Conversion therapy involves treatments by state licensed professionals intended to change an individual's sexual orientation.

Supporters of the ban argued that the controversial therapy is not supported by science, and that national professional counseling groups have said it is unethical and can be harmful. Portland democrat Rep. Matt Moonen, an openly gay lawmaker, supported the bill.

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The legal sale of recreational marijuana is one step closer to reality. The Maine Senate is backing a bill to allow retail marijuana sales approved by voters in 2016.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke insists that his department is not changing scientific reports to edit out references to climate change. Zinke's response came under questioning by Maine Congressperson Chellie Pingree at a budget hearing Wednesday.

“There is a pending report about the national parks and the impact of climate change on the national parks, and there has been reporting to say there has been some editing to take climate change out of the document.”

Gareth Patterson / Associated Press

The Maine House has given approval to a measure that would ask the voters to change provisions of the the state constitution governing the collection of signatures to initiate referendums. Supporters want to raise the bar for getting questions on the statewide ballot.

The current language in the constitution is over a century old. It requires the valid signatures of 10 percent of the voters in the previous election to initiate legislation that lawmakers must either pass as proposed or send to the voters.

Health groups and providers were out in force to urge lawmakers to fund the expansion of Medicaid in Maine as approved by state voters last year.

There are currently about a quarter of a million Mainers covered by Medicaid, and voters approved an expansion to cover about 80,000 more. At a hearing on the bill to implement the expansion, health care providers joined some uninsured Mainers in urging lawmakers to support funding for the measure.

Maria Pineo of South Portland says she needs expensive medications every day and Medicaid has been a lifesaver for her.

The Maine Senate has upheld Gov. Paul LePage’s veto of bipartisan legislation that would ensure that Mainers are covered for some basic health insurance benefits should the Affordable Care Act be repealed by Congress.

The measure would have required health insurers in Maine to cover pre-existing conditions. Sen. Brownie Carson, a Democrat from Harpswell, argued to override the veto.

“It prevents health insurance companies from declining or cutting off people because of a pre-existing condition," Carson said.

Darron Cummings / Associated Press/file

Secretary of State Matt Dunlap says that he plans to use ranked-choice voting in the June primary elections after all, despite a conflict in election laws triggered by a people's veto petition.  Supporters say they believe the courts will clear up the matter quickly.

Darron Cummings / Associated Press/file

Secretary of State Matt Dunlap told legislative leaders Thursday that a provision in election laws that the people's veto petition blocked means ranked-choice voting cannot be used in the June primaries.

Maine Public

Gov. Paul LePage’s proposal to significantly increase the salary of future Maine governors was before a legislative committee Wednesday. Advocates of the increase say a boost is long overdue.