A.J. Higgins

Statewide News Reporter

A.J. came to Maine Public Radio in August 2007 after a stint as a staff writer for Blethen Maine Newspapers. His news coverage 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, A.J. 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, A.J. 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.

While A.J.’s reporting on Maine Public Radio has largely centered around coverage of events in Augusta, he has turned his reporting chops to issues and topics taking place across the entire state.

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

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Recommendations for implementing a new unified budget system for all of the campuses of the University of Maine were presented Monday to the University of Maine System Board of Trustees.

The proposal places an emphasis on collaboration among the campuses to reduce costs by creating a systemwide budget to replace the system in which each campus proposed its own budget to the trustees.

Board Chairman Sam Collins said the so-called One University initiative is predicated on collaboration among the seven campuses.

Mainers are being asked to volunteer to become foster families for dozens of children who have been placed in state custody.

Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew says that while existing foster homes and families are expected to fill the needs of about 600 children in the coming year, there is still a need for 66 new foster families. She says children are the first-line causalities in Maine’s ongoing opioid crisis when the state is forced to place them into state custody after their drug-addicted parents are incapable of caring for them.

A.J. Higgins / MPBN

A young restaurateur from Maine and a group of forward-thinking lobstermen have joined forces in Tenants Harbor to form an unusual partnership that is attracting attention in the fishing industry.

Luke Holden, of the Luke’s Lobster restaurant chain, is buying nearly every single lobster that the newly formed Tenants Harbor Fisherman’s Co-op can land. He has also built a wharf-side lobster shack at the co-op and has pledged to reinvest half of its profits back into the fisherman’s organization.

BANGOR, Maine - Officials at Acadia National Park say attendance during the park's centennial celebrations in Bar Harbor is poised to break all records, with visitation up by about 20 percent over last year at this point in the season.

Visitors this month have at times arrived in such large numbers that traffic has been impeded along popular destinations such as the park's Ocean Drive. During the July 4th weekend, motor vehicle access to the Cadillac Mountain summit was closed briefly to alleviate congestion.

FairPoint Communications sign

Exactly what will happen when FairPoint Communications launches new changes next month to its basic landline phone service is not yet clear. But the state’s public advocate and consumer groups hope a series of statewide hearings on the so-called provider of last resort, or POLR, service will lay some concerns to rest. Several questions were raised during the first of those hearings Thursday night.

Usually a Maine lobsterman can choose to either fish or cut bait, but as the result of a herring shortage, neither may be an option for awhile. Local lobster co-op managers say fishermen may have to pay more for imported frozen bait from New Brunswick until the herring spawning season ends and stocks return to normal levels off the Georges Bank. In the meantime, new state harvest restrictions for herring fishermen may also be implemented.

A federally funded grant is helping Maine’s four Indian tribes implement a new drug program to confront opioid abuse.

Five tribal clinics are now offering take-home naloxone programs to provide abusers with access to the drug, which reverses the effects of an overdose caused by prescription opioids and heroin.

Clare Desrosiers, executive director of Diversion Alert and a partner in the tribal drug program, says all four Maine tribes see a critical need for access to naloxone, also known as Narcan.

Despite falling short of the trash needed to fuel its operations, a new biogas waste-to-energy plant near Bangor is moving forward.

Supporters of the proposed facility say they have enough municipal contracts to make it viable. But a competing waste disposal firm says more Maine towns are renewing their contracts, which creates the potential for a trash war in the region.

A.J. Higgins / MPBN

Donald Trump roared into Bangor Wednesday afternoon into the collective embrace of about 5,000 loyal supporters at the Cross Center. The audience applauded the presumptive Republican nominee’s promises of great trade deals, expanded job opportunities and a no-exceptions immigration policy that he says will make America safe.

All of the campaign hoopla played well in the heart of Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, where large numbers of conservative voters could hand Trump one Electoral College vote if he carries the region in November.

A.J. Higgins / MPBN

Millions of Americans visit Maine’s Acadia National Park each year expecting a quality outdoor experience featuring some of the state’s most iconic landscapes. But unhealthy air quality in the region is forcing some hikers to change their plans.

The Supreme Court ruled Monday against two Maine men who were caught with guns in violation of a federal statute.

Both Stephen Voisine of Wytopitlock and William Armstrong III of New Vineyard had misdemeanor domestic assault convictions.

AUGUSTA, Maine - In the wake of the recent Orlando shootings, gun legislation continues to dominate the headlines in Washington D.C., and in Maine, where Gov. Paul LePage is campaigning hard to defeat a fall ballot question that would require criminal background checks for anyone purchasing a firearm through a private sale.

During a well-attended and supportive town meeting event in Richmond Wednesday evening, LePage said the focus of the gun debate is misdirected. But the governor's critics say he has waffled on gun control and needs to check his facts.

RICHMOND, Maine - For Gov. Paul LePage, a federal policy that permits food stamp benefits to be used to purchase sugary drinks, candy and junk food is just another example of what's wrong in Washington these days.

Gov. Paul LePage continued his assault on one of Maine’s premier conservation agencies Wedensday night by blaming the Natural Resources Council of Maine for keeping the state’s property tax rates among some of the highest in New England. During one of his regular town meetings in Richmond, LePage said the state’s property tax woes could be summed up in four letters.

Democratic leaders in the Maine Legislature say lawmakers have done their work in passing four bills that Gov. Paul LePage has raised concerns about – and that now it’s up to the administration to implement them. LePage failed to persuade Democrats to return to Augusta for a special session during a half-hour meeting Wednesday that was also attended by Republicans. The governor told a gathering in Richmond Wednesday evening that lawmakers simply refuse to work with him.