The problem for Maine kids that won’t go away: lead paint poisoning

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Part one of four: Childhood lead poisoning may be off the front pages, replaced by trendier hazards such as the chemicals in flame retardant clothing, but the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting has found it is still the No. 1 toxic health hazard for children. The problem is acute and persistent in parts of Maine, especially among poor and immigrant families. Continue Reading →

Irving: No more ‘oil trains’ in Maine

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Irving Oil has stopped and has no plan to resume shipping oil to its Canadian refinery via Maine rail lines. The decision was made earlier this year and confirmed recently in an email to the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting. Continue Reading →

LePage ordered an approved $100K payment to charter school stopped when Eves named head of school

Gov. Paul LePage — Photo Robert F. Bukaty, BDN

Gov. Paul LePage reversed a routine and state-approved payment to a Fairfield non-profit that operates a charter school the day it was announced that Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves was named president of the organization, according to a source inside state government.

A confidential source in the state Department of Education (DOE) said that, the day Eves’ appointment became public, a top official of the state DOE was called to the governor’s office “for an impromptu meeting.” Continue Reading →

Transparency advocates question secret budget deal

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Secret meetings in the legislature: They’re still going on.

Last week, we exposed how lawmakers on the legislature’s appropriations committee were holding secret meetings to discuss the budget.

Today, in a report by the Sun Journal’s Scott Thistle, we learned that Democratic and Republican leaders secretly negotiated a budget deal without any public input, discussion or review. Continue Reading →

Closed door: Legislators conducting public business in private despite state’s open meeting law

Door at the back of the appropriations chamber that leads to a suite of private rooms where the committee's "chairs and leads" held a private meeting on May 28

The legislature's practice of conducting the public's business — such as budget negotiations — behind closed doors likely violated the state's Freedom of Access Act (FOAA). Center editor-reporter John Christie "crashed" a closed door session of the appropriations committee and confronted legislators about the practice, which one of the state's prominent first amendment attorneys says violates the sprit of FOAA and likely also the letter of that landmark law. Continue Reading →

Key legislator promoting Irving mining proposal took unreported free flight from firm’s lobbyists

Sen. Tom Saviello, R-Wilton   
Photo: Scott Thistle, Sun Journal

A Republican state senator among those leading the fight to pass legislation to benefit J.D. Irving’s proposal to develop an open-pit mine in the North Woods accepted a free private plane ride to Aroostook from Irving's lobbyists and didn't report it to the state ethics commission.

Sen. Thomas Saviello, R-Wilton, said he didn’t need to report the 2013 round-trip ride because its value was not over $300, the threshold for reporting gifts from lobbyists to the Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices, and because the purpose was fact-finding. Continue Reading →

Irving lowers Rep. Martin’s bankruptcy debt by $150k and Martin pushes another Irving firm’s mining interests

Democrat John Martin of Eagle Lake speaks with Craig Hickman, D-Winthrop, in the State House.  Photo: Troy R. Bennett | BDN

An Irving family company agreed to reduce by $150,000 the debt a leading Democratic legislator owed to the company – the same legislator, Democratic Rep. John Martin, who has been pushing to loosen state environmental regulations so that another Irving company can mine Bald Mountain in northern Maine. Continue Reading →

State may have paid millions to unemployed who never looked for work

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While Gov. Paul LePage and the legislature focus on welfare fraud, four straight audits have warned the state that it may be improperly paying hundreds of millions of dollars in unemployment checks to people who are not providing the required proof they are looking for work. Continue Reading →