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.

Ways to Connect

A program aimed at providing veterans with timely and accessible health care has been properly designed but poorly implemented. That’s according to U.S. Sen. Angus King of Maine who conferred with veterans services officials Monday at the Maine VA Medical Center at Togus.

Building on the success of Maine’s NextGen college savings program he once guided as state treasurer, U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin told students at the University of Maine Monday that he is sponsoring a new bill that will encourage other states to follow Maine’s lead.

The 2nd District Republican also said that the legislation will provide additional benefits for the NextGen program in Maine.

Maine lawmakers voted Friday to override a number of Gov. Paul LePage’s vetoes, but House Republicans held firm on several votes to block enactment of other bills rejected by the governor, including one that would establish a statewide solar energy policy.

That bill generated some wide-ranging debate on the merits of solar energy, but the discussion quickly devolved into a partisan skirmish after House Republican Leader Ken Fredette accused majority Democrats of “parliamentary trickery.”

Gov. Paul LePage has vetoed a measure that would license and regulate midwives, claiming the bill is unnecessary, represents an expansion of government and could become an unfunded mandate in the future.

Supporters, including the Republican sponsor, are urging fellow lawmakers to enact the bill over the objections of the governor.

Efforts by Assistant House Democratic Leader Sara Gideon and Gov. Paul LePage to reach a compromise over a bill that would establish a comprehensive solar policy for the state have failed and the governor has vetoed the measure.

In his veto message, LePage said he vetoed the bill because it would increase overall energy costs for Maine ratepayers and because Democrats would not negotiate in good faith on counterproposals.

Not surprisingly, Democrats says that’s simply not true.

Supporters of Maine’s Clean Elections system are urging Maine lawmakers to override Gov. Paul LePage’s veto of a bill that would provide half a million dollars to the program this year.

The program could run short of the money it needs to support legislative races, but the governor says the bill comes just after the approval of a ballot question last fall that added $2 million to the fund.

Gov. Paul LePage used an address to the Maine GOP convention over the weekend to attack what he says are the greatest enemies to prosperity in the state: the Natural Resources Council of Maine and the Maine People’s Alliance.

Representatives of the environmental and progressive advocacy organizations responded by saying the governor should work on uniting the state rather than dividing it.

Gov. Paul LePage has vetoed a bill that would have provided $2.4 million in funding to several of Maine’s struggling county jails. Democratic Assistant House Leader Sarah Gideon of Freeport said the bill was crafted to prevent a shift of jail costs onto local property taxpayers.

“It was very disappointing to see this veto, but I think the good news is that this bill was crafted and passed with strong bipartisan support,” Gideon said.

Proponents of expanding new clean energy sources gathered today at Falmouth High School and urged Mainers to ask their lawmakers to override an expected veto of a bill that would establish a comprehensive solar energy policy for the state.

With the school's massive solar panel array as a backdrop, supporters of the Natural Resources Council of Maine said that on the eve of Earth Day and the signing of the Paris Climate Change Agreement, now is no time to step back from solar energy alternatives in Maine.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The Summit Natural Gas company faces a potential $250,000 fine as the result of a gas leak that prompted the evacuation of an Augusta restaurant in February.

A.J. Higgins / MPBN

More than 50 supporters of a petition to add opioid addiction to the list of approved conditions that are treatable with medical marijuana packed a small hearing room Tuesday in Augusta.

Many say medical marijuana was critical in helping them recover from opioid addiction. But some health professionals say there is only anecdotal evidence of marijuana’s benefits for this purpose.

The Legislature adjourned over the weekend, but still has to decide the fate several contentious bills that are expected to face a veto from Gov. Paul LePage. House Republican leaders say they expect their members to stand with the governor when members return to Augusta at the end of the month.

AUGUSTA, Maine -- The 127th Maine Legislature concluded its work in the wee hours of Saturday morning, bringing an end to a frequently contentious session that pitted Republican Gov. Paul LePage against Democrats -and Republicans- whom he blamed for passing legislation that makes Maine uncompetitive.

The Maine House on Wednesday approved an amended version of a solar energy bill that supporters say will create hundreds of new clean-energy jobs and reduce energy costs for nonsolar consumers.

The 91-56 vote falls 10 short of the two-thirds support needed to fend off a certain veto by Gov. Paul LePage, but Rep. Jennifer DeChant, a Bath Democrat, said the need for more jobs in Maine should trump any ideological arguments against solar power.

A last-ditch effort by Gov. Paul LePage and Republican lawmakers to enact a new higher state minimum wage was approved Thursday evening in the Maine Senate.

But the 21-12 vote fell short of the number needed to enact the bill immediately, leaving proponents open to charges that the new $10 an hour wage by 2020 actually amounted to an effort to head off the scheduled statewide vote in November on a new wage rate that would raise minimum hourly pay to $12 an hour by 2020.

Sen. Amy Volk, a Scarborough Republican, supported the $10 dollar wage.