March 15, 2013

Local & State Dispatches

From staff and news services


Unsightly spit prompts ban on chewing tobacco

Cape Elizabeth town employees will be prohibited from chewing tobacco while they're in town buildings and vehicles, because of a rule change approved this week by the Town Council.

Councilors voted unanimously Monday night to alter language in the town's personnel code of conduct to extend a smoke-free workplace policy to all tobacco products.

Town Manager Michael McGovern said during the meeting that town employees had approached him about barring tobacco chewing. He said a representative from every town department approved of the ban.

Tobacco chewers frequently spit brown saliva, sometimes into cups or water bottles, which is unsightly and cause for health and sanitation concerns, said Councilor Jessica Sullivan.

"I think spitting in general is something to be avoided," Sullivan said.


Proposed school budget seeks double-digit tax hike

The superintendent is proposing to cut 12 positions and increase taxes for education by 12 percent in the $33.3 million budget he presented to the School Committee on Wednesday.

Superintendent Ted Sharp's proposed budget for 2013-14 is $1.1 million more than the current budget. Sharp said Gov. Paul LePage's proposal to shift teacher retirement costs from the state to school departments would cost Gorham $1.2 million.

The proposed budget would add $1.24 per $1,000 valuation to Gorham's tax rate, Sharp said, which would add $248 to the tax bill for a $200,000 home.

The positions targeted for elimination are six education technicians, three secretaries, two teachers and one technology position. Two of the positions -- one education technician and one secretary -- are part-time. Combined, the cuts would reduce the budget by $459,000.

Sharp did not include funding to change from half-day to all-day kindergarten -- a possibility that's being explored by a committee that has yet to make a recommendation to the school board. Sharp said that is scheduled to happen at a workshop on March 27.


Bill's sponsor explains need for upping minimum wage

Lawmakers have begun considering a bill to increase the state's minimum wage to $8.50 per hour beginning Oct. 1, with annual adjustments for inflation starting in October 2014.

The sponsor, Democratic Rep. Scott Hamann of South Portland, told the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee on Thursday that Maine's minimum wage hasn't been increased for four years. He said his bill would help minimum wage workers keep their heads above water.

Opponents warned that increases would have a damaging effect on the economy that would hurt everyone.

Maine's current minimum wage is $7.50 per hour, 25 cents higher than the federal standard.

The labor committee also heard testimony on a bill requiring the state to buy American-made products.


Proposal protects elderly by fixing victimization law

A bill before the Legislature would address abuse and financial exploitation of seniors by closing a loophole and clarifying the law to protect elders who might be victimized.

The Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee on Wednesday held a hearing on the bill, which has the support of Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves of North Berwick,.

Under Maine's current law, perpetrators often avoid prosecution because of the appearance of consent by the victim.

The bill would clarify the law by attributing levels of criminal penalty in proportion to the amount of loss or extent of harm suffered by the victim.

The bill is sponsored by Democratic Rep. Mark Dion of Portland, a former Cumberland County sheriff.


Police identify man, 71, who wounded himself

State police say the man who shot and wounded himself when police tried to arrest him on child sexual abuse charges is Raymond Carson.

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