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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Next month, the federal highway trust fund will fall so low that it will no longer provide funding for new highway and bridge projects. In Maine, that means about a 30 percent cut in federal funds. Some in Congress want an immediate gas tax increase. But Maine’s congressional delegation is divided on the issue.

Maine U.S. Sen. Angus King told a conference on medical technology in Washington that legislation he is co-sponsoring will reduce the federal regulatory burden imposed on new health technology. by the federal Food and Drug Administration based on outdated laws.

King says the goal of the measure is simple: to lighten the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's regulatory requirements for so-called low-risk software - "the kinds of things you might have on your iPhone to keep track of how many steps you take, or your pulse, those kinds of things," King says.

Tens of thousands of Maine school children are not getting the food they need to thrive and grow. This is despite several federally-funded programs, and local efforts, aimed at keeping them fed and healthy. A new state task force has started working to figure out how to maximize existing programs and develop a plan to fill any gaps.

The U.S. economy added 288,000 jobs in June, the strongest five-month showing since the late 1990s tech boom.

While that's good news, Maine 1st District Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat, says there are still a lot of Mainers that have been looking for work for a long time.

"In spite of the good numbers, I meet people every day who say I am looking, I am looking in my field, I am looking for a job that makes ends meet, and I just can't find it," Pingree says.

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Earlier this year, cable giant Comcast announced a deal to acquire competitor Time Warner Cable. A few months ago communications giant AT&T announced a deal to acquire Direct TV. All four companies operate in Maine, and the new media behemoths would control large shares of both the multichannel TV market and Internet services.

Mal Leary

More than 150 members of the Maine Army National Guard’s 133rd Engineering Battalion returned home today to hundreds of family members and friends at the Augusta State Armory. After nearly a year in Afghanistan, soldiers wasted no time reuniting with family.

Members of Maine’s congressional delegation are concerned with the United States Supreme Court ruling today that family-owned corporations do not have to provide insurance coverage for contraception under the Affordable Care Act.  The court ruled, 5-4, that requiring such insurance coverage violates a federal law protecting religious freedom.

Maine has had a prescription drug monitoring program since 2003.  Designed to prevent and detect prescription drug diversion, it's an electronic database of all transactions involving controlled substances. In other words, it's a way for pharmacists and physicians to keep track of the types and quantities of pills that are being prescribed.  But the program is voluntary. And with drug overdoes deaths climbing, Maine's attorney general says it's time to beef up the program and its mission.

Mal Leary

State revenues were off in May by just over $14 million, reducing the state’s revenue surplus to less than $19 million for the budget year that ends June 30. 

Finance Commissioner Richard Rosen says the drop was a timing issue for income tax withholding payments and the taxes paid by insurance companies, and that  by the end of this month that $14 million should be totally made up.

At the end of last year, scores of tax breaks expired affecting both businesses and individuals. They range from a tax break for teachers who buy school supplies out of their own pockets to write-offs for business equipment purchases, and a special tax break for Puerto Rican rum production. The members of Maine's congressional delegation want some of the tax breaks extended, but question the likelihood, given the politically-charged atmosphere on Capitol Hill.

There is a rare point of agreement among the three leading candidates for governor: They all agree that the bump up in the state's bond rating is good news. A few years ago, Moody's Investor Services lowered Maine's credit rating slightly by saying it had a negative outlook for its Double A-2 rating. For the bond sale scheduled for later this month, Moody's improved that status to a "stable outlook." And Gov. Paul LePage says a further improvement could propel a major bond package from the administration.

Gov. Paul LePage has suggested that top Democrats at the State House "butt out" of the business of the executive branch. It all started last week when Senate President Justin Alfond and House Speaker Mark Eves sent a letter to LePage urging that he immediately terminate the controversial contract with the Alexander Group to study the state's welfare system. The governor responded with a letter and some comments. And the partisan tensions that characterized the legislative session are continuing long after the last bang of the gavel.

Congressman Mike Michaud, the Democratic candidate for governor, is defending his record and that of the House Veterans Affairs Committee that he has served on during his dozen years in Congress.

Michaud says many problems raised over the years by the Veterans Affairs' Office of the Inspector General have been addressed, despite allegations by Gov. Paul LePage that they have not.

Mal Leary / MPBN

Maine Democrats are gathering in Bangor this weekend for their biennial party convention with this year’s elections the main agenda item. Democrats want to energize their rank and file members to support party candidates this fall.

  Democrats are gathered here in Bangor's new Cross Insurance Center, where Republicans met last month. The convention is just getting underway with most of the activity scheduled for tomorrow.

The two Republican candidates for Congress in the state's 2nd Congressional District squared off Tuesday in their only statewide broadcast debate. Bruce Poliquin and Kevin Raye pulled no punches in the hour-long debate, taped for air Wednesday on MPBN.