Author: Libby Palanza

Libby Palanza is a reporter for the Maine Wire and a lifelong Mainer. She graduated from Harvard University with a degree in Government and History. She can be reached at palanza@themainewire.com.

The Lewiston Housing Authority’s plan to purchase and convert the Ramada Inn into transitional housing appears to have been halted following the Board of Appeals decision to deny their request for a zoning variance earlier this week. According to the Lewiston Sun Journal, the Lewiston Housing Authority was seeking a zoning variance that would lower the minimum dwelling unit size from 300 square feet to 282 square feet — the size of 80 percent of existing rooms in the former Ramada Inn. The Housing Authority intended turn the former hotel into 117 affordable housing units with “selective services” for those…

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Government over-payment of food stamp benefits cost taxpayers a minimum of $11.2 billion in fiscal year 2022, according to a recent report from the Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA). This is the highest amount that has ever been lost due to over-payment in the history of the program. In 2019, this figure was just $3.4 billion. Based on FGA research, nearly 80 percent of these over-payments are the result of errors at the state level, including overlooking fraudulent uses of the program. In their report, FGA recounts several recent incidents of food stamp fraud that resulted in the loss of…

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A University of New Hampshire (UNH) poll released Wednesday revealed that many Mainers are struggling financially and feeling much less secure than they were just one year ago. Not only are the majority of Mainers worse off than they were at this time last year, but they are also struggling to even afford basic necessities, like housing, food, and electricity. Fifty-seven percent of Mainers reported that they are in a worse financial position now than they were at this time next year. Just 9 percent of respondents said that their financial situation had improved. Interestingly, the percentage of respondents reporting…

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Eight people have been arrested and charged with drug trafficking offenses following a lengthy investigation, the Maine Department of Public Safety said in a Tuesday press release. According to the press release, the arrests were made as a result of a months long investigation into the sale of “crack cocaine, fentanyl, and methamphetamine” in central and mid-coast Maine. The release specifically names Waldo, Kennebec, and Androscoggin counties as the operating range for the drug traffickers in question. DPS states that the investigation entailed “many hours of surveillance, vehicle stops, undercover purchases of a variety of drugs from the group, as…

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A poll conducted earlier this month by the University of New Hampshire (UNH) reveals Mainers’ thoughts on Gov. Janet Mills’ (D) job performance, as well as what they believe to be the most important issues impacting the state. According to the poll, 54 percent of Mainers approve of the job that Gov. Mills has been doing, while 43 percent disapprove and 4 percent are either neutral or unsure. Over the course of 2023, the percentage of Mainers who “strongly disapprove” of Mills has been steadily increasing, while the percentage of those who “strongly approve” has been steadily decreasing. The share…

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A District Court judge has denied Gov. Janet Mills’ (D) request to halt the First Amendment lawsuit filed against her administration by Maine healthcare workers concerning the State’s enforcement of the COVID-19 vaccine mandates. In a ruling last week, Judge Jon D. Levy of the Maine District Court denied a motion to stay filed on behalf of Mills and several other officials in her cabinet. The lawsuit in question — Alicia Lowe, et al., v. Janet Mills, et al. — alleges that the State of Maine violated healthcare workers’ First Amendment rights by refusing to allow a religious exemption to…

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The Maine State Police has dispatched its bomb squad to Walgreens in Topsham in response to the discovery of a suspicious package. This comes after bomb threats were called into multiple Walgreens locations throughout the state yesterday. Investigations into each of these threats were completed, and police determined that no bombs or other explosive devices were present at any of the affected stores. With these threats in mind, however, employees at the Topsham location contacted police around noon today when a suspicious package was left at the FedEx drop box inside their store. As of about 1:30 this afternoon, the…

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Paper and bamboo straws may not be as “eco-friendly” as they seem, according to a Belgian study. Recent research revealed that a number of so-called “eco-friendly” straws contain PFAS — or “forever” chemicals. Not only are these substances harmful to the environment, but they also are believed to pose a risk to human health. Researchers examined straws across thirty-nine brands and five materials — paper, bamboo, glass, stainless steel, and plastic. Extensive testing revealed that PFAS was present in straws of all materials except for stainless steel. PFAS was found more frequently, however, in straws made of plant-based materials. Based…

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For the past three years, Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF) has been locked in a legal battle with the Maine Secretary of State’s office over access to and use of voter registration records. Throughout the summer, high-profile amicus briefs have been filed with the First Circuit Court of Appeals in preparation for the court’s consideration of Public Interest Legal Foundation v. Bellows. Among the amicus curiae — or “friends of the court” — are the Electronic Privacy Information Center, Judicial Watch, and the United States government. Setting the Statutory Stage In February of 2020, PILF filed a lawsuit against the…

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Riding the ferry may become more expensive for tourists and Maine’s island residents alike. The Casco Bay Transit District (CBITD) is considering several budget proposals for the next fiscal year, all of which would involve instituting the ferry service’s first rate increase in 14 years, according to recent reporting from the Portland Press Herald. Although the ferry service is projected to have an estimated $6 million revenue increase in the next fiscal year — absent any budgetary changes — it is also believed that expenses will increase by roughly 5% to $10.5 million. Despite hopes that additional federal funding will…

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Amidst Maine’s push to adopt California-style vehicle emissions standards, the manufacturer that produced the electric buses used by Maine’s major public transit systems has filed for bankruptcy. Proterra — the California-based electric bus manufacturer — produced four buses that are currently in use by Greater Portland Metro and Biddeford-Saco-Old Orchard Beach Transit. The bankruptcy comes a little more than a year after these buses first went into service. The transit systems secured $6 million in federal aid and state funding to purchase the vehicles from Proterra, as well as to install two charging stations at the bus depot and cover…

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A District Court judge just gave the lawsuit brought against the University of Maine System for allegedly violating a former professor’s First Amendment rights the green light. Filed by former University of Southern Maine professor Patricia Griffin, the lawsuit — Griffin v. University of Maine System et al. — accuses the University of violating Griffin’s First Amendment rights by firing her as a consequence of questioning their masking and vaccination mandates in August of 2021. Judge Jon D. Levy of the District Court ruled earlier this month that Griffin’s suit brings a “plausible First Amendment claim” against the University and…

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After nearly a year, the Town of Cape Elizabeth still has an open lawsuit against The Lumbery — a small business located in the center of town on Route 77 that sells locally-sourced wood, garden beds, and tools — and it’s owner, Mike Friedland. A Town Council meeting held earlier this week ended without any further action being taken to end the legal battle. Earlier this summer, the Council voted to direct the town attorney to pursue a court-approved settlement with The Lumbery, but Friedland and other concerned residents want to see the lawsuit dropped outright. [RELATED: Cape Elizabeth Threatens…

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AUGUSTA – Citizens turned out in droves Thursday morning to make their voices heard at the Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s (Maine DEP’s) public hearing on the California-style vehicle emissions rules under consideration by the agency. Two citizen petitions – initiated by the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) – were successfully submitted earlier this year asking the Maine DEP to incorporate “the requirements of the California Advanced Clean Cars II” and “California’s Advanced Clean Trucks regulation” into Maine’s existing regulatory code. Adoption of these new regulations would essentially result in the state phasing out the sale of gas-powered cars…

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The “asylum seekers” that have been living in the Portland Expo were transported north this morning to their new accommodations. City officials in Portland are partnering with unnamed hotels in Freeport and Lewiston to house the remaining 191 asylum seekers from Portland Expo. The City signed a long-term contract with the hotel in Freeport and secured a shorter-term agreement with the hotel in Lewiston. Jessica Grondin — Director of Communications and Digital Services for the City of Portland — told the Maine Wire that officials expect to utilize the Freeport hotel for up to a year and plan to make…

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Maine health care employers may have to defend themselves before the U.S. Supreme Court against an allegation that they violated federal anti-discrimination laws in their efforts to comply with Gov. Janet Mills’ (D) controversial COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Maine health care workers who were fired during the COVID-19 pandemic for being unvaccinated — despite requesting a religious exemption to the state’s mandate — have petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari asking the Court to weigh in on the lawsuit they brought against their employers. The case — Alicia Lowe, et al., v. Janet Mills, et al. — was…

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The Maine Department of Environmental Protection (Maine DEP) is set to hold a public hearing at 9am on August 17 in the Augusta Civic Center to hear from the public about the California-style vehicle emissions regulations currently under consideration by the agency. Public comment on the matter will also be accepted via email through August 28 at rulecomments.dep@maine.gov. Two citizen petitions – initiated by the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) – were successfully submitted earlier this year asking the Maine DEP to incorporate “the requirements of the California Advanced Clean Cars II” and “California’s Advanced Clean Trucks regulation” into…

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Abortion has been at the forefront of politics in Maine this past year. From the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade to Gov. Janet Mills (D) signing a new full-term abortion law last month, Planned Parenthood – the country’s leading abortion clinic operator – has wielded tremendous influence in Maine politics and the Maine Democratic Party. Although the group did not make the list of the ten highest-spending lobbyists this past legislative session, Planned Parenthood’s lobbying expenditures have increased significantly in recent years. According to tax documents, the organization reported $14,361 in lobbying spending in 2019. That number…

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From statewide mandates coming down from Augusta to municipal-level initiatives, affordable housing has become a priority for elected officials in Maine, especially as the supply of available housing remains near historic lows. Realtor.com, Housing Inventory: Active Listing Count in Maine [ACTLISCOUME], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/ACTLISCOUME, August 14, 2023. The City of South Portland is one municipality that has taken the lead on the issue of affordable housing. Most recently, the South Portland City Council’s Affordable Housing Committee launched a program to fund interest free loans for developers working on affordable housing projects. The Committee…

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Child labor violations are on the rise in Maine, according to a report released earlier this week by the Maine Department of Labor (MDOL). Violations include companies employing young individuals without a work permit, allowing children to work beyond the hourly restrictions set for their age, and employing young workers for hazardous jobs they are not lawfully allowed to hold, like using a lawnmower or cooking french fries. “The safety of Maine’s workers, especially our youth workers, is paramount to the Maine Department of Labor. All workers have the right to a safe work environment,” said Michael Roland, Director of…

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Two people were discovered last week to be living on the roof of the Lillian P. Hussey Elementary School in Augusta. The assistant superintendent told the Bangor Daily News that the individuals were camped out at the school during the last weekend in July. The following Monday, a custodian found an unauthorized ladder on the premises, which led to the discovery that two people had been living on the roof. According to the assistant superintendent, the individuals were escorted off school grounds and the campsite was removed. No arrests were made. The assistant superintendent told the Bangor paper that there…

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Rep. Jared Golden (D) of Maine’s Second Congressional District took over as a co-chair of the Blue Dog Coalition earlier this year, and the group is now looking to stage a comeback. Founded in 1994, the Blue Dog Coalition bills itself as an organization of “fiscally-responsible” and “pragmatic” Democrats who are “leading the way to find commonsense solutions” while “appealing to the mainstream values of the American public” and “transcending party lines to get things done for the American people.” Generally, members of the Blue Dog coalition are Democrats who have been elected to represent traditionally conservative districts. The coalition…

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Speak Up for Life, a pro-life organization run by Rep. Laurel Libby (R-Auburn), has decided today against pursuing a People’s Veto of LD 1619, Gov. Janet Mills’ controversial full-term abortion bill. LD 1619 allows unborn babies to be aborted “after viability” if it is deemed “necessary in the professional judgment of a physician.” Previously, Maine law prohibited abortion after the point of viability except in cases where the life or health of the mother was in jeopardy. [RELATED: Dems Block Debate on Gov’s Late-Term Abortion Bill, Refuse GOP Questioning of Medical Experts] After a contentious period of debate, the bill…

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The city of Portland has experienced massive increases in spending to accommodate migrants seeking asylum and residents experiencing homelessness, but those cost increases have been largely offset by increases in revenue from property taxes and other fees, according to the city’s financial records. Taxpayers from the rest of the state have also chipped in thanks to increases in aid from the state government. According to the 2022 Annual Comprehensive Financial Report for Portland, the city had a surplus of $483,847 for the 2021-22 fiscal year, resulting from property taxes, increased revenue from licenses and permits, and “higher than anticipated” parking…

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The Maine Municipal Association (MMA) is hosting a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Cohort Program aimed at providing “a more intimate trajectory toward understanding how to facilitate and lead such DEI efforts in Maine’s communities,” according to an email sent out by the organization earlier this week. The MMA is “a voluntary membership organization offering an array of professional services to municipalities and other local governmental entities in Maine.” Funding for the DEI training program will be provided by the Harold Alfond Center for the Advancement of Maine’s Workforce, part of the Maine Community College System. It is also noted…

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Maine is now on a path toward adopting vehicle emissions regulations akin to those currently on the books in California — rules that will effectively ban the sale of vehicles with gas-powered internal combustion engines in the state. Two citizen petitions – initiated by the Natural Resources Council of Maine – were successfully submitted earlier this year asking the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to incorporate “the requirements of the California Advanced Clean Cars II” and “California’s Advanced Clean Trucks regulation” into Maine’s existing regulatory code. Adoption of these new regulations would essentially result in the state phasing out the…

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The Maine Department of Health and Human Services began “unwinding” MaineCare’s 400,000-plus enrollment two months ago by “redetermining” all recipients’ eligibility for coverage, according to a July 28 press release. Eligibility reviews were “temporarily waived” by the federal government from March of 2020 until April of 2023 “as part of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.” So far, 3,000 individuals have been deemed ineligible and were subsequently unenrolled from the program. 24,769 people were cleared for renewal. Back in 2020, the Maine DHHS halted eligibility checks in light of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) passed by the federal…

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Data available from the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices reveals what organizations are spending the most money to lobby lawmakers in Augusta — and what they were lobbying them about. In some cases, organizations appear to have made this list because their lobbying efforts covered a lot of ground, with time and money being spent to weigh in on a large number of issues. In other cases, organizations funneled significant amounts of money toward lobbying either for or against one or two issues. Regardless of what underlies each organization’s lobbying choices, however, these publicly available records illustrate…

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The Maine Department of Transportation (Maine DOT) reportedly plans to shut down a portion of the Park and Ride on Marginal Way due to the presence of a homeless encampment, according to WGME. Signs posted at the Park and Ride indicate that half the lot will be closed starting this Thursday. The report revealed that those living in the camp were told to move to the side of the lot near Franklin street by Thursday. The Maine DOT told WGME that 84 parking spaces will continue to be reserved exclusively for traditional park-and-ride uses, while the other 84 parking spaces…

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Public records from Maine’s child welfare agency show multiple child protective services employees were disciplined, but not fired, for failures related to child welfare investigations in 2022. In that same year, twenty-eight children died in cases where agents from the Maine DHHS were involved. Although the records concern only a handful of employees from DHHS’s Office of Child and Family Services (OCFS), they provide previously unavailable insight into how the agency is struggling to execute on its core mission. The records also reveal that in several instances caseworkers feel overworked and overwhelmed by the volume of families they are assigned…

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After purchasing a bankrupt Bed Bath and Beyond last month, Overstock – also known as Overstock.Com – has officially relaunched the Bed Bath and Beyond website, rebranding it as a “bigger, better beyond.” Earlier this year, Bed Bath and Beyond filed for bankruptcy and planned to wind down its in-person operations over the course of the following months. At the time, it was unclear exactly how the future would play out for the company, with the possibility of resurfacing as an online-only retailer still on the table. When the company first declared bankruptcy, however, it seemed likely that the chain…

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On Friday, Gov. Janet Mills (D) signed LD 1364 into law, officially establishing a working group to study the potential effectiveness of “Harm Reduction Health Centers,” also known as “safe consumption sites,” as a solution to Maine’s opioid overdose death crisis. Originally, LD 1364 would have authorized municipalities to open facilities, referred to as “Harm Reduction Health Centers,” wherein individuals can use previously obtained illicit drugs under medical supervision without fear of arrest. [RELATED: Maine Bill Would Allow Hard Drug Use at “Safe Consumption Sites”] After this version of the bill was rejected by the Senate in a 16-18 roll…

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The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Constitution and Limited Government held a hearing Thursday on “the dangers and due process violations of ‘gender-affirming care’ for children.” Present at the hearing were six witness, each speaking to a different aspect of the debate surrounding the provision of “gender-affirming care” to minors. Paula Scanlon, a former NCAA swimmer at the University of Pennsylvania, shared her experience as a teammate of transgender swimmer Lia Thomas. Chloe Cole, a 19-year-old female who de-transitioned after receiving “gender-affirming care” as a child, spoke to the ways she was harmed by the medical community’s insistence upon pushing herself…

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Following her veto last week of LD 398 – “An Act to Make Agricultural Workers and Other Related Workers Employees Under the Wage and Hour Laws” – Gov. Janet Mills (D) has signed an executive order establishing a “formal stakeholder group” tasked with developing a minimum wage law for Maine’s agricultural workers set to be introduced next session. Gov. Mills stated last week that she “reluctantly” vetoed LD 398 after hearing concerns “from members of the agricultural community about the true scope of the [bill’s] language.” With a House roll call vote of 61-61, the Legislature effectively upheld Mills’ veto,…

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Harvard Law School professor Mark Tushnet published an open letter alongside San Francisco State University professor Aaron Belkin urging President Joe Biden (D) to “restrain MAGA justices” by allowing the administration to be “guided by its own constitutional interpretations.” Throughout the letter, the professors repeatedly referred to the recently-appointed Supreme Court justices as “MAGA justices,” implying a belief that there is a politically motivated connection between the justices and former President Donald Trump. “Although we continue to support expansion [of the Supreme Court], the threat that MAGA justices pose is so extreme that reforms that do not require Congressional approval…

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State and federal initiatives to make home heating and cooling more environmentally friendly appear to be at odds with recent guidance from the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concerning the production and use of a popular heat pump refrigerant. On Friday, Gov. Janet Mills (D) announced that Maine had “surpassed” her goal of installing 100,000 heat pumps two years ahead of schedule. In light of this, Gov. Mills instituted an updated benchmark of having an additional 175,000 heat pumps installed by 2027. “Since taking office, Governor Mills has prioritized action against climate change in Maine through reducing carbon emissions, transitioning…

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Statistics released by the State of Maine for June 2023 reveal that although the state’s unemployment rate continues to decrease, labor force participation also remains low compared to the rest of the country. For the month of June, unemployment in Maine was at 2.4 percent, representing a .5 percent decrease since January. For reference, the national average unemployment rate for the month of June was 3.6 percent. Last month, Maine’s unemployment rate was the eighth lowest in the nation, tied with Montana and Utah. Labor force participation in Maine, on the other hand, was at 58.4 percent in June. Although…

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During the nearly four-hour Cape Elizabeth Town Council meeting on Monday, twenty residents attended to speak out in support of the Lumbery in its legal battle against the town. After more than an hour of public comment and a forty-minute Executive Session, the Council returned with a draft motion directing the town lawyer to pursue a “consent decree” with the business. A “consent decree” is essentially a “settlement agreement” that is “approved by the court.” According the Cornell Law School, a consent agreement is commonly used in situation such as this wherein the government files a lawsuit against a person…

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In the coming months, Christmas Tree Shops expects to close all of their 70-plus locations nationwide. As a result of these closures, a combined 69 Mainers, working at the store’s the Scarborough and Bangor locations, are expected to be laid off, according to WGME. As of May 2023, Maine’s unemployment rate is the 9th lowest in the nation at 2.4%. At the same time, however, Maine also has one of the country’s lowest labor force participation rates at 58.4%, meaning that a comparatively low percentage of Maine’s working-age population is actively working or trying to find work. Put differently, a…

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Gov. Janet Mills (D) signed LD 1619 into law this morning, officially expanding access to late-term abortion in Maine. Consequently, Maine now has one of the nation’s least restrictive abortion policies. The new law allows women to abort their baby “after viability” if it is deemed “necessary in the professional judgment of a physician.” Previously, Maine law prohibited abortion after the point of viability except in cases where the life or health of the mother was in jeopardy. In the final weeks of the session, legislators approved this change by a roll call vote of 73-69 in the House and…

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On the Maine Wire Podcast, conservative legal activist Leonard Leo discussed his thoughts on the state of education, both on the K-12 and university levels. In terms of K-12 education, Leo focused on the need for transparency and maintaining the proper role of the family when it comes to educating children about controversial subjects. Leo also discussed the ACLU’s apparent philosophical shift in recent years as it has begun to actively advocate against parental rights. Regarding the state of higher education, Leo argued that it is “absolutely, positively horrible.” He warned that universities who create a “hostile environment” for free…

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The Town of York is considering a proposal drafted by York High School’s Eco Club to ban both the use and sale of single-use plastic utensils, straws, and cups. According to the Bangor Daily News, a public hearing is scheduled for July 24 to consider placing the ordinance on the November ballot. Only two cities nationwide, both in California, have to-date enacted bans similar to the one proposed in York. Under the Eco Club’s ordinance, reusable dishes would be required in circumstances where dishwashing facilities are available. Alternatively, businesses that primarily offer take-out would be required to incentivize customers to…

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On the Maine Wire Podcast, conservative legal activist Leonard Leo spoke at length about his views on a number of issues, including the Constitution, guaranteed rights, and the appropriate role of the Supreme Court within the American system of government. According to Leo, the primary function of the Constitution is to limit the government’s powers. All other rights and freedoms, he argues, are only possible if the powers of the government are effectively restrained. Leo further stated that the Constitution, first and foremost, fundamentally guarantees Americans freedom from government overreach. Any “positive rights” the public desires – such as the…

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On Wednesday, Portland officials held a second closed-door meeting to discuss their frustrations after spending three months in the Portland Expo emergency shelter, according to WGME. The temporary shelter at the Portland Expo is set to close on August 16 in order to give cleaning crews enough time to prepare the space for events that are scheduled to be held there beginning in early September. From WGME: City leaders say there are options which they are hoping will come together in the next few weeks, although nothing is definite just yet. Asylum-seekers say they’re anxious over the looming deadline, but…

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The Legislature’s Budget Committee has approved a measure that would give both legislators and the governor a substantial raise beginning in 2024 and 2026 respectively, according to reporting from the Bangor Daily News. If approved, these measures would increase the governor’s salary from $70,000 to $125,000, as well as the governor’s non-audited expense account from $30,000 to $40,000. Legislators’ salaries would also rise from $25,000 to $45,000 a session. The governor’s salary was last raised in 1987, and legislators most recently received a pay increase in 1999. Before going into effect, the Legislature as a whole must vote to approve…

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In the budget signed by Gov. Janet Mills (D) Tuesday, Maine’s free community college program was extended to include students set to receive a high school diploma or equivalent in 2024 and 2025. This expansion represents a roughly $15 million investment for the state. This program was initially intended to aid students who had been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic when it was approved by the Legislature last year. During the first wave of the program, approximately 6,400 students are estimated to have attended community college in Maine tuition-free. “Extending Free College to the Classes of 2024 and 2025 tells…

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Lumbery has begun circulating a petition pressuring the Town of Cape Elizabeth to drop the lawsuit it has filed against the business for continued violation of town ordinances. The petition has now received nearly 1,000 signatures from Cape Elizabeth residents, representing upwards of 10% of the town’s population. Lumbery is currently facing a potential $25,000 in fees to the town for “storing several pallets of firewood, picnic tables, stacks of lumber, and other items in the front” of the store. The approved site plan for Lumbery allows for “minimal outside storage of materials.” The town is also suing Lumbery for…

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Gov. Janet Mills (D) signed LD 535 into law Tuesday, which means minors aged 16 and 17 can receive hormone therapies prescribed to alter their physical sexual characteristics without parental consent and despite parental objections. The bill uses the phrase “gender-affirming hormone therapy,” which it defines as “nonsurgical, medically necessary health care that respects the gender identity of the patient, as experienced and defined by the patient.” Under the new law, 16- and 17-year-olds “diagnosed with gender dysphoria by a health care professional” may be provided “gender-affirming hormone therapy” without the consent of a parent if they inform their health…

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A bill reducing enrollment requirements for minor political parties, introduced by Sen. Eric Brakey (R-Androscoggin), was signed into law by Gov. Janet Mills (D) Monday alongside a number of other bills passed by the Legislature this session. LD 769, “An Act to Reduce the Enrollment Requirement for Minor Political Parties That Seek Official Party Status,” lowers the enrollment required of a minor party for participation in Maine’s primary elections from 10,000 voters to 5,000 voters. The Senate approved the bill in late May, and the House supported the measure in a roll call vote of 104-35 at the end of…

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The Town of Cape Elizabeth is set to consider changes to the town’s zoning ordinances to bring their codes into compliance with the affordable housing law, LD 2003, that was passed by the State Legislature last session. The requirements of LD 2003 are slated to go into effect in 2024 as a result of a bill passed during this Legislative session, LD 1706, that amended the initial measure. The meeting was initially scheduled for this past Monday, but it has since been moved to July 17th due to water damage in the town hall. [RELATED: Deadline Extended to 2024 for…

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Race proved to be a focal point during last week’s South Portland City Council meeting. The South Portland City Council met on July 6, 2023, to discuss, among other things, the appointment of Katherine Borelli to the Civil Service Commission for the remainder of Pedro Vazquez’s unexpired term. The Civil Service Commission is responsible, primarily, for overseeing the South Portland Police and Fire Department’s personnel and hiring. Although the meeting’s agenda stated that Vasquez had resigned from his position, he was actually removed from the Commission as a result of failing to meet the attendance requirements. It was explained during…

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Signs reading “No Yard South” have appeared in lawns across South Portland in recent months. But what exactly is Yard South? Who is proposing it? And why are people opposed? What is Yard South? Yard South, a project of L&R Northpoint Holdings LLC and PK Realty Management LLC, aims to construct 1,200 residential apartments, 100 hotel rooms, and 216,400 square feet worth of buildings for “mixed nonresidential uses” near Bug Light Park in South Portland on the 30 acres of land that formerly served as the West Shipyard where Liberty Ships were built during World War II. PK Realty Management…

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Christmas Tree Shops, a Massachusetts-based retailer, is expected to close all of its 70-plus locations in the near future unless a buyer emerges to take over the franchise. Maine has three Christmas Tree Shops throughout the state, located in Scarborough, Augusta, and Bangor. Reporting from the Bangor Daily News revealed that the closure of the Bangor location will leave one of the city’s major shopping plazas nearly empty, with only a TD Bank and Harbor Freight Tools left open. Specialty Sweets closed its doors in 2019, and Shaw’s left the plaza in 2009 ten years earlier. Several of the other…

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The Town of Cape Elizabeth is pursuing legal action against Lumbery – a business located in the center of town on Route 77 that sells locally-sourced wood, garden beds, and tools – according to reporting from WGME. Eight days ago, Cape Elizabeth’s posted a legal complaint it has filed against Lumbery. “The Town of Cape Elizabeth is obligated to enforce all Town ordinances,” the unattributed statement said. “The Lumbery has been and continues to be in violation of town ordinances. Legal action is always the last resort, but in this case it was necessary after The Lumbery failed to comply…

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Gov. Janet Mills (D-ME) has successfully vetoed LD 2004, the tribal sovereignty bill that would allow the Wabanaki Nations a greater degree of flexibility both in terms of interacting with the federal government and in pursuing economic development. Although the bill was passed by a roll call vote of 100-47 in the House and 26-8 in the Senate, suggesting that it may have had enough support to overcome a governor’s veto, a roll call vote in the House today failed to replicate a similar two-thirds support to overturn Gov. Mills’ veto. [RELATED: Janet Mills Blows Off Historic “State of the…

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On Wednesday, President Joe Biden issued a notice of appeal for the injunction issued Tuesday barring federal officials from collaborating with social media companies to remove or suppress “protected free speech.” Issued by Louisiana Judge Terry A. Doughty, the injunction that President Biden is appealing prohibits a number of named federal agencies from working with social media companies to take down, or limit the circulation of, “protected free speech” on their respective platforms. They were also blocked from flagging specific content for deletion or requesting that companies “Be On The Lookout” for certain kinds of “protected free speech.” In the…

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A federal judge issued an injunction Tuesday that blocks members of the Biden Administration and several federal agencies from working with social media companies to exert any form of control over users’ “protected free speech.” Louisiana Judge Terry A. Doughty’s injunction bars the named agencies, including intelligence agencies, from meeting with social media companies concerning the removal of content or urging companies to alter their guidelines for doing so. The injunction also bars federal officials from “specifically flagging content or posts” for “removal, deletion[, or] suppression.” In addition to this, they are blocked from “requesting content reports” from social media…

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The Supreme Court ruled Friday, in a 6-3 decision, that a Colorado state law compelling a website designer to “create expressive designs speaking messages with which the designer disagrees” stands in violation of the First Amendment. In this case, 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, the owner and founder of the graphic design firm 303 Creative LLC, Lorie Smith of Colorado, wanted to expand her business to include the creation of wedding websites. Given that Smith is opposed to same-sex marriage on religious grounds, however, she did not want to design sites for same-sex weddings. As it stands, Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act…

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Following the Supreme Court’s ruling yesterday declaring the use of race-based affirmative action in college admissions unconstitutional, two of Maine’s higher education institutions have entered the conversation. [RELATED: Supreme Court Declares Race-Conscious College Admissions Unconstitutional in Harvard Case] In a statement issued by Bowdoin College, outgoing President Clayton Rose expressed that “it is clear and deeply disappointing that the court overturned more than forty years of precedent that has enhanced diversity in campus communities.” Rose also argued that the Supreme Court’s “decision undermines the essential work to create an educational environment and experience that prepares students for the diverse worlds…

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The Supreme Court issued an opinion this morning officially declaring affirmative action unconstitutional. The case, Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President and Fellows of Harvard College, posed the question of whether higher education institutions could consider an applicant’s race during the admissions process. In their decision, the Court ruled that Harvard College’s race-conscious admissions process actively violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. “Eliminating racial discrimination means eliminating all of it,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion. The Supreme Court first considered race-based admissions policies in the case of Regents of the University of…

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At 3:45 in the morning on Wednesday, the Appropriations Committee voted nearly unanimously to approve a spending package totaling approximately $800 million. Only one member of the Committee, Rep. Jack Ducharme (R-Madison), voted in opposition to the budget. “We pushed hard for a lot of things that we felt very strongly about, and I’m grateful that we have come together,” Sen. Rick Bennett (R-Oxford) of the Appropriations Committee said. Rep. Melanie Sachs (D-Freeport), chair of the Appropriations Committee, also spoke about the budget. “I want to note the amazing, wonderful investment..in the Maine people that this is going to engender,”…

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The Maine Legislature is set to continue debate over LD 168, a bill that would require a “federally licensed firearms dealer” to facilitate “the sale, transfer or exchange” of a firearm unless the buyer and seller are family members. Originally, the bill would have also allowed buyers and sellers to alternatively satisfy this requirement by obtaining a criminal background check from a “law enforcement agency,” but a House amendment struck this provision from the legislation. The House narrowly approved the bill as amended by a roll call vote of 70-65. No Republicans voted for the bill. Six Democrats joined the…

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Mainers must be 21-years-old to buy tobacco products and at least 18-years-old to use a tanning salon. But if Gov. Janet Mills allows a bill approved this week by Maine lawmakers to become law, then minors as young as 16 will be allowed to get puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones — even in cases where their parents object to the medical intervention. The 73-60 roll call vote in the House fell nearly along party lines. Rep. Sawin Millett (R-Waterford) joined the Democrats in support of the bill, and Rep. Kevin O’Connell (D-Brewer) and Rep. Traci Gere (D-Kennebunkport) joined the Republicans…

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Democratic lawmakers voted Friday to kill a bill that would have prohibited public school employees from addressing students by alternative names or pronouns without written consent from a parent or legal guardian. The bill, LD 678, was defeated first in House and then by a party-line roll call vote of 20-12 in the Senate. The bill originally would have required teachers and other employees to use only the name and pronouns listed on a student’s birth certificate unless written permission was provided. Amended versions of the bill, however, would have required those working in public schools to use the name,…

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The Legislature passed a resolution Friday directing the Governor’s Office to establish a working group tasked with studying the ability of “safe consumption sites” to effectively prevent opioid overdose deaths. “Safe consumption sites” are facilities where individuals can use previously-obtained illicit drugs under medical supervision without fear of arrest. Originally, the Legislature was considering a bill that would have authorized towns and cities to establish “safe consumption sites” if they desired to do so. Proponents of the bill suggested that such sites are essential to addressing the epidemic of drug overdose deaths. Opponents, on the other hand, argued that there…

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Party-line votes in both the House and Senate earlier this week killed a bill that would have required Maine voters to present a photo ID when casting their ballots, whether that be in person or absentee, starting on January 1, 2024. The bill, LD 1365, listed a number of eligible types of photo identification, including a drivers license, state ID, United States passport, military ID, or permit to carry a concealed handgun. Free voter identification cards would have been made available to those who wished to vote but did not have access to one of the other eligible forms of…

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The Legislature voted unanimously this week to ban TikTok from all electronic devices owned or controlled by the state government. Following the initial introduction of LD 1007, a directive was issued by Maine Information Technology (MaineIT) stating that any applications developed by ByteDance Limited, including TikTok, are prohibited from all state-issued devices, as well as any personal devices connected to state systems. MaineIT also this week delivered a memorandum to all state employees instructed them that use of generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies were prohibited. Rep. Nathan M. Carlow (R-Buxton), the bill’s sponsor, testified before the Committee on State and…

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Over the past few days, the Legislature has shot down a series of bills and resolutions aimed at shoring up parental rights, safeguarding against the politicization of education, and expanding opportunities for school choice. LD 1953: Resolution, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine to Establish a Parental Bill of Rights LD 1953, proposed by Rep. Jennifer L. Poirier (R-Skowhegan), would have given Maine voters the opportunity to weigh in a potential amendment to the State Constitution establishing parental rights. The proposed amendment would have read: “The natural, inherent and unalienable rights of minor children are held by their…

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The State Legislature has officially defeated a bill that would have lowered Maine’s sales tax rate from 5.5 percent to 5.25 percent on October 1, 2023, and to 5 percent on July 1, 2024. The bill, LD 1747, would not have impacted the sales tax rates for “prepared food, lodging, rental vehicles, liquor or adult use cannabis.” In 2013, Maine “temporarily” enacted a sales tax increase, raising the rate from 5% to 5.5%, for the period of October 1, 2013 through June 30, 2015, but this change was extended indefinitely in 2015. Assistant House Minority Leader Amy Arata (R-New Gloucester),…

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The Senate voted Tuesday to require MaineCare reimbursement for “medically necessary treatment for or related to gender dysphoria,” following a similar vote from the House earlier in the week. Senate Democrats rejected on party lines an amendment that would have ensured coverage for complications related to, or the reversal of, such so-called “gender-affirming care.” House Democrats had killed a similar amendment earlier in the week. The amendment, introduced by Rep. Katrina Smith (R-Palermo) in the House and Sen. Stacey Guerin (R-Penobscot) in the Senate, would have guaranteed that those who received gender-affirming care would have access to health care for…

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Lawmakers voted Wednesday to kill a bill that would have facilitated the installation of “safe haven baby boxes,” referred to in the legislation as “newborn safety devices,” in hospitals, law enforcement agencies, and fire departments throughout Maine. To date, inaction on the part of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has prevented these facilities from getting safe haven baby boxes installed on their premises. A safe haven baby box “legally permits a mother in crisis to safely, securely, and anonymously surrender if they are unable to care for their newborn.” Last year, the Legislature approved a bill, LD…

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The Senate resoundingly rejected last week a bill that would have raised vehicle inspection costs and given the Maine State Police (MSP) the authority to create an electronic surveillance system to track vehicle inspections. Following the House’s approval of the measure, the Senate defeated the legislation Friday in a 30-2 roll call vote. Sen. Brad Farrin (R-Somerset) and Sen. Matthew Pouliot (R-Kennebec) were the only two legislators in the Senate who expressed support for the measure. Under the original draft of the bill, introduced by Rep. Bruce White (D-Waterville), participation in the program would be voluntary for mechanics, but it…

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Late last week, the Senate defeated a bill that would have abolished Maine’s state income tax and established a zero-based budgeting system. The result was a foregone conclusion considering the Democratic-controlled Legislature dismissed the thought of tax reductions earlier this year during debates over the Gov. Janet Mills’ partisan budget. Had the bill been passed, Maine’s income tax would have been eliminated starting January 1, 2026. The bill, LD 1434, also would have established a zero-based budgeting system in time for fiscal year 2025-26. In the context of this bill, a zero-based budget refers to a system “in which programs…

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The Senate voted Tuesday along party lines to reject a bill that would have restricted the use of private donations to fund election administration in Maine. LD 1869, introduced by Sen. Trey Stewart (R-Aroostook), would have required that municipalities submit a report to the Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices within 30 days of “spending funds received from a private source in excess of $100 on the administration of an election.” Such a report would need to include “the amount of the funds received by the municipality, the source of the funds and a detailed explanation of how the…

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A federal court of appeals released an opinion Friday siding with the Maine Lobstermen’s Association in their lawsuit against the National Marine Fisheries Service, a subagency of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In September of 2021, the Maine Lobstermen’s Association filed a lawsuit against the regulator alleging that their efforts to protect the North Atlantic right whale were unlawful. The North Atlantic right whale has been on the endangered species list ever since the classification was established, and according to a recent report, cited in Friday’s decision, there are only about 368 still alive today. The lawsuit filed…

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Municipalities across the state were granted a reprieve last week when LD 1706 was signed into law, extending the deadline for towns and cities to bring their local housing ordinances into compliance with LD 2003, the affordable housing legislation passed last year. Originally, municipalities only had until July 1, 2023 to figure out how to incorporate the bill’s mandates into their existing local ordinances. In light of LD 1706, however, “municipalities for which ordinances may be enacted by the municipal officers without further action or approval by the voters of the municipality” have until January 1, 2024 to make the…

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The state of Maine has lurched from short-term spending agreement to short-term spending agreement, often using pricey borrowing to pay for Maine’s roads and bridges for years. But Republican lawmakers said Friday they’ve finally won support for a GOP idea that will dedicate tax revenue to an infrastructure spending fund. Under the terms of the supplemental spending bill Republicans and Democrats agreed to this week, the state will dedicate 40 percent of the sales tax collected on vehicle purchases, as well as 40 percent of the sales and use taxes collected by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, to the Highway…

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Maine’s school rank 34th among all 50 states in the nation when it comes to education, according the 2023 Kids Count Data Book published by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Maine’s Department of Health and Human Service Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew touted the report this week in an email to DHHS employees, noting that Maine ranked 12th in an overall measure that included child poverty, health care, and family health. The Annie E. Casey Foundation is a philanthropic organization based in Baltimore that focuses on “developing a brighter future for millions of children and young people with respect to their educational,…

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The State Legislature has rejected a bill that would have expanded school choice in Maine by creating an Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program. The vote fell strictly along partisan lines in the Senate, and nearly along partisan lines in the House. The only Republican to vote against the bill was Rep. Abden Simmons (R-Waldoboro), who just flipped District 45’s seat from blue to red in a special election held last Tuesday. After publication of this story, Rep. Simmons stated that his vote was cast in error. Although he initially attempted to have his vote changed, he ultimately decided not to…

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Democratic House lawmakers on Thursday killed a bill that would have guaranteed parents’ “fundamental right to make decisions regarding the upbringing, education and well-being” of their children. The parental rights bill, LD 1800, died after the House voted to kill it Thursday, with all present Republicans voting in support and all Democrats against. The Senate had earlier voted against the bill, also along strictly partisan lines. Under this bill, parents would have been given the right “to access all information regarding the school activities,” including “all teaching or instructional materials, required textbooks, course syllabi, lesson plans and other teaching aids…

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St. Dominic Academy in Auburn filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the Mills Administration and the Maine Human Rights Commission alleging that state has engaged in religious discrimination against the Catholic school. The lawsuit names Maine Department of Education Commissioner Pender Makin as well as Maine Human Rights Commissioners Jefferson Ashby, Edward David, Ann O’Brien, Mark Walker, and Thomas Douglas, and alleges multiple human rights violations. [RELATED: Maine Education Chief: “Academic Learning” Takes Backseat to Social-Emotional, Gender, and Race…] Joining St. Dominic Academy, which is run by the Roman Catholic Bishop of Portland, are Maine parents Keith and Valori Radonis. The…

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Whether Maine will hike the statewide hourly minimum wage to $15.00 per hour is in Gov. Janet Mills’ hands after lawmakers voted this week on a proposal that would also establish new annual cost of living adjustments. The bill, LD 1376, passed by only a single vote in the House of Representatives, with a handful of Democratic lawmakers bucking party leadership to oppose the bill. The Senate approved the bill by a larger margin Tuesday. Originally, the bill contained language that, in addition to raising the minimum wage to $15 at the start of next year, would have mandated an…

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Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows (D) is going head-to-head with No Labels, the political third party that has pledged to run a “Unity Ticket” in 2024 should the two major parties “select candidates the vast majority of Americans don’t want to vote for.” Secretary Bellows has challenged the validity of No Labels’ 6,000-plus enrollment in the state, claiming that the group misled voters to believe they were signing a petition to support the party, not changing their party registration. These concerns prompted her to send a cease-and-desist letter to the No Labels Party, as well as individual letters to…

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State lawmakers are considering a proposal to let cities and towns create areas where narcotic users can consume the illegal drugs without fearing arrest. A bill under consideration in the Maine State Legislature, LD 1364, would authorize municipalities to open so-called “safe consumption sites,” also known as safe injection sites. The bill outlines a number of requirements which must be met in order for a safe injection site to be approved, including the provision of “a hygienic location supervised by a health care professional and other trained staff where a client may self-administer previously obtained drugs” and “sterile drug use…

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The South Portland City Council is set to hold a workshop on Thursday to discuss implementing a citywide “Pay As You Throw” (PAYT) program for trash removal, intended to be coupled with a curbside food waste collection program. The meeting’s agenda says the purpose of the upcoming workshop is to “provide information to Councilors and the public about the rationale for a PAYT program and what options exist.” Sustainability Director Julie Rosenbach and Sustainability Program Manager Susan Parmelee will be present at the workshop to share additional information and answer questions. A memo from Rosenbach and Parmelee, attached to the…

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Over the past few years, corporate leaders have worked to acclimate to a culture wherein there seemed to be an expectation that brands take a stand on every hot-button topic. This, however, may no longer be the case. American executives and business owners are rethinking their embrace of hot-button left-wing causes — or any political causes, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. Chief Executive of PPG Industries Tim Knavish was quoted by the Wall Street Journal concerning his process for reevaluating the company’s strategy for getting involved in politically charged conversations. “We run a business. We don’t…

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Maine had the third highest percentage of out-of-state campaign contributions during the 2022 election cycle at 67.82 percent, according to a recent report from the campaign finance transparency group OpenSecrets. OpenSecrets is a non-profit organization that specializes in the tracking and analysis of campaign finance data. Out-of-state campaign contributions to federal races have become increasingly common nationwide over the last two decades, due in large part to the ever increasing cost of running for federal office. OpenSecrets reported that in 2000, the average winner of U.S. Senate races spent $7.3 million. Today, the same campaign costs $26.5 million, more than…

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State lawmakers are considering a bill that would increase the cost of vehicle inspection fees and create a new surveillance program that would require auto mechanics to submit information about inspections to the Maine State Police. Rep. Bruce White (D-Waterville) originally proposed the bill, LD 900, to streamline and modernize the vehicle inspections process. But it would also give the Maine State Police the power to create an electronic surveillance system that would track vehicle inspections. The original bill provided that participation would be voluntary for auto mechanics; however, an amendment filed over the weekend would allow the Maine State…

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The Maine State Legislature voted this week to kill LD 1636, “An Act to Ensure the Right to Work Without Payment of Dues or Fees to a Labor Union.” The bill, sponsored by Sen. Eric Brakey (R-Androscoggin), would have prohibited both public and private sector employees from being required to either join a union or pay union dues as a condition of their employment. In testimony before the Joint Standing Committee on Labor and Housing, Sen. Brakey explained that the bill was designed to protect the “unalienable” right to work for “those who are compelled to pay dues or fees…

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Able-bodied adults without children will not be required to work or seek employment for a few more years following a party line vote in the Maine House of Representatives to kill LD 784, “An Act to Establish Welfare Work Requirements for Able-bodied Adults Without Dependents.” Sen. Eric Brakey (R-Androscoggin), the sponsor of the bill, said in his testimony before the Committee on Health and Human Services that work requirements align with the goal of the program. It was one of several bills Brakey proposed this session to reform Maine’s various welfare programs. “For those who are able-bodied and capable of…

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Officials within the Biden Administration are preparing for the possibility that the Supreme Court will strike down its large-scale student loan forgiveness program, according to reporting from the Wall Street Journal. It is expected that the Supreme Court will soon issue a decision regarding the Biden Administration’s plan to eliminate an estimated $430 billion in student loans. Should the Court ultimately kill this program, sources told the Wall Street Journal that the administration is likely going to pursue more targeted policy options aimed at helping those who will soon be required to resume student loan payments following the expiration of…

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The Maine State Legislature is expected to soon put its seal of approval on LD 1101, “An Act to Support Lower Home Energy Costs by Establishing a Home Energy Scoring System.” If signed into law, the bill would require the Efficiency Maine Trust to establish a “home energy scoring system” by June 30, 2024 that would evaluate the energy efficiency of residential buildings. Think social credit score but for how well a residential building is living up to the greenhouse gas emissions goals set by politicians in Augusta. The Efficiency Maine Trust will have the freedom to decide on the…

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Democrats in the State Senate and House of Representatives have officially voted to kill bill that would have required public schools to put curriculum materials and other school records online for parents to see. L.D. 1199, “An Act to Provide Transparency in Public School Curricula,” was sponsored by Rep. Rachel A. Henderson (R-Rumford). The bill would have required school boards to make publicly available online by October 1 of each school year “curriculum and library-related materials,” including teaching materials, a list of required textbooks, syllabi, lesson plans, tests, and “a list of books available in the library and the intended…

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Officials at Gardiner Area High School have implemented a temporary policy banning the display of all flags on school grounds — aside from the American flag — following a recent clash between students putting up LGBTQ+ flags and those hanging Trump flags, according to reporting from WGME. From WGME: School officials say the incident that sparked the ban was when students put up and removed flags inside the school with competing political and social messages. School leaders say the incident led to students picking sides and even what the superintendent described as a heated altercation. Some are upset about how…

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Democrats are poised to kill a resolution from Rep. Katrina J. Smith (R-Palermo) that would have instructed the Maine Department of Education to adopt rules that block public school teachers from engaging in political, ideological, or religious indoctrination. “This resolve protects every viewpoint, because it keeps every personal opinion out of the classroom,” Rep. Smith said in her testimony before the Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs. Smith’s resolution would have instructed the State Board of Education to adopt clear rules and enforcement mechanisms to ensure “appropriate and professional ethical behavior by teachers” by prohibiting them “from using the classroom…

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