May 23, 2013

Local & State Dispatches


Corrections commissioner names new prison warden

The Maine State Prison has a new warden to replace the former warden who was fired earlier this year.

Corrections Commissioner Joseph Ponte announced Wednesday that he has selected Rodney Bouffard to serve as prison warden.

Bouffard, who has been the prison's acting warden, replaces Patricia Barnhart, 45, who was fired by Ponte in January.

Bouffard is a former superintendent of Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland. Ponte said Bouffard "served as the catalyst" that resulted in significant positive changes at Long Creek.

"Rod brings more than 30 years of facility management experience to this position, but more importantly he understands the process that will bring positive lasting change to the Maine State Prison," Ponte said in a statement.

Barnhart was named warden in 2009.


House kills bill that would tax political action groups

A bill that sought to raise state revenues by taxing political action committees is dead for this session.

The House on Wednesday went along with the Senate and voted to kill Democratic Rep. Terry Hayes' bill.

The measure sought to impose a tax on 5 percent of the amount contributed to political action committees in Maine.

Hayes, of Buckfield, said the new revenue could have been used to cover expenses to regulate PACs. No other state is believed to have such a tax.


Senate sends lobbying proposal on to LePage

Lawmakers who take up lobbying after their state service would be subject to new rules if a bill approved by the Legislature is signed by the governor.

The Senate on Tuesday gave final approval to the bill and sent it to Gov. Paul LePage.

It would prohibit a former legislator from engaging in activities that would require registration as a lobbyist or lobbyist associate until one year after that person's term as a legislator ends.

The restriction would begin with the next Legislature.

The bill does not prohibit uncompensated lobbying.


Senate kills bill that would have voided health care act

The Legislature has rejected a move to bar enforcement of the national Affordable Health Care Act.

The Senate on Tuesday agreed with the House and voted to kill a bill that labeled the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 a violation of the United States Constitution, and null and void in Maine.

The bill sought to prohibit federal or state officials from enforcing the law, also known as Obamacare. It proposed fines for enforcing the law.


Bill to repeal study mandate for east-west highway OK'd

The Senate has given final approval to a bill that repeals a requirement for a feasibility study on the proposed east-west highway.

The Senate's final approval Tuesday sent the bill to Gov. Paul LePage.

The resolve removes a requirement that the state Transportation Department conduct a feasibility study on the $2 billion project.

The proposal calls for a 220-mile, privately run toll road connecting New Brunswick and Quebec via Maine.

The Legislature last session appropriated $300,000 for the study, but the study was suspended due to insufficient information about the project.


LePage signs bill requiring suicide education for schools

Gov. Paul LePage signed a bill Tuesday that will require public school employees to get training in suicide prevention and awareness.

The measure, sponsored by Rep. Paul Gilbert, D-Jay, and co-sponsored by a broad contingent of lawmakers, passed unanimously in the Legislature.

LePage announced Tuesday that he would use $44,000 from his contingency account to support implementation of the bill.

Gilbert said the bill was the most important initiative that he had ever worked on.

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