Mal Leary

MPBN’s Political Correspondent

Journalist Mal Leary spearheads MPBN's news coverage of politics and government and is based at the State House.

A lifelong journalist and Maine native, Mal has worked as both a reporter and editor in broadcast and in print, in both Washington, D.C. and in Maine. He has won numerous awards for his reporting on state government issues and politics.

For several years he owned and operated Capitol News Service, which was located in the State House complex providing news coverage to radio stations as well as newspapers.

Mal is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and Investigative Reporters & Editors and has long been an advocate for open government. He is the SPJ Sunshine Chair in Maine and is currently the president of the National Freedom of Information Coalition based at the University Of Missouri Journalism School and is a Vice President of the Maine Freedom of Information Coalition.

Mal is married with three grown children, several grandchildren and lives in Augusta, within sight of the Capitol dome.

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Maine Senator Susan Collins (R), who serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee, has been successful in getting funding for another DDG-51 Arleigh Burke Class destroyer in the defense budget bill. She says a billion dollars was appropriated for the ship last year. This measure would provide the additional $433 million to build the ship.

“If I hadn’t been able to get the funding in the bill, in the appropriations process, than we would have virtually no chance of getting the funding,” Collins says.

Congressman Bruce Poliquin is being criticized by political rivals for his vote this week on a measure to prohibit federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Democrats accuse Poliquin of flip-flopping on the issue, after voting against a similar measure last week. Poliquin says he was just trying to protect the rights of religious organizations.

Nick Saltmarsh / Flickr/Creative Commons

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine was the lead witness at a lengthy hearing held by the House Agriculture Committee on the problem of wasted food in the U.S.

U.S. Sen. Angus King has signed on to legislation that would impose a penny-per-milligram tax on medications that include opioids.

He says the money would be dedicated to treatment programs.

King says the recently passed Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act has no funding, and it’s needed.

“That’s like sending the fire department to a fire and not give them any water. We’ll give you your water in October. That’s doesn’t do any good for the people that are dying today,” he says.

Mal Leary / MPBN

Gov. Paul LePage says he will ask lawmakers to change the language in a $10 million bond issue for senior housing the voters approved last November.

Appearing on Maine Public Radio’s Maine Calling program, he said he supports the goal of the bond but said its authorizing language needs to be tightened up and sent back to the voters.

“I want to release the bonds but I want them to do good. I want to either keep people in their homes longer by having ramps and mobility issues dealt with,” LePage said.

For years, the cost of the overdose reversal drug Naloxone, often called by its brand name Narcan, has been relatively low, a few dollars a vial. Recently, prices have soared. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and other members of congress are demanding to know why.

Naloxone is made by several manufacturers but that hasn’t kept a lid on pricing. For example: one auto-inject version of the drug has gone from $575 for two-doses to more than $3,500. Even a generic version used by hospitals went from $1.84 a vial to $31.66 a vial last year. Collins says she is baffled at the price hikes.

In the next few weeks Donald Trump is expected to hire a campaign manager for Maine and start to set up a statewide campaign organization.

Maine is one of 15 states that traditionally lean Democrat that the Trump campaign plans to target this year.

Maine Republican Party Chairman Rick Bennett says that’s no surprise to him. He says polling and election results show the state is changing. He points out Republicans hold three of the top five elected positions in the state, which he says is a clear indication voter attitudes are changing.

AUGUSTA, Maine - Maine Rep. Bruce Poliquin has beaten back an attempt to remove his language from the National Defense Authorization Act which would require the Defense Department to buy uniforms and related equipment, such as boots and athletic shoes, from American manufacturers.

"This is a huge victory for the state of Maine if we can bring this to conclusion," Poliquin says. "There are 900 athletic shoe manufacturing jobs that are in our 2nd District, in Skowhegan, Norridgewock, and Norway, Maine."

AUGUSTA, Maine - Maine Rep. Chellie Pingree and Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal have introduced identical bills aimed at reducing the confusion around food labels.

Pingree says a lot of food is wasted because people are not sure whether a food is still edible.

"People see all these different labels, 'best if used by, sell by,' all these other things, and they don't know what it means," she says. "We are just looking for those two possible labels that say 'expires on,' if it is food you really have to worry about, or 'best if used by.' "

The U.S. Senate has approved a compromise measure to provide emergency funding of $1.1 billion to combat the Zika virus.

Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine says Americans have every reason to fear the potential impact of the Zika virus.

“The Zika virus is an imminent and evolving public health threat that cannot wait, that cannot be ignored,” she says.

Collins told the Senate Zika can cause birth defects and there are no studies on how long it may take for health problems caused by the virus to show up.

As Maine’s economy continues to improve, construction projects ranging from new single-family homes to large commercial and government buildings are underway in the state, but builders say they are having trouble finding enough workers to meet the demand.

Matthew Marks, CEO of the Associated General Contractors of Maine, a trade organization representing many Maine construction companies, says some of his members are so busy they can’t handle all the work that’s coming their way.

AUGUSTA, Maine - With only two months left in the budget year, state revenues are running nearly $18 million above projections.  In April alone, state revenues beat projections by $7 million.

State Finance Commissioner Richard Rosen says sales taxes are running better than 9 percent above a year ago, and income taxes continue to exceed projections.

"On the economic side, you have every indication here that Maine's economy continues the solid, steady improvement - the solid, steady growth," Rosen says.

AUGUSTA, Maine - The U.S. Senate Aging Committee, chaired by Maine Sen. Susan Collins, has been holding hearings into drug companies' dramatic price increases on some drugs.  The cases involve drugs that don't have competition from other manufacturers, even though their patents have run out.

Collins says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is moving to implement language she has proposed in a bill that would fast track the licensing of generics.

AUGUSTA, Maine_ Nationally, there have been reports about the difficulty groups are having in finding an independent conservative alternative to Donald Trump to appear on their state ballots. 

BANGOR, Maine - A Maine manufacturer is applauding the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee's approval of an amendment that would require the Department of Defense to procure American-made athletic footwear for its troops.

The amendment proposed by independent Sen. Angus King, a member of the committee, is part of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, and directs the DOD to treat athletic footwear for troops as part of the uniform.