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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WASHINGTON - Sometimes you have to wonder about the bill titles they think up in Washington:  How about the VARIETY Act?  That’s the "Vegetables Are Really Important Eating Tools For You Act."  But there is an interesting policy proposal behind the awkward title.

What’s behind the bill is the attempt to convince those on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - known as SNAP for short, and otherwise known as food stamps - to eat more healthy foods.  It offers an incentive to do that by giving recipients more benefits each month.

A proposal before the Federal Communications Commission that would allow Internet providers to set different prices for access has members of Maine's congressional delegation concerned. But that concern may not translate into support for legislation to override a decision by the FCC.

 

So many Americans are concerned about possible changes to the Internet that more than a million comments have been filed with the FCC, crashing the agency’s Web site in July, and leading to a deadline extension now set for Sept. 15.

AUGUSTA, Maine - Maine Gov. Paul LePage and Attorney General Janet Mills just don't see eye-to-eye on the role of the AG's office in representing the governor and other parts of the executive branch of government.  The dispute has become quite vocal, as both Mills and LePage seem willing to make their feelings known.

 

Mal Leary / MPBN

Hundreds of farmers, their families and agri-businesses have taken over the Misty Meadows Farm in Clinton for the annual Maine Farm Days celebration.

Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Commissioner Walt Whitcomb, a dairy farmer,  said it’s a celebration of Maine agriculture.

AUGUSTA, Maine - The State Board of Corrections has voted unanimously to ask lawmakers in January for an additional $2 million, as the state’s county jails continue to face budget problems from higher-than-projected costs and more inmates than estimated.

 

For weeks, the Board of Corrections and its staff have been hearing from county officials about the budget problems facing the jails. They got a supplemental appropriation to get through the budget year that ended June 30, but higher costs of operation, driven by more inmates are continuing in the new budget year.

Susan Sharon / MPBN

AUGUSTA, Maine - Members of the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee meet next month to receive the results of a consultant’s study on the feasibility of locating one or more additional casinos in the state, as well as where they should be located. Lawmakers are optimistic about this study, unlike one last year that accomplished nothing.

 

The state collected $8 million more in revenues for the first month of the state budget year. All three of the top tax sources beat expectations in July, said state Finance Commissioner Richard Rosen.

"The personal income tax doing well, corporate income tax collections doing well," Rosen said.  “The sales tax, for the first time in the last few months, is showing a modest improvement over what was projected."

Mal Leary / MPBN

AUGUSTA, Maine - Members of the Constitutional Coalition of Maine have formed a new group called We The People of Maine.  Phil Merletti, one of the organizers, says the group aims to act as a watchdog over government at all levels in Maine.

"As far as we know, no one has ever organized a constitutional corporation based on the premises that, from this day forward, every action in the state of Maine will be scrutinized and compared to the national and Maine Constitutions," Merletti said today at an Augusta news conference.

Tom Porter / MPBN

WASHINGTON - As part of the proposed budget for the Department of Transportation, the Obama administration is asking for authority to regulate use of GPS devices in vehicles to improve public safety. Members of Maine’s congressional delegation give the proposal mixed reviews.

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AUGUSTA, Maine - Some call them e-cigarettes, others call them personal vaporizers. But whatever you call them, use of the devices is growing, and that has prompted Maine Attorney General Janet Mills to review state laws covering their use. Mills is meeting with health advocates and others over the summer to look at possible changes to state law.

AUGUSTA, Maine - A state commission looking at the high cost of higher education, and the barriers to completing a degree program, reached out today to hear from current students about the costs of attending college. The panel got an earful about increasing costs and hidden expenses that are typically overlooked.

 

Mal Leary

AUGUSTA, Maine - At a State House ceremony, Gov. Paul LePage proclaimed next Saturday, Aug. 16, as "Maine Day." It is a day to celebrate the state, its people and its food.

Gren Blackall, an organizer of the effort to promote Maine Day, explained why he thinks the effort is important.

" What's 'Cinco de Mayo?' It's a day when people jam into the bars in Portland and every city in Maine and what do they do, they celebrate Mexico,” Blackall told reporters.

“Are you suggesting everybody go to a bar today?” LePage joked.

AUGUSTA, Maine - Federal funds for the Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta are in jeopardy. An appeals board at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has ruled against the state in its appeal of the decertification of Riverview to receive federal funds. But the dispute is far from over.

 

Mal Leary / MPBN

President Barack Obama has signed into law a package of reforms that will add about $17 billion to the annual budget of the Veterans Affairs. But the measure also seeks more accountability and provides more options to veterans to get care. Maine’s congressional delegation says a lot more needs to be done to improve the V-A.

U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, a Democrat, is the ranking minority member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee and helped broker the deal between the House and Senate that led to passage of the reform legislation.

The LePage administration will propose rules this month to implement a law passed three years ago by a Republican-controlled Legislature that allows the state to require convicted drug felons to be tested for drug use if they apply for welfare assistance.  The new proposal, which would be applied to those seeking benefits in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, also known as TANF, is as controversial now as when the law was passed in 2011.

 

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