Maine Public

LEWISTON, Maine - The Maine affiliate of Susan G. Komen, an organization dedicated to combating breast cancer, is closing after 20 years. 

Former director Victoria Abbott says declining participation in Komen's largest fundraisers - its races - forced the branch in Bangor to close.

"This year we had 1,700 participants, which was down 1,100 from last year - it was 2,800," Abbott says. "And then we were down about a thousand from the year before."

Abbott says the Bangor branch will close at the end of the month.  

State regulators are asking a biomass electricity company to explain why it’s not paying loggers for fuel, even though it received a state subsidy for that purpose.

Last year Maine lawmakers and Gov. Paul LePage authorized state utility regulators to award biomass electricity companies more than $13 million to boost payments for power generated in Maine. The goal was to assist Maine’s beleaguered forest products industry in the wake of multiple mill closures.

But loggers say one company that won a bid for the subsidy isn’t paying its debts.

Local property taxes are too high, and the state should do more to relieve that burden. That was the message from some who testified today before the Legislature’s Taxation Committee, which is considering several proposals aimed at providing more state aid to local government.

Robert F. Bukaty / Maine Public

Even in this politically polarized era, there is one issue on which most state policymakers agree: Maine’s roads and bridges are in desperate need of repair. The only debate is how to pay for it, in a time of declining gas tax revenues.

Mal Leary / Maine Public/file

Gov. Paul LePage claimed Wednesday that he did not sign a bill last year that diverted over $13 million to several ailing biomass facilities, though he actually did.

At his town hall forum at Spire 29 in Gorham, the governor was asked by a woman in the audience why he vetoed a hotly debated solar bill, but signed a controversial biomass bailout.

“Well ma’am, I will tell you, both of them were disasters and I didn’t sign off. I did not sign that bill. It went into law without my signature,” LePage said.

A.J. Higgins / Maine Public

Several investigations are underway into what prompted American Airlines to remove a blind Maine woman from a plane in Washington, D.C., and leave her in the terminal with her seeing eye dog.

February saw a hike in real estate values in Maine compared to the year before, but a decline in the number of homes sold.

The Maine Association of Realtors says the statewide median was up 12.5 percent to $180,000 during the month of February. However, sales eased almost 13 percent.

Association President Greg Gosselin says stormy weather last month had an effect on sales numbers, as did this not being a leap year. He says a major contributor to the price increase is tight inventory.

Public Domain

Lawmakers are considering a proposal that would abolish Columbus Day in Maine and replace it with Indigenous People’s Day.

Supporters argue that continuing to honor Columbus sends the wrong message of glorifying colonization, racism and genocide.

“This day will provide us an opportunity to honor our indigenous people and reflect upon what their contribution means to our state’s history. This bill displaces Columbus Day,” says Rep. Scott Hamman, a Democrat from South Portland who sponsored the bill.

AUGUSTA, Maine - Maine U.S. Sen. Susan Collins got her chance to question President Trump's labor secretary nominee Alex Acosta at his confirmation hearing Wednesday.

Collins told Acosta she is concerned about funding for the Trade Adjustment Act that provides job retraining programs.

“The so-called 'skinny budget' that was released last week proposes large cuts in the Department of Labor, but it is unclear what happens to TAA,” Collins said.

PORTLAND, Maine - A coalition of Maine individuals and organizations Wednesday launched a "Together for Medicaid" campaign to urge Congress to vote against the American Health Care Act. 

PORTLAND, Maine - Maine Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree spoke on the U.S. House floor Wednesday in opposition to the Republican replacement bill for the Affordable Care Act. 

Pingree shared the story of Maine resident Ed Saxby, who has stage 4 cancer, and says he won't be able to afford health insurance without the ACA's tax credits. 

Maine has left nearly $2 billion of federal funds on the table over the past five years, according to a progressive think tank, which attributes half of that amount to a decision to not expand Medicaid.

The Maine Center for Economic Policy says it undertook the study to bring together scattered reports about grants not sought and available funds not accessed by the state. Center Director Garrett Martin says that in addition to the loss of Medicaid expansion funds under the Affordable Care Act, the state missed out on matching highway funds estimated at $196 million.

Patty Wight / Maine Public

This week, an Islamic women’s activist and global advocate for women’s equality is bringing her message to Maine. Zainah Anwar of Malaysia is meeting with students at several schools over the next few days and capping off her visit to the state with a public lecture Thursday evening at the University of Southern Maine.

Tuesday morning, she spoke to students at Deering High School in Portland, where several Muslim female students also shared their experiences.

Robert F. Bukaty / Associated Press file

Some Maine fishermen say that they’ve always been at a disadvantage when trying to compete with their Canadian counterparts. Now, the Maine lobster industry is weighing a pending trade agreement between Canada and the European Union that could adversely affect lobster prices in Maine.

A broad coalition of solar power businesses, environmental advocates and industrial energy users want state regulators to reconsider new rules for solar power adopted earlier this year. But the move may just be a prelude to litigation — or legislative action.

In January Maine’s Public Utilities Commission ordered a 15-year ramp-down of credits rooftop solar users can earn when they put excess electricity on the power grid, often called “net metering.”