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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With electric bills increasing faster than inflation, Rep. Seth Berry, a Bowdoinham Democrat, is proposing lawmakers look at how distribution costs are set by the Public Utilities Commission.

Berry says Mainers can’t afford to wait to address the issue.

“We really can’t wait an entire year to start examining these issues because of what’s at stake for our economy and the challenges these pending further increases present,” he says.

The House has passed a resolution co-sponsored by Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin of Maine’s 2nd District mandating sexual harassment awareness and prevention training for members and staff.

“I don’t care if you are a professional athlete, or if you are in the media business or the entertainment business or certainly in the People’s House, here in Congress. There can be zero tolerance for this sort of behavior,” he says.

Robert F. Bukaty / Associated Press

Maine 1st District Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat, said Wednesday that the Republican tax plan will hurt Mainers, and she urged her House colleagues to reconsider their support. 

In a speech on the House floor, Pingree said she has been meeting with Mainers to talk about the tax proposal and its potential impact on Mainers.

“I recently sat down with Mainers who are terrified of the Republican tax plan," Pingree said. "In tears, a high school teacher listed the items she purchased for her students in need. Under this plan, she will no longer be able to deduct them.” 

Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press

President Trump's nominee to head the federal Department of Health and Human Services was grilled by members of a Senate committee Wednesday, including Maine Sen. Susan Collins.

Collins, a Republican, questioned former pharmaceutical executive Alex Azar about federal policies that she says drive up the cost of drugs for consumers. 

Collins pointed to how drug companies prohibit pharmacists from telling customers that it is cheaper to buy some drugs for cash than to get them through their insurance plan.

The lawyer for Oxford County Sheriff Wayne Gallant says Gallant denies any misconduct toward county employees in the wake of allegations raised by an agent of the union representing county employees.

Last week, Gallant admitted to sending sexually explicit photos of himself to a woman two years ago. The photos, which showed his genitals, were taken in his office while in his uniform.

State revenue projections could be thrown off by the repeal of a school funding initiative.

The state’s Revenue Forecasting Commission says while the economy is growing and revenues are up, it will be hard to predict how the math will work out come tax time. That’s because for the first six months of this year, Maine had in place an income tax surtax on high earners that was passed by the voters to increase school funding. But the Legislature repealed that surtax in July, throwing projections out of whack.

Oxford County Sheriff Wayne Gallant has admitted sending a sexually explicit photo of himself to a woman through text message, and is now facing additional allegations of improper sexual conduct by the union representing employees of the sheriff’s office.

The new allegations against Gallant surfaced late Wednesday afternoon in a published report in the Portland Press Herald. Gallant was first confronted about the sexually explicit photo by Portland TV station WGME on Tuesday, and in a statement admitted that it was taken in his office and that he was partially in uniform.

Lawmakers in Augusta will consider a bill aimed at restricting how banks impose overdraft charges. 

The measure, proposed by Democratic state Sen. Mike Carpenter of Houlton, would prohibit banks from changing the order of transactions in order to maximize the amount of overdraft fees. 

Carpenter says there are reports of some banks in other states that use this practice, called resequencing.

Robert F. Bukaty / Associated Press

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine is being targeted by advertising and telephone campaigns as the political battle over the Republican tax plan heats up.

One TV ad airing in Maine urges Collins to vote for the Senate Republican tax plan, touting it as a tax cut. Another ad from a different political action committee denounces both the Senate and House versions of tax legislation.

“Thankfully, Sen. Susan Collins told us that she would say no to tax breaks for the wealthiest. Call her and tell her not to lose her way,” the ad said.

Independent U.S. Sen. Angus King has called on the Senate to fund federally qualified health centers, a month after they lost 70 percent of their federal funding and amid talks about layoffs and cutbacks in services starting in January.

“If we leave at the end of the year and haven’t done this, it will be a tragedy for rural America, it will be a betrayal of rural America, it will be a betrayal of our constituents,” he says.

The lack of skilled workers facing Maine employers has become a crisis — so says a legislative task force charged with finding ways to improve the state’s labor pool.

The shortage of skilled workers applies to a wide array of both professional and support occupations, the task force has found. There are not enough doctors or nurses in Maine, and the state is also in need of more medical support staff such as phlebotomists.

Assistant Senate Democratic Leader Nate Libby of Lewiston wants legislative rules to require that all lawmakers get yearly sexual harassment training.

Libby says the many reports of lawmakers involved in sexual harassment cases in other states is worrisome.

Independent U.S. Sen. Angus King says he will vote against Brett Talley, who has been nominated by President Donald Trump to become a federal district judge in Alabama.

Talley is the third Trump nominee to be rated as “unqualified” by the American Bar Association. He has never tried a case in court, and failed to disclose that he is married to a lawyer working for Trump.

With the unqualified rating from the ABA, King says that’s three strikes against Talley, who King doubts can “faithfully and independently serve on the federal bench.”

Abukar Adan / Maine Public

Some state legislators say they want to know why it took so long for electric utilities to restore power after the recent storm.

Hearings on the issue are being scheduled in the new year. Rep. Seth Berry, a democrat from Bowdoinham, serves as co-chair.

“What my committee will want to do is to get to the bottom of what happened, why the response took so long -  why, you know, School District 75 was without power and unable to operate for an entire week.”

Robert F. Bukaty / Associated Press/file

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine has joined the growing chorus of Republican senators calling on Roy Moore, the GOP nominee in Alabama, to drop out of his U.S. Senate race.

The list of prominent Senate Republicans includes Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Collins. The three stepped up the pressure on Moore on Monday by calling on Moore to quit.