A.J. Higgins

State House Bureau Chief

A.J. came to MPBN in August 2007 after a recent stint as a staff writer for Blethen Maine Newspapers, where his work for the Kennebec Journal in Augusta also appeared in the Waterville Morning Sentinel, the Portland Press Herald and the Maine Sunday Telegram.

Prior to joining the Kennebec Journal, Higgins served for 13 years as Political Editor and State House Bureau Chief for the Bangor Daily News.

He began working for the BDN in 1972 while still a senior at Bangor High School when his first job was casting the lead plates for the printing presses in the paper’s stereotype department. In the ensuing 34 years, Higgins moved up to the Editorial Department where he quickly immersed himself in nearly every facet of news reporting, editing and photography.

In addition to his extensive coverage in the greater Bangor area, he also worked in the paper’s Presque Isle Bureau and was named bureau chief of the paper’s Hancock County operations in Ellsworth in 1988. He was assigned to the State House in 1993.

A.J. resides in Manchester with his wife, Diane.

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Gov. Paul LePage reiterated his opposition Wednesday evening to a fall ballot question that, if approved by the voters, would legalize the recreational use of marijuana.

LePage told an audience of about 50 at a town hall meeting in Bangor that he couldn’t understand how Maine could make any money off the drug and said Colorado’s legalization effort has failed to meet revenue expectations. But the conservative Tax Foundation says Colorado’s revenue from marijuana sales may exceed projections by 100 percent this year.

A Bangor nonprofit that provides addiction counseling and services for the poor will be closing its two faith-based drug and alcohol treatment centers after accepting more than $1 million in Medicaid overpayments from the state.

Leeanne Hewey, a board member for Manna Industries Inc., said that the board has been advised by Manna executive director Bill Rae that the publicity surrounding Manna’s financial problems now threatens contributions that fund its other services.

Budget gaps throughout the seven campuses of the University of Maine System have been common-place for years and were once projected to reach nearly $90 million dollars. But a series of cost-cutting measures are paying off for the university system which is pursuing additional restructuring under its One University Initiative. Trustees say the program will eliminate redundancies, but some faculty members say it's degrading the students' educational experience.

Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin of Maine’s 2nd District is drawing fire for a last-minute decision to change his vote on a measure that would have prohibited federal contractors from discriminating against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

The measure failed by a single vote and Poliquin is being assailed by civil rights advocacy groups and by his Democratic opponent in his bid for re-election.

BANGOR, Maine - Representatives of the Chevron Corporation and several state and federal agencies have resolved issues stemming from the oil leaks into the Penobscot River more than 60 years ago at a Hampden oil terminal.

Scott Whittier, a division director for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said the consent decree filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court will assist in efforts to clean up the Penobscot.

Susan Sharon / MPBN

Maine is trying to cope with the challenges posed by decreased property tax revenues in the aftermath of five paper mill closures in just two years.

The Maine National Guard is getting smaller.

Brig. Gen. Doug Farnham says the state will lose about 120 positions over the next three years as the guard realigns its forces.

Farnham, the adjutant general for the Maine National Guard, says the reduction’s phase-in through attrition over the next three years will allow his forces to prepare for the change, which will bring total numbers down to about 2,100 by year’s end.

Susan Sharon / MPBN

More than 1,000 people packed an Orono meeting Monday evening to offer their opinions on the possible creation of a North Woods national monument.

U.S. Sen. Angus King, who served as moderator, said the event at the University of Maine and a smaller one earlier in the day in East Millinocket were set up as a chance for National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis to hear how Maine people feel about a 90,000-acre national park in the shadow of Mount Katahdin. He heard plenty from both sides.

The looming expiration of a 30-year agreement between more than 180 communities and the Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. is triggering a major debate over the future of waste disposal in northern Maine.

PERC, which generates electricity with its Orrington incinerator, would like to keep its arrangement going with the towns. But a coalition of communities is pursuing a competing proposal involving a newer technology and a facility that hasn’t even been built yet.

Last year, Maine passed a law designed to ensure that Maine residents who are seeking asylum in the U.S. have access to state welfare benefits. The LePage administration opposed the measure, and has now implemented the law in a way that some advocacy groups say misses the mark, unfairly excluding dozens of immigrants.

Earlier this year in Freeport, at one in his series of town meetings, LePage tried to make a case against one group of immigrants.

“Asylum seekers, I think the biggest problem in our state and I’ll explain that if you would like,” LePage said.

Courtesy photo

Some key state lawmakers say they’re looking for answers from the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife following a published story about an undercover poaching sting two years ago in northern Maine.

thegrower.org

A bacteria affecting Maine seed potatoes could pose big problems for Aroostook County farmers who sell to growers on the Eastern Seaboard.

Scientists at the Maine Department of Agriculture are consulting with European researchers who have a longer history with the bacteria known as Dickeya dianthicola. The bacteria creates dark lesions on the plant’s stems that farmers associate with a potato disease commonly known as blackleg.

The Advisory Council for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is considering increasing the number of any-deer permits by nearly 60 percent this year in response to the increased numbers of deer in several regions of the state.

Kyle Ravana, the state deer biologist for IF&W, said this year’s mild winter was responsible for a lower than average deer mortality rate, adding that the increase varied depending on the region of the state.

AUGUSTA, Maine - More than 100 Mainers who are deaf, hard of hearing, or both deaf and blind, converged on Augusta today as part of a national civil rights rally that took place at more than 45 state capitols.

The protestors marched around the state Capitol holding handmade signs as part the National Rally for Deaf Rights.

Curt Barsness, of Ellsworth, said the aim of the rally is to raise awareness of problems facing the deaf community, which he said show no signs of improving.

A program aimed at providing veterans with timely and accessible health care has been properly designed but poorly implemented. That’s according to U.S. Sen. Angus King of Maine who conferred with veterans services officials Monday at the Maine VA Medical Center at Togus.

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