LePage OKs bill allowing dock storage of lobster gear

Gov. Paul LePage has signed into law a bill that bars state agencies from prohibiting or regulating the storage of lobster traps, buoys, lines and bait bags on docks.

LePage says the law is an example of how the state is removing unnecessary regulations that burden working families.

The bill was introduced following a South Bristol lobsterman’s four-year battle with regulators to be allowed to stack traps on his dock.

The Department of Environmental Protection had ruled it was OK to build the pier, but another state agency said it couldn’t hold traps because the shade they cast would harm marine plants. In the end, the state relented, but the new law aims to prevent such disputes in the future.

Bill would let amputees carry switchblade knives

A bill to allow amputees to carry switchblades in Maine is nearing final legislative approval.

The measure, requested by an amputee in western Maine who rides horses, received final House approval Tuesday and faces a final Senate vote before being sent to the governor. The bill limits the blades to 3 inches in length.

Paul Dumas Jr. requested the bill. Dumas says that with only one arm, he can’t react quickly enough in emergencies when he needs to cut a piece of rope. Dumas, a lawyer, says he’s tired of opening knives with his teeth and the bill would remedy that.

Maine adopts Common Core standards for schools

Maine has become the 42nd state to adopt a new set of academic standards known as Common Core.

Gov. Paul LePage on Friday signed the Common Core standards bill into law after it passed both the House and Senate unanimously. The administration says it sets a clear set of standards for teachers to work with, and allows them to tailor their teaching to the new, rigorous expectations of what students should know.

By adopting the Common Core standards, Maine schools will be able to take advantage of new curriculum resources that leading text book producers are developing to align with the new standards.

Whoopie pie, blueberry pie bill nearing final approval

A bill to make the whoopie pie Maine’s official state treat — along with an equally tasty amendment paying homage to blueberry pie — is close to final enactment.

The House of Representatives on Tuesday gave final approval to a bill to that makes the whoopie pie the state treat — not the official state dessert as initially proposed. As amended, the bill designates blueberry pie — made with wild Maine blueberries – as the official state dessert. It still faces a final Senate vote before going to Gov. Paul LePage.

The bill surfaced as Maine and Pennsylvania each try to snap up credit for the chocolate cakes stuffed with creamy white frosting.

The bill has generated criticism from some who say the Legislature should concern itself with more serious issues.

Senate OKs Welch as head of Public Utilities Commission

The Maine Senate has voted to confirm Thomas Welch as the state’s public utilities commissioner.

Gov. Paul LePage’s nominee was confirmed Tuesday, a day after he won a unanimous endorsement from the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee.

Welch, of Hancock, joins Commissioners Vendean Vafiades and David Littell on the PUC. Welch served as chairman of the PUC from 1993 to 2005 and before that was a law school professor, chief deputy attorney general for Pennsylvania’s antitrust division and in-house counsel for Bell Atlantic.

Welch fills a slot vacated by PUC Chairman Jack Cashman, who had served since 2008.