May 25, 2013

Local & State Dispatches

From staff and news services

(Continued from page 2)

Maine is one of the nation’s top maple syrup-producing states, and Gov. Paul LePage has signed a bill to change the way syrup is graded.

LePage on Thursday put his name on a bill that replaces Maine’s existing maple syrup grading system with one proposed by the International Maple Syrup Institute. That change will create a uniform grade of maple syrup worldwide. The law takes effect when the new grading system is OK’d by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Canadian government.

Republican Rep. Russell Black of Wilton sponsored the bill for the Maine Maple Syrup Producers.
Maine last year produced 360,000 gallons of syrup, tying it with New York as the No. 2 syrup-producing state behind Vermont.

Drivers to be asked to fund state’s organ donar program

A bill to bolster awareness of organ donations was signed into law Thursday by Gov. Paul LePage.

The bill will require the secretary of state to place a $2 donation checkoff on driver’s license application and renewal forms to fund a new Maine Organ and Tissue Donation Fund. The purpose is to promote education about organ donations and increase registration of donors.

The sponsor, Democratic Rep. Megan Rochelo of Biddeford, says more than 113,000 people in the United States are on a waiting list for a transplant, and every 12 minutes one more person gets added to that list. She says organ donations saved more than 28,000 lives last year.

Senate gives initial OK to school recess requirement

A bill requiring Maine public schools to provide at least 30 minutes of physical activity each school day for kindergarten through fifth grade students has won an initial round in the state Senate.

By a 24-10 vote, senators gave initial approval to the bill sponsored by Democratic Sen. Rebecca Millett of Cape Elizabeth.

Under the present law, teachers and school administrators may take away recess as a disciplinary action. The bill would require a teacher to provide students with a substitute option for physical activity if the student’s recess is taken away.

Millett’s bill faces further House and Senate votes.

Farm workers warned of risk of parasitic infections

More than a dozen farm workers in Maine have been infected in the past three years with a parasitic worm that lays eggs in the intestines of pigs and humans, according to a federal report issued Friday.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 14 patients from seven farms in six Maine counties were found to have ascaris infections from 2010 to 2013 – eight confirmed, four probable and two suspected cases. All patients were prescribed medication.

Ascaris, a roundworm that is contracted by eating infected soil or fecal matter, is the world’s most common human parasite, according to the CDC. But the infections, also known as ascariasis, are relatively uncommon in the U.S., the CDC said.

All of the infected workers in Maine had recent contact with pigs, leading investigators to believe pig feces was the initial vector for spreading the parasite.

Ascariasis victims rarely experience noticeable symptoms, the CDC said, and most patients live their entire lives without knowing they have been infected.

UNDERHILL, Vt.

State may seek federal relief for flood damage

Flash flooding from record-tying rainfall in parts of northern Vermont washed out roads, damaged bridges and clogged culverts after a string of overnight thunderstorms across the region that left some residents Friday slogging through mud and debris.

Gov. Peter Shumlin described the flooding as “devastating.”

“Jericho and Underhill have 30 different closures right now,” Shumlin said. “We got over four inches of rain in a short period of time. We’re working together ... to try and see if whether the towns will qualify for federal funding.”

Late Friday afternoon, the state formally asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency to send a preliminary damage assessment team to determine if parts of the state might qualify for federal disaster aid. If approved, a FEMA team could be in Vermont next week.

At least one homeowner said his house appeared damaged beyond repair.

Andrew Fletcher said his garage was swept into a culvert on Route 15 in Jericho and destroyed.

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