The Coastal Packet

Wednesday, April 26

South Portland won't become a sanctuary city

WCSH - South Portland city councilors have backed away from a proposal to become Maine's first sanctuary city... While there appeared to be some initial support for a proposal to keep local police from cooperating with ICE agents, city leaders ultimately drafted a resolution that reiterates current police practices: South Portland Police will not profile, or proactively ask about immigration status.

Saturday, April 22

LePage has forfeited almost $2 billiion in federal funds

Richard Pollak Press Herald - The latest report from the Maine Center for Economic Policy..,  indicts the LePage administration for forfeiting almost $2 billion in available federal aid since 2011.

To date, for example, Augusta has said “No, thanks” to more than $1 billion that would have expanded Medicaid in Maine, via a key provision of the Affordable Care Act (still alive and kicking, despite the Republican Party’s slash-and-burn crusade).

This crucial infusion of federal dollars has been embraced by the District of Columbia and 32 states, including all our New England neighbors. If Maine were to accept its share of Medicaid money, some $246 million would be invested annually in the economy. But because Gov. Trump Lite has a pronounced distaste for Washington money, some 70,000 low-income Mainers cannot access affordable health care.

Friday, April 21

Maine unenployment hits record low

Sun Journal =  As Maine’s unemployment rate continues to improve, setting a new record low in March when only 3 percent of Mainers seeking jobs were without one, politicians seek to take credit.

The newly released statistics from the Maine Department of Labor show, too, that March saw the lowest percentage of government employees in the workforce in at least four decades.

Nationally, the unemployment rate was at 4.5 percent in March, U.S. Department of Labor statistics show.

Wednesday, April 19

Cole enters governor's race

Bangor Daily News - Democrat Adam Cote has made his long-contemplated 2018 run for governor official, becoming the first well-known Democrat to enter the race to replace term-limited Republican Gov. Paul LePage. Share E-mail this story Print this story Save this story

Cote, a 44-year-old Sanford attorney and Army veteran, has been out of politics since he finished second in the 2008 primary in Maine’s 1st U.S. House District. The seat was won by Chellie Pingree, who still holds it. But Cote impressed as a moderate in the field, raising more than $650,000 and beating former legislators Michael Brennan and Ethan Strimling, who have since been Portland mayor.

LePage's new war on the poor won't work either

Hannah Katch, Center on Budget & Policy Priorities - Maine’s Governor Paul LePage reportedly plans to seek federal approval to require low-income adults to prove they are employed in order to keep their Medicaid benefits, basing the approach on a misleading report about the state’s experience with a three-month time limit for childless adults in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly food stamps). The data from Maine show that this time limit has not significantly raised work rates, as the governor claims, but has instead increased hardship for many by cutting off their SNAP benefits, which are equal to about $5 a day in food assistance. Imposing a Medicaid work requirement would likely have the same kind of result, leaving low-income people without health coverage.

In October 2014, Maine began limiting adults without dependent children to just three months of SNAP unless they were working, or could find a spot in a work training program or a place to perform sufficient community service. As a result, thousands of adults lost their food assistance after three months.

State data show that work rates among those who lost benefits barely increased after the time limit took effect (see chart). There’s no evidence that the adults who found work wouldn’t have found it anyway in an improving economy, as many low-income adults work when they can, often in low-wage jobs with high turnover. One survey of food pantry users in Maine found that over half of those who were cut off due to the limit were looking for work but couldn’t find it; more than three-quarters reported increased visits to the food pantry in the year they lost benefits.

Wednesday, April 12

Bangor Maine police blotter

TC, Bangor Police Department, Maine - A man who did not understand why the local pharmacy did not sell or distribute medical marijuana, made statements which made the employees feel uncomfortable. For a short time, he wandered around the store until they called for a police officer.

Patrol Officer Tyler Rusby was sent to speak to the man and found him at a nearby convenience store. As Rusby explained to the gentleman that he could not return to the pharmacy for a year, the clerk from the convenience store came outside and asked Rusby to remove the man from their property.

Apparently the man had gone into the store to tell the clerk that the bottle return machine was refusing to pay him for some returnables he had put inside. The machine had been checked and it became clear the machine was empty, essentially because the man had not placed any returnables inside. This is called lying. It used to be unacceptable. Now it seems like it’s mandatory. And I will tell you people are very good at it.

The man became angry and began to use coarse language toward the clerk and Officer Rusby. He even called Rusby an A**#0!#. I can vouch that Rusby is not an A**#0!#, and so can his mother. She called him a dip@$*1. I agree with Mrs. Rusby.

Rusby told the man that he had to leave the property. The man complied.

On April Fools day, two participants pulled into the parking lot of our station and began to berate one another in a manner not conducive to our credo.

Officer Duncan Bowie went outside to find out what he could do to calm them down. Their story was one which we hear all too often; one car cutting off another car. This sometimes leads to a mutual display of middle digits, which then turns into people taking both hands off the wheel to “one up” the other finger-flinger and pretty soon it starts to look like a bad family reunion in the north end of Boston. Hands, fingers, harsh words, and no pasta or garlic bread in sight.

Bowie used his Scottish gibberish to confuse them, and they calmed down enough to mutually agree that flipping each other off was probably at the root of the problem. He told them to leave the lot and go about their business. They did. Because “adulting” is sometimes the best answer to the question.

A woman who lives in an apartment over a local business called to report the sounds of crashing and banging downstairs. The business was closed and she reported that no one should have been inside.

Officer Aaron Brooker found that windows were smashed and badly damaged. Witnesses had noted the man who did it was now back in his own apartment across the street.

Oddly, when he police officers knocked on the door of the suspects apartment, the music volume changed but he did not answer. Officer Brooker saw him sitting on the couch through an open window and asked the man to come outside. The man walked over to the window and shut it with his foot and returned to his couch.

We get used to this.

Brooker then went back across the street to meet the owner of the business to find out the glass replacement would be in the area of three thousand dollars. It was a big window.

In an attempt to talk to the man again, Brooker and Officer James Burns knocked on the door and the man told them he was a United States Marshal and would only come outside once the officers were dead.

This is always concerning.

The man asked the officers to leave but before they did, he would like to have a beer with them. Seeing this as an opportunity to speak to the man face to face, Brooker agreed to the invitation.

Anyone who has met Brooker knows that in order to talk to him for any length of time, you need to give him beer. This suspect was insightful.

Suddenly the door opened a crack, only limited in its movement by the safety chain, and a Molson Canadian beer was handed out through the slot. Brooker graciously took the beer but before the conversation could even get off the ground the man slammed the door in Brooker’s face again.

Brooker has been in this type of situation in the past, most likely when he was trying to get a date to the Millinocket Senior Prom in the early 90s. He didn’t drink the beer this time. The officers made the decision to leave the gentleman for a few minutes to allow him to calm down.

It was not long before another complainant came forward after he received a similar invitation to have a beer with the man. Only this time the beer was thrown at the man as he passed by the residence.

The beer wielding gentleman was arrested a short time later and charged with criminal mischief and disorderly conduct. Brooker was somewhat disappointed that the Molson had to be placed into evidence. He was later overheard mentioning that “it was warm anyway.”

Here is my final, and my favorite story, of the week.

Last week a complainant reported that a male was drinking a beer near a rental car facility on outer Hammond Street. The complainant said he was no longer “on scene” but gave a clear description of a man wearing black pants, red/black shoes, and a leather jacket.

Officers checked the area and did not find the man. They cleared the scene.

A short time later, in the time frame it would take to walk from outer Hammond Street to our location on Main Street, a man walked into the station and said he wanted to be arrested for violating his bail. Officer Farrar asked him, “Why?”

The man said he had been drinking beer and taking medications that were not prescribed to him. Farrar found in our system that the man also had an active warrant.

Farrar noticed that the man was wearing black pants, red/black shoes, and a leather jacket. He had heard the radio call earlier. Farrar realized this must have been the individual that was reported to be drinking near the rental car facility.

Farrar asked the man if he had called the police on himself earlier. The gentleman confirmed he had called in his location to try to get a ride to jail, but the cops must not have seen him as he walked to the station.

Sometimes, it’s even hard to get arrested in Bangor.

Keep your hands to yourself, leave other people’s things alone, and be kind to one another.

All we have is each other.

iCE arrests Somalian who has lived here for 20 years

Bangor Daily News - Abdi Ali doesn’t have memories of the country to which the United States government intends to deport him.

Ali and his family fled war in Somalia in 1996, when he was 7 years old. They came to the U.S. legally as refugees, and Ali became a permanent resident a year later, according to interviews and Immigration and Customs Enforcement documents.

In his first interview since ICE agents arrested the 28-year-old inside a Portland [ME] courthouse last week, Ali said he is terrified of being sent back to Somalia and does not understand why, after decades in the U.S., he is being deported on a 4-year-old drug possession conviction for which he has already served jail time.

Suicide rate for Maine children up

Maine Public Broadcating - Maine’s child and teen suicide rate increased 30 percent from 2012 to 2014, according to the Maine Children’s Alliance’s annual Kids Count Data Book released Tuesday. Executive Director Claire Berkowitz says the current rate is nearly 7 suicides per 100,000 deaths for kids ages 10-19. “And the national rate is 5.4, so we’re significantly higher than the national rate,” she says.

Tuesday, April 11

Collins may run for governor

Sun Journal - Calling it “a hard decision,” U.S. Sen. Susan Collins said Tuesday she’s mulling whether to run for governor in 2018 in a bid to “try to heal the state and bring people back together.”

Saturday, April 8

UM working on getting more lawyers into rural areas

Maine Public Broadcasting - According to a June 2014 report, just 10 percent of Maine lawyers in private practice outside of Cumberland County are under the age of 35 and almost two-thirds are 50 or older. Concerned that rural counties will face a shortage of lawyers in coming years as aging attorneys retire, the University of Maine School of Law is partnering with several other organizations to launch a Rural Lawyer Pilot Project. The three-year program will place law students with practitioners in communities that would otherwise have limited access to legal services. UMaine Law School Dean Danielle Conway says lawyers in rural communities have full-service practices. “So we’re looking at these student fellows having the ability to get involved in real estate transactions, family law issues, juvenile issues, litigation, criminal law. We’re looking at these student fellows being exposed to all of these areas of practice,” she says. Conway says, during the admissions process, the program will identify prospective

Thursday, April 6

Maine's jobs back to where they were before the Great Recession

Sun Journal - The state's economy is back to where it was before the recession when it comes to jobs, a feat some economists thought might be impossible because of its shrinking workforce. The state has returned to the pre-recession peak of about 620,800 jobs, meaning it has made up the 25,000 or so jobs that were shed, and that happened despite a smaller pool of workers than before the recession, said Glenn Mills, chief economist for the Maine Department of Labor.

Tuesday, April 4

Lobster industry trapped by heroin

Maine lobstermen are plagued by opioid addiction, leading to deaths, ruined lives and even fishing violations to pay for the habit. Some in recovery also recognize the challenge: Getting help to an intensely independent breed that rarely asks for it.

Monday, March 27

ACLU offers help to Maine police dealing with federal immigrant intervention

The ACLU of Maine  sent a letter to all Maine sheriffs and the chiefs of Maine’s largest police departments, outlining the dangers of complying with President Trump’s immigration policy demands. According to the letter, local law enforcement are not obligated under federal law to participate in immigration enforcement, and in fact face potential legal liability for doing so.

“Local law enforcement should know that they have a choice about whether to comply with the president’s demands when it comes to immigration enforcement,” said Zachary Heiden, Legal Director of the ACLU of Maine. “In fact, we’re all better off if they choose not to.”

The Trump Administration has threatened to strip federal funds from jurisdictions that decline to direct local personnel and resources toward federal immigration priorities. However, prior court decisions indicate that the Administration will encounter substantial hurdles if it attempts to follow through on that pledge.

In particular, the ACLU raised concerns over local law enforcement compliance with Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers, or written requests that local law enforcement detain an individual for an additional 48 hours after they would otherwise be released. ICE detainers are typically issued without a judicial warrant supported by probable cause. As a result, once the traditional basis for criminal detention of an individual has lapsed, continued detention violates the Fourth Amendment’s bar on unlawful detentions. Hundreds of detainers have been placed on people not subject to removal, including U.S. citizens. Federal courts around the nation have held ICE and local law enforcement agencies liable for unconstitutional detentions under ICE detainers.

The ACLU also raised concerns over participation in the program under which local police officers perform federal immigration enforcement functions. This includes interrogating and arresting suspected noncitizens encountered in the field who they believe may be subject to deportation. This policy encourages officers to racially profile people on the streets and guess at their immigration status based on appearance or accent. It effectively transforms local police into federal immigration agents, but without the federal funds to cover all of the expenses incurred by the local jurisdiction, and without same level of training that federal agents receive.

Hotels and restaurants doing well

Press Herald - Maine restaurants and hotels had a record-breaking year in 2016, bringing in more than $3.6 billion in combined sales, according to estimates from the Maine Restaurant Association and Maine Innkeepers Association. Overall, lodging and restaurant sales rose 7 percent from 2015

South Portland training immigrants to be EMTs

WCSH - Southern Maine Community College is getting creative with its EMT classes, to help combat a shortage in the state.

The college has a pilot program called "ESOL to EMT." The idea is to take people from other countries already living in Maine, who speak other languages and already have a medical background, and get them back to work in their field.

“It came about as a community need,” said instructor, Paul Froman.

As a working paramedic, Froman says the need for EMTs who can speak other languages, is ever growing along with the state’s immigrant population.

“There are plenty of people who are immigrating here who don't speak English as a primary language,” said Froman. “So being able to train a line of first responders that are able to speak multiple languages - like we were talking about David who can speak six languages fluently – is definitely a benefit to have in the field.”

David Ngandu was a physician in Africa, before he came to the United States. “Having a class like this gives us more assurance that there is still hope that we can be working, helping people, and making a difference in people's lives,” Ngandu said.

Each student in the class has a medical background that wasn’t recognized when they moved. Here, they’re starting from square one, but Ngandu says it’s a step in the right direction.

Friday, March 24

Collins votes to breach Internet privacys

Demand Progress - Today, the Senate voted 50-48 to kill rules the FCC put in place last year to prevent internet providers from selling their customers' private information without permission. That means a green light for Comcast, Time Warner Cable, or GCI to spy on you, and sell private information about you to the highest bidder. Whether you like it or not.  Susan M. Collins, was a swing vote on this issue, and ended up siding with the big cable companies.

Maine's cod fishermen have worst year in history

Wednesday, March 22

Lyme disease survey 

Maine has left $2 billion in federal funds on the table over past five years

Manie Public Broadcating - 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. Martin says both of those programs would have required state funds to be spent to access federal funding.

Tuesday, March 21

Amazon to pay Maine sales tax

Bangor Daily News - Online retail giant Amazon plans to start collecting sales tax April 1 on items sold to Maine residents, according to a report by WMTW.

State officials with the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development confirmed the decision late Monday, saying it would put Maine businesses on a level playing field with sellers on the online marketplace.

“Amazon’s decision to collect and remit sales tax to the state of Maine is an important first step in leveling the playing field,” George Gervais, commissioner of the department, said.

The change will add 5.5 percent to the price of items sold through Amazon, and the decision follows similar moves in other states. Maine is one of only six states where Amazon does not collect and send sales tax to state government.

Sunday, March 19

Mainers could pay up to seven times more for insurance under GOP Don't Care

Press Herald - More than 25,000 older Mainers who have Affordable Care Act insurance could pay up to seven times as much for health insurance under the proposed Republican health care bill under consideration in the House.

Mainers in their 50s and early 60s living in the state’s poorest, most rural counties would be hardest-hit by the Republican bill to replace Obamacare, according to a Maine Sunday Telegram analysis of data from the Congressional Budget Office and the Kaiser Family Foundation, with premiums that could soar from a couple of hundred dollars monthly to more than $1,300 each month. Health care town hall Sunday in Portlan

Saturday, March 18

Maine second in voting turnout

WCSH - Maine had the second highest voter turnout in the country for a presidential election. A new report says 72.8 percent of Maine's voting eligible population cast ballots in the 2016 election. Maine is second only to Minnesota, which reached nearly 75 percent.

Friday, March 17

Organizing a credit union for farmers

Press Herald - A Maine-based project to create a new credit union for farmers and food entrepreneurs has reached an important milestone with the formation of an expert panel that includes one member with a famous grandfather who helped create the modern credit union system. On March 6, Maine Harvest Credit Project hosted its “organizer event,” a critical part of obtaining a charter and achieving recognition as Maine’s 59th credit union. State and federal law requires a new credit union to form a group of organizers to review and adopt its by-laws and appoint the first board of directors

How Trump budget would affect Maine

Thursday, March 16

Maine employment reaches all time high after minimm wage increase

Maine Beacon - Average hourly earnings for private-sector Maine workers increased to $22.70 an hour and total employment increased to an all-time high, with a gain of more than 4,000 seasonally-adjusted jobs from December.

Significant employment gains were seen among Maine’s restaurants and hotels, with the accommodation and food service sector gaining 700 jobs.

Maine’s minimum wage increased from $7.50 to $9 an hour in January, with the sub-minimum base wage for workers who receive tips, like restaurant servers, increasing from $3.75 to $5 an hour. The minimum wage will continue to increase on an annual basis until it reaches $12 an hour in 2020. The tipped wage will reach $12 in 2024.

“Governor LePage, the restaurant lobby and other corporate interests made apocalyptic predictions about the minimum wage increase. These numbers make it pretty hard to claim that the sky is falling,” said Mainers for Fair Wages campaign manager Amy Halsted, who led the successful effort to raise the minimum wage by ballot measure in November. “These are very early numbers, but so far they indicate that the result will be the same as for every other minimum wage increase: workers will make a little more and spend it locally, benefiting both their families and our local economy.”

Another jump in Maine tourism

Press Herald - Maine’s tourism industry saw its revenue increase for the fourth straight year in 2016, growing to $6 billion, a 6 percent bump over 2015. The 35.8 million visitors who fueled the growth included a resurgence of Canadian vacationers...

Mid-Atlantic metropolitan areas such as New York City, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., have become a rich vein for Maine tourism, particularly for first-time visitors who tend to stay longer and spend more money. The state hosted about 5 million first-time visitors in 2016, half a million more than in 2015.

Wednesday, March 15

Lewiston's new common ground: French language

Maine Public Broadcasting - There’s an old French saying, Lose your language, lose your faith. But in one part of Maine, both are being revived with the help of hundreds of French-speaking African immigrants who are connecting with local Franco American residents in ways neither ever expected. That’s changing the dialog in a community where the “language of love” was often suppressed.

Cecile Thornton of Lewiston is what’s known as a Francophone. She grew up speaking French at home and in parochial school. Classes were taught half the day in French and the other half in English. That wasn’t unusual in towns in Maine and around New England where French-Canadian immigrants came to work in factories beginning in the late 1800s. But their language and culture were not readily embraced. And even in the late 1960s Thornton says she still didn’t feel accepted.

“In my high school years I have to say that I was a little embarrassed and possibly, you could say, ashamed of being a Francophone,” Thornton says. “A lot of ‘dumb Frenchmen’ jokes were going around back then. So I worked really hard actually to lose my Franco accent.”

By the time she was 20 and married Thornton says she had dropped French almost entirely. She raised her kids. Moved away. Came back. And about a year ago she found she deeply missed her identity as a Francophone. So she started going to the Franco Center in Lewiston and joined a club that meets twice a week to converse exclusively in French.

What Thornton wasn’t expecting is that half the members of the French club come from Francophone countries in Africa. Over the last decade several hundred refugees and asylum seekers from Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda have settled in Lewiston and Auburn. Thornton says speaking with them has improved her French dramatically. And she’s become close with the new Mainers, so close that a few months ago she traveled to Rwanda to attend a wedding. She says the personal connections wouldn’t have been possible if she didn’t speak the same language.

“It’s meant a lot,” she says. “We’re like family. And for me family is important because my family is away. My two daughters live on the West Coast so it’s nice to have a family.”

“We definitely do talk about the politics. The Americans try to comfort us and tell us, hopefully, it’s going to be okay. And I choose to believe that it is going to be,” says Bright Lukusa, she was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo 19 years ago. French Club meeting. Credit Susan Sharon/Maine Public

Until she arrived in Lewiston with her mother and brother late last year, Lukusa had lived most of her life in South Africa. It’s been a struggle to keep up with her French which she learned as a child, but she says it’s important.

“I’m a strong advocate of being proud of where you come from and never being afraid of who you really are,” she says.

As asylum seekers and new Mainers, Lukusa says she and her older brother and mother are determined to make a new life here. In addition to French club, they take classes, attend Catholic church, volunteer at the immigrant resource center and socialize once a month at “La Rencontre.” or “the gathering.” It’s a luncheon at the Franco Center that typically draws about 200 people interested in speaking French as they break bread together.

Uenmployment rate at new low

Times Record -  The state’s unemployment rate in January was Maine’s lowest since 2001. Preliminary Maine Department of Labor figures show a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 3.5 percent in January. That’s lower than the U.S. unemployment rate of 4.8 percent, and down from Maine’s 3.8 percent unemployment rate in January 2016.

Tuesday, March 14

Angus King on how GOP Don't Care wil hurt Maine

The Hill - Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) is raising warnings that the GOP’s ObamaCare repeal bill will hammer his home state.

“If you were designing a bill to hammer my state, it would be this bill,” King, an Independent who caucuses with Democrats, said at a press conference Thursday.

King warned that a 60-year-old living in rural Aroostook County, near the Canadian border, will see “their support for their healthcare coverage diminish 70 percent.”

A 60 year-old earning $30,000 in Cumberland County — the home of Portland, Maine’s biggest city — would see a 48-percent reduction in federal assistance, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

“The average cut across my entire state for a 60-year-old is 48 percent,” King said.

Sunday, March 12

Down East Notes: Blizzard prep

Bangor Police Department - Mr. Positive is here to tell you the plus side of the impending winter doom.

1. 12" to 24" of snow will fill in most of the potholes (except for that deep one on Hammond Street hill) which will make your commute through Friday smoother and less jarring.

Additionally, the Slim Whitman "Home on the Range" 8-Track cassette will skip far less while you are on the off ramp to Union Street.

2. The talking heads (not the band) on television will be speaking about something other than political mayhem for a few days.

They will be hollering at us about the track of the storm and to take more than a light jacket. That is-if the satellite and cable doesn't go out.

3. There is a chance that the kids will be off from school again this week. That's always fun this time of year. Especially if your daycare facility closes as well. Plan on some well deserved time off the job. Why would anyone want to use their vacation days in the summer when you can use them right now?

See, there is an upside to all this.

Life goes on in the 207, and while it's fun to make light of it, make sure that you prepare for a couple of days of cold and snow.

You don't have to mention bread and milk in the comments, that is actually a problem away from Maine. We can eat all kinds of stuff that we have stored up around the house.

If you don't already have several cans of Spam, you shouldn't even be allowed to get a Maine driver's license.

Check on elderly neighbors and shut-ins, make sure heating equipment ventilation outlets are free from ice, snow and/or debris during the weather event. Put the boots by the door and try to find the matching glove that went missing last week. You have time.

Monday, March 6

Maine lobster industry hits record

Press Herald - The Maine lobster industry is bigger and more lucrative than ever, with fishermen landing more than 130 million pounds of lobster valued at $533.1 million in 2016. That is a record for both landings and industry value, according to Commissioner Patrick Keliher of the Department of Marine Resources, who announced the results Friday at the annual Maine Fishermen’s Forum.

Sunday, March 5

Portland to test jobs program for street people

Portland officials are working on a 36-week pilot program to offer day jobs to street people. A city social worker would drive a van around to busy intersections and offer panhandlers a chance to earn $10.68 an hour cleaning up parks and other light labor jobs. They would be paid at the end of each day.

Saturday, March 4

Janet Mills joins GOP in opposing ranked choice voting

Bangor Daily News - Maine Attorney General Janet Mills and legislative Republicans told the state’s high court on Friday that the ranked-choice voting system approved by voters in 2016 is unconstitutional, setting up a fight with advocates for the law.

The system would apply in gubernatorial, congressional and legislative races with three or more candidates. A winner would be declared if a majority picks a candidate as their first choice, but if that doesn’t happen, the candidate with the lowest share of first-place votes is eliminated and second-place votes for that candidate are reallocated. That process that would be repeated until a majority is won.

Maine Med turning away non-emergency patients

Sun Journal - Maine's largest hospital has had to turn away ambulances with non-emergency patients this week because it's overwhelmed with sick patients. Maine Medical Center says it's the largest number of patients the hospital has seen in 38 years. Other Maine hospitals are nearing capacity as well.

Doctors tell WGME-TV that part of the problem is that there are a lot of sick people right now, but there's still the issue with inadequate capacity. Maine Med has 637 beds but it's not enough.

Tuesday, February 28

Mainers already being hit by new federal ID law

Sun Journal - Mainers will be grounded next year if legislators don't update driver's licenses to comply with federal requirements. Share E-mail this story Print this story Save this story

State and federal representatives are scrambling to fix the situation, which stemmed from fears over a 12-year-old federal act that critics say would create a national database of personal information.

But states are starting to comply with the law because starting this year, federal agencies aren't accepting driver's licenses that don't meet security standards. If your state isn't compliant, your driver's license won't get you on board a commercial aircraft starting next year.

Congress passed the Real ID Act in 2005. Under the act, in time, federal agencies wouldn't accept state licenses that didn't meet heightened security standards and requirements like the state agreeing to share its motor vehicle databases with other states.

Maine became the first state to reject the act in 2007 by refusing to implement the law. Critics called it an unfunded mandate and federal overreach, with concerns over the act's requirements for facial recognition technology on license photos and retention of copies of birth certificates.

Maine is now one of five states — and the only state in New England — that is not compliant with the law. Currently, 21 states and five U.S. territories have received extra time to comply from the Department of Homeland Security.

A Maine-issued driver's license can no longer get you into military bases, nuclear power plants and other federal facilities — though Maine licenses are accepted at federal courthouses. Driver's licenses can still be used to receive federal benefits, vote or enter federal facilities that don't require an ID.

Starting next year, the IDs won't allow you to board commercial planes. Airports would only accept identification like U.S. passports, which cost $135 for first-time applicants.

Monday, February 27

Declining worm harvest

It’s a dirty job, but digging for blood and sand worms along the Maine coast can pay well, particularly in areas of the state where it can be hard to make a living. Maine’s annual harvest of these popular bait worms, however, continues to decline, posing a quandary for marine biologists who cite climate change and predation as possible factors.

Constitutional issues in governor's budget

Maine Resistance Summit in Augusta March 5

Friday, February 24

Chin running again for Lewiston mayor

Maine Public Broadcasting - Ben Chin, the political engagement director for the Maine Peoples' Alliance, has become the first candidate to announce he's running for mayor of Lewiston this November. Speaking to a crowd at Museum LA in Lewiston,

This is Chin's second run for the office. He lost a close race to current Mayor Robert MacDonald in 2015. This time MacDonald is termed out. And Chin says he plans to do things a little differently. To demonstrate his commitment to running what he calls "a people's campaign," Chin says he won't accept any contributions over $100.

Wednesday, February 22

The positive impact of immigrants on Maine

Maine Public Broadcasting - As President Donald Trump prepares to rewrite his controversial travel ban, a coalition of 500 business leaders and mayors is calling for meaningful immigration reform. The group, New American Economy, has released an interactive map with state and congressional district-specific data about the economic contributions of immigrants. Supporters are hoping that it will bolster the argument for expanding immigrant worker visas. According to New American Economy’s report, Maine has nearly 49,000 new immigrants who make up 3.7 percent of the population. The data were gathered using publicly available sources. What they show is that Maine immigrants have a combined spending power of $953 million. They also pay taxes. In 2014, the most recent year for which the data are available, they paid close to $362 million in federal, state and local taxes. Beth Stickney, who represents a new group called the Maine Business Immigration Coalition, points out that the city of Portland and Maine’s 1st

Tuesday, February 21

Medicaid expansion to be on Maine ballot next November

Sun Journal - Mainers will vote in November on whether the state should expand its Medicaid program, following the validation Tuesday of a petition to do so. The citizen-initiated bill, An Act to Enhance Access to Affordable Health Care, seeks for Maine to provide Medicaid services through MaineCare to qualifying people younger than 65 years old, whose income is below 133 percent plus 5 percent of the non-farm income official poverty line.

Sunday, February 19

Poland Spring trying to take more Maine water

Sun Journal - Spurred by strong sales, Poland Spring is looking for two additional spring sites and a home for its fourth bottling plant in Maine, a $50 million construction project.

Mark Dubois, a geologist and natural resource manager for Poland Spring, said this week the company is ready to start looking for the site of its fourth bottling plant in Maine along with two new springs, increasing capacity by about 50 percent of what the company bottled last year.

The company bottled nearly 821 million gallons of water in the state last year. The new trio of projects could give it capacity for 400 million more.

The brand is the No. 1-selling bottled spring water in the U.S.

... Nickie Sekera, a Fryeburg Water District trustee and co-founder of Community Water Justice, which opposed Poland Spring's long-term contract in Fryeburg, said she wasn't surprised at the news, given Poland Spring's fevered marketing push.

She agreed with Dubois that Maine is a water-rich state, but said it's a matter of getting the most value for it locally as well as protecting it for the future. Sekera anticipated community push back as the company looks for sites.

"When resources bypass the full benefit of local people wholesale for the benefit of multinational corporations, we create a situation on the ground where money is funneled up and out," she said. "Maine, with our water, it's something to be very cautious about how we move forward and who gains control over our water and how we can always be sure that local people will come first."

Poland Spring, whose parent company Nestle, headquartered in Switzerland, is among the largest public companies in the world, has nine springs in the state, largely in Western Maine. It employed 900 people at peak last summer, and has bottling plants in Poland, Hollis and Kingfield.

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