Articles by Eric Russell


House narrowly approves controversial ‘takings’ bill

By Eric Russell on April 12, 2012, at 11:53 a.m.
AUGUSTA | The Maine House narrowly approved a controversial bill that rewrites the state’s regulatory land-use rules to allow property owners to sue the state if the property lost at least 50 percent of its value due to a regulation. Currently, if a land-use or environmental regulation diminishes property …

Lawmakers OK bill allowing slot machines at veterans organizations and fraternal clubs

By Eric Russell on April 12, 2012, at 9:39 a.m.
AUGUSTA | Veterans organizations and fraternal clubs would be allowed to operate as many as five slot machines under a new bill the Legislature approved Wednesday. The House voted 88-57 to approve LD 1469 and the Senate unanimously supported the measure later Wednesday pending final approval by the Appropriations …
Chris Rector

Bill seeking to combat unemployment fraud wins Senate approval

By Eric Russell on April 11, 2012, at 2:02 p.m.
AUGUSTA | The Maine House and Senate on Wednesday gave initial approval to a bill that would tighten eligibility requirements for unemployment benefits in an effort to combat fraud. LD 1725, sponsored by Sen. Chris Rector, R-Thomaston, makes a number of changes to how the state distributes benefits for …

Despite protest of ‘a terrible bill,’ Senate gives initial approval to DHHS restructuring plan

By Eric Russell on April 11, 2012, at 12:58 p.m.
AUGUSTA | On the same day lawmakers authorized an investigation of the Department of Health and Human Services, the Maine House and Senate gave initial approval to a bill that would restructure the department. Many Senate Democrats protested — one even called it “a terrible bill” — but it …
Gov. Paul LePage speaks in Rockland in March 2012.

Senate effectively kills bill that sought to remove public access to governor’s ‘working papers’

By Eric Russell on April 11, 2012, at 12:52 p.m.
AUGUSTA | The Maine Senate on Wednesday voted unanimously to postpone indefinitely a measure that sought to exempt from Maine’s Freedom of Access Act any “working papers” created by the governor or members of his staff. Sen. David Hastings, R-Fryeburg, who supported the bill when it passed the Judiciary …

Change in how the state distributes taxes to towns wins initial approval

By Eric Russell on April 11, 2012, at 11:54 a.m.
AUGUSTA | Lawmakers gave initial approval this week to a bill that would change how the state distributes tax revenue to municipalities. LD 1835, sponsored by Sen. Justin Alfond, D-Portland, would kick in only once revenue-sharing is fully funded and would affect only the Disproportionate Tax Burden Fund, commonly …

Labor board rejects union complaint against LePage

By Eric Russell on April 11, 2012, at 11:53 a.m.
AUGUSTA | The Maine Labor Relations Board on Wednesday dismissed the latest complaint filed by the state’s largest public employees union against Gov. Paul LePage’s administration related to bitter contract negotiations dating to last year. The Maine State Employees Association filed the complaint Tuesday requesting that the LePage administration …

‘Fair share’ bill that has avoided up or down vote still causing angst

on April 11, 2012, at 9:05 a.m.
AUGUSTA, Maine — A bill that has gotten zero public debate this session is still causing a great deal of angst among some lawmakers and lobbyists who fear it might sneak through at the last moment. LD 309, known as the “fair share” bill, would eliminate the state’s requirement to collect …

Transportation Committee approves bill aimed at making stricter teen driving laws

By Eric Russell on April 10, 2012, at 7:12 p.m.
AUGUSTA | Lawmakers moved quickly Tuesday on a late bill aimed at creating more deterrents for young drivers who break the law. Members of the Transportation Committee approved most of the items contained in LD 1912, which was sponsored by Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, and was the result of …
David Burns

State accountability office to investigate DHHS

By Eric Russell on April 10, 2012, at 3:42 p.m.
AUGUSTA | Lawmakers on Tuesday authorized a probe of the Department of Health and Human Services over recent computer problems that led to thousands of ineligible people receiving MaineCare services. Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, and Rep. David Burns, R-Whiting, co-chairmen of the Government Oversight Committee, asked the Office of …

Committee approves supplemental budget after stripping many items proposed by LePage

By Eric Russell on April 10, 2012, at 9:43 a.m.
AUGUSTA | Lawmakers on the Legislature’s budget-writing committee came to a consensus late Monday night on a supplemental budget package for 2012-13 that looks quite a bit different than what the governor initially proposed. The budget could be voted on by the full Legislature later this week. Gov. Paul …
Gov. Paul LePage

LePage signs insurance relief bill for agritourism businesses

By Eric Russell on April 09, 2012, at 5:22 p.m.
AUGUSTA | Gov. Paul LePage on Monday signed a new law that protects farmers, beekeepers and others in Maine’s agritourism industry from liability. LD 1605 provides limited protection for landowners as long as they post signs stating that visitors accept the “inherent risks” of any activity associated with their …

House joins Senate on tax bill that Democrats have dubbed ‘mini-TABOR’

By Eric Russell on April 09, 2012, at 4:18 p.m.
AUGUSTA | House Republicans on Monday won the latest round of a bruising ideological battle at the State House over LD 849, a bill that would use surplus tax revenue to lower income tax rates. The 72-68 vote on an amended version of the bill puts the House in …

LePage works to improve job-skills training for Mainers

By Eric Russell on April 06, 2012, at 3:44 p.m.
AUGUSTA | In an effort to boost the new State Workforce Investment Board, Gov. Paul LePage met Friday with its members to talk about creating better opportunities for job-skill training. “Two of my greatest priorities as governor relate directly to workforce,” he said in a statement. “We need to …
Paul Violette

Former Maine Turnpike Authority director Paul Violette sentenced to 3½ years for stealing from agency

By Eric Russell on April 06, 2012, at 3:22 p.m.
PORTLAND | The former director of the Maine Turnpike Authority was sentenced Friday to 3½ years in prison for stealing tens of thousands of dollars from the agency to pay for upscale hotels, meals at fancy restaurants and spa treatments. Paul Violette, who appeared Friday in Cumberland County Superior …
Click the image for a larger version of MPRC's poll results.

Poll: Summers, Dill lead in Senate primary races, King leads overall

By Eric Russell on April 06, 2012, at 10:32 a.m.
AUGUSTA | The first poll conducted since the March filing deadline for congressional candidates shows Republican Charlie Summers and Democrat Cynthia Dill holding early advantages in their U.S. Senate primary races. The poll of 993 registered voters by the Maine People’s Resource Center was conducted from March 31 through …

Senate approves standards-based education bill that was rejected by House

By Eric Russell on April 05, 2012, at 7:16 p.m.
AUGUSTA | After a last-minute amendment, members of the Maine Senate on Thursday went against their House counterparts and voted for a standards-based education bill. LD 1422 was first discussed at length, amended considerably and then approved unanimously several weeks ago by the Education Committee. The measure directs the …

Senate passes bill that repeals union rights of independent child care providers

By Eric Russell on April 05, 2012, at 5:35 p.m.
AUGUSTA | The Maine Senate approved a bill Thursday that removes an exemption in state law allowing independent, in-home child care providers to unionize and bargain collectively. The vote was mostly along party lines. Every Republican except Sen. Roger Katz of Augusta voted for the measure and independent Sen. …
Gov. Paul LePage speaks at a news conference Thursday, Dec. 15, 2011, at the State House in Augusta.

House rejects plan to exempt governor’s ‘working papers’ from public access

By Eric Russell on April 05, 2012, at 5:06 p.m.
AUGUSTA | The Maine House on Thursday overwhelmingly rejected a bill that sought to exempt any “working papers” created by the governor or his inner staff from Maine’s Freedom of Access Act. The 47-98 vote to reject LD 1805 was a bit of a surprise because the bill was …

Governor’s energy bill turning into a political football as session winds down

By Eric Russell on April 05, 2012, at 2:45 p.m.
AUGUSTA | Ever since one of the Gov. Paul LePage’s energy bills was amended and then voted out by a majority of lawmakers on the Energy Committee, his energy director and others have been working hard to return the bill to its original intent. So far, Kenneth Fletcher, the …