LePage vetoes Democrats' welfare bill, 2 others
AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - Maine Gov. Paul LePage has vetoed a bill that would direct the administration to report on efforts to combat welfare fraud.
The bill introduced by Democratic Rep. Drew Gattine of Westbrook requires the Department of Health and Human Services to report annually to the Legislature on its efforts to investigate fraud in MaineCare and programs like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
In his veto letter, the Republican governor said the department would need additional resources, but that lawmakers stripped the funding from the proposal.
The Democratic-led Legislature rejected several of LePage's proposals to overhaul the state's welfare programs this session.
LePage also vetoed a bill authorizing some quasi-municipal entities to use video and audio to conduct meetings. A third vetoed measure makes changes to the state's Freedom of Access Act.
LePage: Dems' defeat of his bills is 'shameful'
AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - Maine Gov. Paul LePage is blasting the Democratic-controlled Legislature for blocking his measures to overhaul the state's welfare programs and change the work permit process for minors this session.
In his weekly radio address, the Republican governor called it "shameful" that Democrats would rather defeat his administration's proposals than do what is right for Mainers.
LePage also criticized lawmakers for rejecting his bill that would have created special zones where businesses could get incentives and workers would have the ability not to pay labor dues.
Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves says LePage should focus on growing the economy, but is instead "waging a war on the poor," giving corporate tax breaks and undercutting workers.
Lawmakers plan to return next week to attempt to override any outstanding vetoes by LePage.
Property tax credit getting boost with new law
AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - A new Maine law means that some low-and-middle income families will see their property tax credits double.
The bill Republican Gov. Paul LePage recently signed raises a property tax credit for residents under the age of 65 to $600 from $300. The credits for resident ages 65 and older will rise from $400 to $900.
The bill was introduced by Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves to bolster the property tax credit program, which replaced an old credit that gave homeowners and renters as much as $1,600 back in their taxes.
Democrats said that change was hurting struggling Maine families.
The measure will go into law 90 days after the Legislature ends. Lawmakers plan to return next week to consider any outstanding vetoes from LePage before adjourning.
Wire fraud trial continues in Bangor
BANGOR, Maine (AP) - Prosecutors say the wire fraud trial of a Vermont man convicted for the 2010 explosion that killed two workers at a New Hampshire gunpowder plant will take at least one more day in Maine.
Craig Sanborn's trial resumed in Bangor on Tuesday. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office said the trial is likely to last until at least Thursday.
Federal prosecutors say Sanborn submitted $300,000 worth of false invoices to Brownville, Maine, officials for materials and services he never purchased between November 2005 and January 2008 in connection to an ammunition plant in Maine.
Sanborn was convicted in October of two counts of negligent homicide and manslaughter in connection with the May 2010 explosion that killed 49-year-old Jesse Kennett and 56-year-old Donald Kendall.
Buxton home heavily damaged by fire
BUXTON, Maine (AP) - Buxton's fire chief says it appears a home in town is a total loss after an early morning fire, but there are no reports of injuries.
The blaze at the home on Narragansett Trail was reported at about 3 a.m. Tuesday.
By the time firefighters arrived, there was thick smoke pouring from the building.
The chief says it appears the blaze started in the garage and spread to the house.
About 50 firefighters from several surrounding communities helped fight the blaze, which remains under investigation.
MAINE WILDFIRE WARNING
Officials say wildfire danger high in inland Maine
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - The Maine Forest Service says the danger of wildfires is high for the inland part of the state - from York County to Piscataquis County.
The Kennebec Journal reports that the service responded to nearly a dozen spot fires in southern Maine this past weekend. The paper reported about a half-dozen brush fire reports were logged in local police reports. The forest service advises that the fire danger is high because of dry brush, low humidity and windy conditions.
Parts of York, Cumberland, Oxford, Androscoggin, Franklin, Kennebec, Somerset and Waldo counties are classified as high for predicted fire danger. The forest service said a major cause of spring fires is debris and brush pile burning.
Maine gets $30 million for wastewater upgrades
HARTLAND, Maine (AP) - Seven Maine wastewater facilities are receiving $29.7 million for upgrades.
The in U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development grants were announced Tuesday in Hartland in an event celebrating Earth Day. Nationally, a total $387 million is going to 116 similar projects in 40 states and Puerto Rico.
In Maine, the funds are being used for upgrades to wastewater systems the USDA says will help prevent contamination of the state's waterways.
USDA Rural Development says it invested $462.5 million in rural Maine communities last fiscal year. Those funds went to projects that improve the economic stability of rural communities.
BABY LOBSTER DECLINE
Maine baby lobster decline could end high catches
YARMOUTH, Maine (AP) - Scientists say the number of baby lobsters settling off the rocky coast of Maine continues to steadily decline - possibly foreshadowing an end to the recent record catches that have boosted New England's lobster fishery.
The University of Maine's American Lobster Settlement Index shows that all 11 of the baby lobster settlement areas it tracks in the Gulf of Maine had fewer first-year lobsters in 2013 than 2011. All 11 areas show less than half their 2007 levels. Lobsters typically take about eight years to reach the legal harvesting size.
The downward trend has lobstermen, retailers, state officials and ocean scientists concerned that the impact could soon be felt on dinner tables nationwide. Maine lobsters were 85 percent of the nation's catch in 2012.
Insurance department starts network rules review
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - The New Hampshire Insurance Department is starting its work to assess how it decides whether insurance policies cover a sufficient number of doctors and other providers.
The department is holding an organizational meeting Wednesday for a working group that will review the state's network adequacy rules and make recommendations to the Legislature.
Insurance Commissioner Roger Sevigny first mentioned the working group in February, at a public hearing requested by Frisbie Memorial Hospital. The Rochester facility is one of 10 New Hampshire hospitals excluded from the provider network for individual health plans purchased under the federal health care overhaul law.
Though patients and some hospitals have complained, the insurance department has said the company's network meets or exceeds all current adequacy standards.
NH House voting on 4-cent gas, diesel tax hike
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - New Hampshire's House is voting whether to raise the levy on gasoline and diesel 4 cents - the first increase since 1991.
Supporters say the increase would provide much-needed money to fix deteriorating roads and help finish the expansion of Interstate 93. Opponents say the hike would cost consumers and truckers at the pump and lead to higher prices on goods and services.
The bill would increase funding for highway improvements for two years, then earmark about half the proceeds to pay off $200 million in borrowing to finish the Interstate 93 expansion.
Once the debt is paid off in roughly 20 years, the tax increase would expire. The bill also would eliminate the Exit 12 ramp toll booths in Merrimack.
The House vote is scheduled for Wednesday.
Wall Street bond firm gives NH negative outlook
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - A Wall Street firm is downgrading New Hampshire's bond outlook from stable to negative, but at the same time affirmed the state's high bond rating.
Standard & Poors revised its outlook Monday, citing a recent lower court ruling that a hospital tax generating $185 million in revenue a year was unconstitutional. Standard & Poors said the amount is significantly higher than the state's $9 million in savings. The firm also noted that the public pension fund has a large unfunded liability.
Gov. Maggie Hassan said Tuesday the announcement reinforces the need to address the tax issue and its implications for the state budget. Senate President Chuck Morse said the revised outlook also shows the need to put more into savings and to address the pension system's unfunded liability.
SMALL PLANE CRASH-WINNIPESAUKEE
Small plane sinks in Winnipesaukee; pilot rescued
ALTON, N.H. (AP) - Officials say a pilot has been rescued after a small plane crashed and sank in New Hampshire's Lake Winnipesaukee.
New Hampshire State Police say the pilot, who was found submerged in water and clinging to the plane, was the only occupant.
Fifty-nine-year-old Vadim Gayshan of Sudbury, Mass., was rescued by boat and transported to the hospital. Police say he was suffering from cold water immersion.
He radioed for help just after noon Tuesday.
He told investigators that he had taken off in Fitchburg, Mass., and was looking at ice conditions on the lake and doing touch-and-go landings when he misjudged his elevation. The plane's pontoon caught on the water and caused the plane to crash nose-first.
Police say the plane is submerged in about 105 feet of water.
Final plea set for ex-NH priest charged with theft
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - A judge is set to rule on a deal that would send the former leader of one of the nation's top clergy treatment centers to prison for up to 16 years for stealing at least $4,500 from a hospital, a dead priest's estate and the state's Roman Catholic bishop.
Msgr. Edward Arsenault held several senior positions in the New Hampshire diocese from 1999 to 2009 before becoming president and CEO of Saint Luke Institute in Maryland in 2009. He resigned in May 2013 after allegations arose involving an inappropriate adult relationship and misuse of church funds.
The attorney general's office said in February that Arsenault waived indictment and will plead guilty to three felony theft charges.
The agreement is being heard Wednesday morning in superior court in New Hampshire.
NH professors criticize book dump at UNH library
DURHAM, N.H. (AP) - Some professors at the University of New Hampshire say they are appalled that the school's librarians are throwing away thousands of books to make way for a new collection.
Dimond Library administrators say the books being tossed into a dumpster outside the library haven't been checked out in 20 years.
UNH collection management librarian Jennifer Carroll says they would like to keep every book forever, but have to make room for new bio-science and other collections.
Art history professor Patricia Emison tells WMUR-TV that the book dump is a travesty that she finds appalling.
Emison says the books are needed to a show the history of particular studies.
UNH is discarding 36,000 volumes and storing another 15,000.
Librarians said they are working under a tight timetable.
POLICE STATION SHOOTING
1 hurt in shooting at Bennington Police Department
BENNINGTON, Vt. (AP) - Vermont State Police say one person has been injured during a shooting in the lobby of the Bennington Police Department but that no officers have been wounded.
Spokeswoman Stephanie Dasaro says the person who suffered a gunshot wound during the incident around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday has been taken by helicopter to a hospital in Albany, N.Y. The condition was not immediately known.
The names of the injured person and the officer involved were not disclosed.
State police are investigating the shooting.
SEX ABUSE DAMAGES
Vermont jury awards $35 million in sex abuse case
MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - A Vermont jury has awarded the victim of a sexual abuse $35 million.
A Vermont civil court jury on Friday returned the judgment against Scott Isaacson, of Hyannis, Mass., after finding he abused the now 24-year-old woman during trips to Vermont.
The 56-year-old Isaacson represented himself during the trial. He was convicted of indecent assault and battery on a child under 14 and served more than four years in prison.
Isaacson tells The Associated Press he was wrongly convicted in criminal court and will appeal the civil judgment.
The Associated Press generally does not identify victims of sexual abuse.
The victim's attorney Jerome O'Neill, of Burlington, says he expects it will be difficult if not impossible to collect the $35 million, but says there's symbolic value in the verdict.
Forest Services plans fires in Vermont
RUTLAND, Vt. (AP) - Green Mountain National Forest is planning fires this spring to treat about 300 to 400 acres of national forest land in Vermont.
The Forest Service says the prescribed fires will be used to reduce heavy accumulations of brush to restore critical wildlife habit, regenerate growth and improve watershed conditions.
Officials say the fires in the coming weeks will not impact local residents except that they may see and smell smoke. The Forest Service is working with local fire departments in planning the fires.
The timing is dependent on the weather and vegetation conditions. The Forest Service plans to announce more details and burn locations closer to the date of the fires.
Vermont House to have final look at GMO labeling
MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - The House is slated to take a final vote on legislation that would require foods with genetically modified ingredients to be labeled as such in Vermont and then send it on to Gov. Peter Shumlin.
Three House committees reviewed and endorsed a Senate-passed version of the bill, so passage is expected without having to take the measure to a conference committee.
That would send it on to Shumlin, who has indicated he will sign it.
There have been worries that Vermont becoming the first state to require GMO labeling would attract lawsuits by the food and biotech industries.
But Shumlin said last week he believes changes from the original version of the bill have made it defensible in court.
Vermont attorney general to talk predatory lending
MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell is going to be talking about what he sees as the growing problem of illegal lending.
Sorrell will be discussing the issue Wednesday at the Statehouse and outlining what he feels will be a comprehensive effort to address it.
3 rescued from Champlain after canoe capsizes
BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) - Three people have been rescued from Lake Champlain after their canoe capsized about 300 yards from the Burlington shore.
Two kayakers paddled out to help the three males Monday evening after they heard them yelling for help.
Fire officials say local resident Mike Saucier and Amy Lipson, who had never kayaked before, paddled out from the south end of the city. Saucier towed two of the men, who were wearing life jackets, to shore. The third was pulled up onto the bow of Lispon's kayak and brought back to shore.
Fire crews carried the men up a ladder from the water to the top of the breakwater. All three were showing signs of hypothermia. They were treated at the scene and then taken to the hospital.
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