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Maine News

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Maine News for Thursday, January 17. 2008

Dispatch consolidation proceeds without glitch
Portland, South Portland and Cape Elizabeth are in the process of combining their 911 communications.

Maine home prices defy national slump
There are many reasons why Maine has dodged the national slide in values, but can it last?

Some lobstermen not happy sharing data
Ten percent of Maine's lobstermen must now report information about their catch to the state.

Campaign to repeal school law lacks support
State House 2008: More signatures are needed to fight school-district consolidation.

Tax-reform efforts see new bid, face new hurdles

State House: Proponents say a bill taking shape is similar to last year's, but includes stronger caps on government spending.

Counties: Jails can be local, efficient
AUGUSTA — County officials believe they could save taxpayers money without giving up local control if lawmakers adopt their plan to make county jails more efficient.

Toll group looks for guiding principles
A committee formed by the Maine Turnpike Authority to figure out how to make turnpike tolls more equitable may end up recommending general guiding principles rather than specific changes.

Democrat seeks seat in House at age 21
Henry Beck serves as a Waterville councilor and attends Colby College.

EDITORIAL: Economy not ready for a gas-tax hike
A higher federal levy on gasoline can achieve some useful goals, but this isn't the time.

LTE: Maine's murder rate doesn't suggest crime wave
It's been a decade since I was a Portland police officer, and my opinions were a little out of the mainstream then, plus Portland is the farthest north I have ever lived, so weigh my opinion as you will.

Maine Voices: Parents need help in helping kids
A third of our kids are carrying around extra weight. That weight carries with it health risks -- risk of early heart attack, diabetes, depression, early death -- and the list goes on.

Wellness council to offer health programs statewide
BANGOR, Maine - Employers across Maine will soon have the opportunity to develop initiatives to improve their employees' health with help from the Bangor Region Wellness Council.

Fuel funds headed for Maine
Maine is slated to receive an additional $8.8 million in federal assistance for low-income individuals struggling to heat their homes amid record-high energy prices.

A digital route to speedy diagnosis
BANGOR, Maine - Maine health care providers unveiled a new information-sharing system on Wednesday that will eventually give doctors instant access to patients' medical histories no matter where they are located around the state.

Lawmakers wary of jail proposal
AUGUSTA, Maine - County officials outlined their proposal Wednesday for a Maine Jail and Community Corrections Authority, but members of the Legislature's Criminal Justice Committee are concerned about its cost and the plan as written faces a likely veto should it be approved.

Fed ruling could sink cruise visits
State and municipal officials and Maine port businesses have banded together to oppose a proposed federal ruling that they say could put a dent in the number of large cruise ships making stops in Bar Harbor and Portland, cutting their time in port and forcing changes in itineraries.

Lawmakers weigh tax overhaul plan
AUGUSTA -- Lawmakers are gearing up for another attempt to overhaul the state's tax system, a year after the Legislature narrowly rejected changes that would have broadened the sales tax to pay for income-tax and property-tax breaks.

Consolidation repeal effort still short of signatures
AUGUSTA -- With less than two weeks to go, the organizer of a campaign to repeal the state's school-district consolidation law does not yet have enough support to force a referendum on the issue.

Money released for heating aid
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Bush administration on Wednesday released $450 million in emergency relief funds to help needy residents pay soaring heating bills.

Delegation talks up boosting economy
WASHINGTON -- Members of Maine's congressional delegation were among the lawmakers who proposed tax and spending measures Wednesday to boost a weakening economy as Congress scrambles to put together an economic stimulus package.

EDITORIAL: Caucuses not good substitute for primaries
We want a presidential primary in Maine. And we want it early enough to be a small factor in the final outcome.

LTE: Huckabee, Romney's religious talk 'scary'

UMF to offer MS degrees
FARMINGTON -- Central and western Maine schoolteachers enrolled in master's degree programs have been sending a steady stream of tuition revenue to Portland and Orono campuses and to online programs out of state.

Counties offer plan rivaling state on jails
AUGUSTA -- County officials believe they can save taxpayer money without giving up local control if lawmakers implement their plan to revamp jail operations.

When is helping the disadvantaged wrong?
Mona Charen writes Jan. 8 sounding as if she was jilted by Joe Kennedy back in high school, teeing off on his questionable relationship with Hugo Chavez. Apparently they're in cahoots in an attempt to alleviate high fuel costs for the disadvantaged.

LTE: Waste and fraud in Iraq should be watched

Thank you for running David Offer's opinion piece where he discussed the waste and fraud that is going on in Iraq.

Paper mill to cut 60 jobs
RUMFORD - NewPage's oldest paper-making machine will be shut down permanently next month, taking with it 60 jobs.

Ledue begins bid for SenateLedue begins bid for Senate
PORTLAND (AP) - U.S. Rep. Tom Allen faces opposition from an educator from Sanford in his bid to become the Democratic nominee challenging Republican incumbent Susan Collins in the U.S. Senate election.

State changes lobstering rules
BANGOR (AP) - Many Maine lobstermen routinely keep track of how many lobsters they catch and where they catch them. Now, hundreds of lobstermen will have to share that information with the state - and some aren't happy.

Remove this 'informed' obstruction
Perhaps spurred by fear in certain parts of Maine of Wal-Mart and its big-box ilk, a piece of flawed - yet "bipartisan" - legislation called the "Informed Growth Act" cleared the Maine Legislature last year.

COLUMN: Democrats' proposals won't jump-start economy
The housing market is caught in a downward spiral that might last the rest of this year, and banks are struggling under a staggering burden of bad loans that has created a severe credit crunch. Don't fear, though, a $250 check might be making its way toward your mailbox.

LTE: Hold the chips
Rep. Scott Lansley, R-Sabattus, was on a Portland radio station recently, asserting that the REAL ID act, the law dealing with driver's license security, would require the imbedding of a radio frequency ID chip in our driver's licenses.

Electronic health record network launched statewide
BRUNSWICK — Beginning today, Martin's Point Health Care and health-care providers statewide will participate in a pilot project to create an electronic health record network that will allow health-care providers to share patient information statewide.

State proposes rate cuts to hospital docs
AUGUSTA — The Department of Health and Human Services wants to cut the Medicaid rate paid to doctors in hospital-based practices and has included the $20 million proposal in the governor's supplemental budget.

Third parties cloud fate of base housing
FREEPORT — There was good news and perhaps bad news Tuesday morning as base redevelopment leaders discussed the complicated state of housing at Brunswick Naval Air Station.

Boater safety bill churns waters
AUGUSTA — Proposals to mandate boater safety education and impose horsepower restrictions on Long Lake — prompted by an accident that killed two people there in August 2007 — drew a standing-room only crowd at a hearing Tuesday in Augusta, with opponents saying the state cannot legislate common sense.

Alternate Jail Consolidation Plan Considered
Maine's county goverments today presented an alternative plan for consolidating the state's jail system. The plan, unveiled before a legislative committee, comes in response to the Baldacci administration's controversial proposal for a state takeover of all 15 county jails, for a projected annual savings of up to 38 million dollars by the year 2025. The counties have proposed instead the creation of a state authority that would help streamline the system, but without giving up all county control.

Uncollected Fines Prompt Consideration of Option
Maine's Court System collects $40 million each year from offenders who commit a wide range of infractions, violations and crimes. But nearly ten million more dollars goes uncollected when violators can't --or won't--pay their fines. State Rep. Richard Cleary wants to give judges another option for restitution - community service. As A.J. Higgins reports, the Houlton Democrat believes his bill will help alleviate jail overcrowding.

Maine's Largest Hospitals Unveil New Communications System

It's happened with bank why not medical ones? Maine's four largest health care providers today unveiled a new statewide electronic system for sharing medical information. As Susan Sharon reports, Health InfoNet is intended to improve patient health and safety and save healthcare costs in a few crucial ways.

Malpractice Screening Process Scrutinized
Twenty years ago, the state of Maine adopted a new law in response to the number of complaints, sometimes "frivolous" complaints, that were driving up insurance rates of physicians and hospitals. The law established screening panels, charged with weeding out questionable cases and speeding up others in order to lower expenses. But the system has come under scrutiny in recent years and Maine Supreme Court Justice Leigh Saufley has called on the state legislature to re-evaluate the process. Keith McKeen reports.

Bill helps truckers cope with prices
AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Maine lawmakers are moving quickly on a bill to make it easier for truckers and loggers to cope with high fuel costs by suspending gross weight limits.

COLUMN: What do you want for your money?
The disconnect between taxes and the demand for services is astonishing.

Oil firm faces EPA fines
UNION — A company that stores and distributes oil from an unattended bulk storage facility faces fines of up to $157,500 for failing to adequately plan for and guard against oil spills at its facility and for failing to respond to a request for information by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, according to an EPA news release.

Master plan OK'd for big box zone
BELFAST — The City Council took the first step Tuesday toward requiring a master plan for development of the new big box retail zone.

Naval Prototype Launch Holds Economic Promise
A history making launch of a naval patrol craft prototype Friday signals the likelihood of an economic boon to the Midcoast and a bright future for Hodgdon Yachts and the composites industries.

Lower Electric Rates for Maine Is Panel's Goal
AUGUSTA — The Legislature's Utilities and Energy Committee was presented Tuesday with a map of the minefield as it begins the formidable task of charting Maine's energy future.

Heating Oil Spike Fans Interest In Alternative Fuels and Stoves
ELLSWORTH — Steadily rising oil prices have brought about a surge of interest in alternative fuels.

Up 4.2 Percent in Washington County
ELLSWORTH — With an estimated jackpot of $95 million on Monday, the Powerball game offers instant riches. Before dipping into the household budget for tickets, however, you might consider that the odds of winning a Powerball jackpot are 146,107,962 to 1.

Hospitals Face Medicaid Cut
AUGUSTA — The Department of Health and Human Services wants to cut the Medicaid rate paid to doctors in hospital-based practices and has included the $20-million proposal in the Governor's supplemental budget.

Battle Looming Over Agency Merger Plan
AUGUSTA — Governor John Baldacci's proposal to merge the departments of Agriculture, Conservation, Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and Marine Resources is in for a long battle, with the head of the influential Sportsman's Alliance of Maine (SAM) already mustering forces to block the plan. (Related story, Section II, Page 8.)

EDITORIAL: State of the State
Governor John Baldacci's pledge, in his annual State of the State address, that "we will not increase taxes" is welcome — as far as it goes. But as the Governor and members of the Legislature look for ways to cope with a revenue shortfall requiring budget cutbacks of nearly $100 million, that pledge may prove to be more illusory than real.

COMMENTARY: The Sheep Are in Charge
There is not a real leader among our local, state or national politicians. They are milling around like a flock of sheep, bleating in unison, "Lii…hheap, lii…heap, lii…heap, lii…heap."

COMMENTARY: Hold the Line Against Plum Creek
LURC should stand firm and hold the line here and now against any further encroachment on the North woods. If not, more will be given away to flunky corporations every generation in worship of the Big Lie: "We need balanced growth in the North Woods."

COMMENTARY: Sound Bites or Sound Policy?

LTE: We Need a Single-payer System
It has been shown over and over, including in The Ellsworth American, that the United States pays more for health care than any other industrialized country while getting the least for what we spend.

New system will read water meters from afar
(Jan 17, 2008): The Portland Water District is going high-tech by installing remote-read water meters that are scanned instantly by computers as a technician drives through neighborhoods.

Feds To Release $450 Million From LIHEAP Contingency Fund
U.S. Sen. Susan Collins announced that the Office of Management and Budget agreed Wednesday to release $450 million from its Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program contingency fund. Of that total, Maine is in line to receive $8.8 million.

As Maine Goes: Dem Tom Ledue Gives Tom Allen Competition
Sanford Educator To Kick Off U.S. Senate Campaign

As Maine Goes: Charlie Summers: New Video, Campaign Chairman

As Maine Goes: Forest Fire Jihad Threatened on Terrorist Websites

As Maine Goes: New Page Buys Ultra-modern Paper Mill

Turn Maine Blue: Was the Hormuz Incident Fabricated to Heighten Tensions?
There has been a lot of speculation that the recent "incident" in the Straights of Hormuz was being a "Gulf of Tomkin" type incident, and now it seems that that might be more true than people first thought:

White Noise Insanity: Sen. Susan Collins (Bush's Commander Girl!) is a fierce fighter in the waronterra!

PolitickerME: Statements from Maine politicians on the New Page job cuts
Statements from Maine politicians on the New Page layoffs:

Politicker ME: Job cuts to hurt River Valley economy