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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It’s not just schools that are worried about falling behind due to snow days, t’s the Maine legislature as well.

Over this week and last, lawmakers have lost three work days to snowstorms. Senate President Mike Thibodeau, a republican from Winterport, says the complexity of some issues, such as tax conformity, also are slowing down the legislative process. He says leaders are trying to find ways to get caught up.

“My guess is that we are going to end up with some Fridays and Mondays…we are going to push these committee five, maybe six days a week,” he says.

Jacquelyn Martin / Associated Press

Independent U.S. Sen. Angus King of Maine questioned Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Tuesday on a proposal to open most of the coastal areas of the United States to exploratory drilling for gas and oil.

An internal memo from the Maine Department of Labor indicates that a new $90 million unemployment claims system is not working properly and should not have ever been put online without considerable testing.

The document, which is marked “confidential,” also says that hundreds if not thousands of Mainers who were eligible for unemployment benefits either did not receive them in a timely manner, or never got them at all.

Susan Walsh / AP Photo

After months of trading insults and threats, President Trump has agreed to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un by the end of May. U.S. Senator Angus King says that’s a cautiously positive development.

“There is a lot of preparatory work which needs to be done but if we start saying there are conditions, we may not get there and I think that would be a mistake.”

Maine Public

The majority of the legislature’s State and Local Government Committee has voted against passage of a resolution that seeks to insert a balanced budget amendment in the federal constitution.

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Commissioner Ricker Hamilton says he welcomes an outside review of the way the agency handles child abuse complaints.

Hamilton says the agency is already taking steps to rectify problems identified by the children’s welfare ombudsman, who has determined that the department’s assessment process has too often failed to move swiftly enough to protect children.

U.S. Senator Angus King is warning fellow members of the Senate Armed Services Committee that Russia is trying to use the strengths of democracies to undermine them in what he calls a style of "political judo." 

“Our strength is our freedom and our First Amendment and our free press and our open society, and that’s exactly what they are using to turn it back on us and divide us,” says King.

King says the Russians have also turned to social media and other forums to influence what he calls a de-unification of Europe.

ALEX BRANDON / AP Photo

The Department of the Interior is proposing to open nearly all of the nation’s coastline to exploratory drilling for oil and gas. The feds held an open house in Augusta Wednesday to collect public comment, which was largely in firm opposition.

Photo: Caroline Losneck / Maine Public

The legislature’s Education Committee has unanimously endorsed a bill that would allocate $1 million per year to firefighter training facilities.

Maine is one of the few states that has no central fire training facility, which would offer trainees experience in fighting all types of fires.

Lyman and Dayton fire chief Roger Hooper says the profession requires hands on training.

“We don’t get there by watching TV and movies,” says Hooper. “We get there by having a place where we can go and practice these skills and get and competent and proficient at it.”

smilla4 / Flickr/Creative Commons

By a vote of 8-2, the majority of lawmakers on the Legislature’s Taxation Committee is supporting a tax break for Bath Iron Works of $60 million over the next 20 years.

Under the amended bill, BIW must invest at least $200 million in the facility and keep a stable workforce of 5,500, or face a reduction in its tax credit.

“I think that lost in the discussion was the fact that $200 million is going to get invested in this community,” says state Sen. Dana Dow, a Republican from Waldoboro who supported the measure.

Maine Sen. Susan Collins is leading an effort to force the U.S. Department of Transportation to require that  airline fares be clear and understandable to consumers.

“I’m not trying to dictate what airlines can charge, or what services they can charge for," she said, in an interview with Maine Public. "But I do believe there should be complete transparency.”

Maine Public

Governor Paul LePage wants to use part of a projected increase in state revenues to pay for more tax cuts. He’s included that proposal into a bill that would conform Maine tax laws to changes in the federal tax code enacted in December.

Mal Leary / Maine Public

Supporters of stronger gun laws rallied at the State House in Augusta Thursday, trading chants with NRA members who had come in support for gun rights.

The rally was called by the Gun Safety Coalition of Maine to oppose a bill that would allow guns in school parking lots. The measure is designed to allow parents dropping off their child at school to have a gun in their vehicle.

The sponsor of a bill that would allow parents to drive onto school property with a gun in their vehicle has asked a legislative committee to kill the measure, but it will still face debate in the legislature.

VIRTUALGLOBETROTTING.COM

The LePage administration is endorsing legislation to build a new pre-release center in Washington County. However, lawmakers are concerned that the new center would do little to offset the impact of closing of the Downeast Correctional Facility.

Aaron Chadbourne, a senior policy advisor to Governor LePage, told members of the legislature’s criminal Justice committee that the new facility would house only 20 inmates while the recently-closed Downeast Correctional Facility held as many as 150.

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