Maine Public

It's Thursday and time for Across the Aisle, our weekly foray into Maine politics. This week, Cynthia Dill, an attorney and former Democratic legislator; Meredith Strang Burgess of Burgess Advertising and Marketing, who served in Augusta as a Republican; and Dick Woodbury, an economist and former independent lawmaker.

A Maine-based group of companies has purchased the former Old Town pulp mill complex, which has had several different owners in recent years.

OTM Holdings LLC says it plans to redevelop the site into a wood fiber-based complex with multiple tenants. The group’s business development director, Everett Deschenes, says the investors in the project are involved in Maine’s forest industry. He says with so many Maine mills shutting down in recent years, the investors have had problems getting rid of their low-grade fiber.

Mainers will see a significant increase in their state income taxes unless the Legislature takes swift action this session.

The sweeping tax reform bill passed in December will reduce federal income taxes for most Mainers, but because the state piggybacks its own income tax on the federal code, the changes will result in major increases in state income taxes.

Finance Commissioner Alec Porteous gave the bad news to a joint meeting of the Legislature’s Appropriations and Taxation committees.

A state panel in New Hampshire on Thursday rejected a permit the Northern Pass power line project needs to move forward.

Just last week the project’s developers beat out others — including several in Maine — that bid for a massive renewable energy contract sought by Massachusetts.

The Northern Pass project would sluice electricity from Canada’s Hydro Quebec dam system through New Hampshire to Massachusetts customers.

A coalition of Maine communities spent most of last year trying to break free from contractual agreements with the Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. in Orrington. But now those same 100 communities want to sign an interim agreement with the trash-to-energy plant.

Cold weather, heavy snow and high winds over the past several weeks have pushed back the planned April 1 opening date for the new Fiberight biogas solid waste facility in Hampden. That has forced members of the Municipal Review Committee to look for other places to send their trash.

Officials at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor say a hard drive containing personal information on 660 patients has gone missing from the hospital after construction.

EMMC President Donna Russell-Cook says the drive doesn’t have the kind of information that could easily enable ID theft.

“There is no — I repeat no — Social Security number, no financial information, no addresses would be located in that. We understand the concern that patients may have but we feel the risk is very low,” she says.

Officials say Carbonite’s decision to trim its workforce at a Lewiston call center over the last few years while still taking advantage of a state tax incentive program doesn’t violate the program’s terms.

Doug Ray of the Maine Department of Economic And Community Development says that’s because the company gets the benefits of the Pine Tree Development Zone program for every job it adds to the economy, even if the company is offering fewer jobs this year than it did last year.

Jim Mone / AP Photo

The Maine House has failed to extend a moratorium on the recreational marijuana market, voting 81-65 to oppose a bill extending the moratorium that expired Thursday until May 1.

It has been over a year since Maine voters legalized the sale of recreational marijuana. But state lawmakers continue to disagree about how the retail market should operate, and others don’t want to see it created at all.

Robert F. Bukaty / Associated Press File

Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin of Maine’s 2nd District has raised more than $2 million for his re-election campaign, well outpacing his opponents.

Reports filed with the Federal Elections Commission indicate that Poliquin, the sole Republican in the race, has raised nearly $2.2 million.

The Cumberland County district attorney dropped action Thursday against nine people arrested last year for trespassing at the Portland offices of U.S. Sen. Susan Collins.

The senator asked the district attorney to not to charge the protesters — most of them religious leaders — if they agreed to donate $100 each to a victims compensation fund. Members of the multidenominational group were arrested and briefly held when they refused to leave her office to protest her support for a tax overhaul enacted last year.

Brian Bechard / Maine Public

Maine school districts learned Wednesday how much state funding they will be getting from the state this year, a crucial factor administrators use to calculate their districts' annual budgets.  

The yearly allocations are based on the state budget passed in July. That bill included an increase of $162 million for education funding, for a grand total of $1.1 billion.

FatCamera/Getty Images

  In President Trump's State of the Union speech Tuesday night, he emphasized the need to invest in the workforce:

"....and let's support working families by supporting paid family leave," the president said.

Paid maternity leave is an idea that's been around for decades, but currently only a third of employers offer the benefit. Proposals at the national and state level would expand access to paid leave, but opponents say a mandate would be bad for businesses.

Abukar Adan / Maine Public

Indigenous leaders Wednesday night urged the Wells-Ogunquit Community District to stop using Native American imagery, including its Warriors football mascot.

Their remarks came at a meeting of a 25-person advisory committee formed in December to study the issue  after the school's mascot came under public scrutiny in the fall.  

Amelia Tuplin, a Micmac Indian from Lisbon, first raised the issue of the Native American mascot, after accusing Wells-Ogunquit fans of racist behavior at a football game in October.

A legislative committee is considering new oversight options in response to a federal report that sharply criticized Maine for failing to investigate the deaths of Mainers with developmental disabilities in the Medicaid program.

A report from the Federal Office of the Inspector General (OIG) says the state failed to investigate the deaths of more than 130 Medicaid recipients with developmental disabilities. The OIG report found that nine of the deaths were unexplained, suspicious or untimely.

Maine Public

Jason Savage, the Executive Director of Maine's Republican Party, was already under fire for his connections to an anonymous political attack website known as the Maine Examiner. Savage is now admitting that he didn't file income tax returns for two years.