Central Maine News: January 27, 2016
These are some of the stories central Maine is talking about today.
(AP) —Gov. Paul LePage has reaffirmed that he won't deliver the State of the State address to a joint session of the Legislature, opting instead to deliver a letter. He said he'd rather talk to Mainers directly at town hall forums. The governor's comments came a day after Senate President Michael Thibodeau and House Speaker Mark Eves sent a letter to the governor inviting him to deliver the annual address.Eves, a Democrat, said he's disappointed that the invitation was declined. He said "the hard-working people of Maine show up to do their jobs and the governor should do his."
(AP) —Gov. Paul LePage says he's planning another, larger bill to address the state's heroin epidemic. The governor said Tuesday night that the $3.7 million drug enforcement and treatment bill he signed last week is a "little round Band-Aid" that gets lawmakers moving. He says he's planning a "comprehensive program that's going to involve a fairly large investment." LePage spoke at a televised town hall forum in Bangor. He addressed a number of subjects including tax policy, energy costs, overcrowded jails, and welfare reform. He repeatedly implored people to pressure lawmakers to stop playing games. The Republican governor twice referred to his critics as the "socialists in Augusta."
(WGME) -- Maine State Police are strongly denying an allegation of racial profiling made by a Waldo County man. The encounter happened around 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 7 on Main Street in Liberty as Orson Titus, who goes by the name of Toussaint St. Negritude, says he was walking home from the public library. Titus told the Belfast City Council last week he feels he's the victim of racial profiling.
He claims a Maine State Police trooper held him for half an hour, asking him the same questions repeatedly. State Police took to Facebook, strongly denying the allegation. They also posted a dashcam video of the encounter, which only lasts 5 minutes.
(AP) — Maine lawmakers are considering a bill that would target out-of-state heroin traffickers by increasing penalties for bringing illegal drugs into the state. Lawmakers heard testimony Monday on the bill that would increase the maximum penalty for importing heroin into Maine from five years to 10 years. Importing large quantities of heroin, cocaine or other drugs could result in a new crime — aggravated illegal importation — that carries a penalty of up to 30 years in prison. Opponents of the bill say prosecutors already have the option of seeking strict penalties for trafficking convictions.
(AP) — Maine's highest court has affirmed a decision that Central Maine Power's "smart meter" system poses no credible threat to the health and safety of customers. Opponents challenged a decision by the Maine Public Utilities Commission that 600,000 smart meters installed in homes and businesses were safe. The opponents say the commission's determination wasn't supported by enough evidence and contend that two of the commissioners gave differing rationales for their decision. The Maine Supreme Judicial Court published a decision on Tuesday that it has sided with the utilities commission. The court ruled that the decision was supported by extensive field-testing of smart meters among other pieces of evidence. Smart meters transmit information to CMP's headquarters in Augusta using wireless technology similar to cellphones that emit radiofrequency radiation.
(AP) — State labor officials say Maine's unemployment rate fell slightly to 4 percent in December to reach its lowest point since 2001. The preliminary seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was down from 4.1 percent in November and 5.5 percent a year ago. The number of unemployed people declined over the course of the year by 11,200 to 26,800. The nationwide unemployment rate of 5 percent was the same as November and down from 5.6 percent a year ago. New England's unemployment rate was 4.7 percent.
(AP) — It's unclear if there is anyone still holed up at a national wildlife refuge in Oregon that an armed group had been occupying. Militant leader Ammon Bundy and several of his followers were taken into custody Tuesday, as they were driving to a community meeting to discuss their views on federal management of public lands. Authorities shot and killed one person, who the Oregonian newspaper says was an Arizona rancher.