May 8, 2013

Local & State Dispatches

From staff and news services

AUGUSTA

Senate-approved bill would allow higher speed limits

The Maine Senate has given final approval and sent on to Gov. Paul LePage a bill allowing – but not ordering – higher speeds on Maine’s interstate highways.

L.D. 654 would authorize the transportation commissioner to raise the speed limit to 75 mph on the interstates, where the limit in most areas is 65 mph. But it doesn’t mean an automatic speed limit increase.

Before any change, the transportation commissioner and the Department of Transportation’s engineering staff would have to determine whether it’s safe to raise the speed limit on a given stretch of highway.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Justin Chenette, D-Saco, said at a hearing in March that a number of factors would be taken into account before raising the speed, such as how congested an area is.

House upholds LePage’s veto of registration increase

The Maine House voted Tuesday to uphold Gov. Paul LePage’s veto of a bill that could have meant $2 increases in vehicle registration and driver license fees if towns and cities had opted to charge more.

After a brief debate, representatives voted 88-55 to override the veto issued by the governor on Friday. The tally was shy of the two-thirds majority needed to override.

The vetoed bill, L.D. 405, would have given municipalities the option of increasing the motor vehicle licensing and registration service fees they collect and keep. Fees for the renewal of a license or registration could have increased from $3 to $5, and the fee for a new license or registration could have risen from $4 to $6.

“Here we are again, voting on another tax increase,” House Republican Leader Ken Fredette of Newport said before the vote. “I think the governor was right” in vetoing the bill.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Alan Casavant, D-Biddeford, said it would have helped cities and towns cover the cost of that basic duty at a time they are feeling increased financial pressure.

Biddeford is among the 54 Maine towns and cities that have sent resolutions to the Legislature opposing the governor’s proposed budget, saying it imposes more pressure on local property taxpayers.

In his veto message, LePage said the problems municipalities face are not the result of government taking money from residents, but rather a poor environment for business to create jobs and the state’s “significant tax burden.”

Educators can learn about laptops in online briefings

The Maine Learning Technology Initiative is holding online briefings for educators about the state’s preferred option for laptops next year.

Hewlett-Packard beat Apple for the bidding in Maine to provide tens of thousands of laptops next year. The so-called webinars featuring Director of Learning Technology Jeff Mao on Tuesday and Wednesday will explain how the specs were chosen. Topics also include a discussion of the transition from Apple machines to laptops running Windows.

Maine, the only state to provide laptops to public school students statewide, worked with Hawaii and Vermont to negotiate the contract focusing on five types of laptops and tablets.

Schools can choose one of the other products, including Apple iPads and the MacBook Air, but would have to pay the cost difference.

WINDHAM

High-speed chase leads to capture, several charges

Police say a Windham man led them on a high-speed chase that reached speeds of 110 mph before he was captured early Tuesday.

An officer tried to pull over a 1998 Dodge Avenger at 10:30 p.m. on River Road for a vehicle defect, said Lt. David DeGruchy. The car, which police say was driven by Matthew Higgins, 33, of Main Street, sped off and when officers tried to cut it off near Route 302, the car crossed a vacant lot and continued on Route 302. 

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