Legislative panel backs bill increasing minimum wage

A legislative committee voted along party lines Friday to support a bill that would raise Maine’s minimum wage to $9 by 2016 and index it to inflation each year thereafter.

But the 8-5 vote engineered by Democrats on L.D. 611 will face a challenge on the floor of the Legislature and a potential veto from Republican Gov. Paul LePage.

The original bill would have raised the minimum wage to $8.50 by October 2013, then adjust it to the rate of inflation every October thereafter.

As amended in committee, the bill would raise Maine’s minimum to $8 by July 2014, to $8.50 by July 2015 and $9 by July 2016, then adjust it annually to inflation, the Maine AFL-CIO, a federation of labor unions, said in a news release.

The measure is co-sponsored by the two highest-ranking Democratic leaders, Senate President Justin Alfond, D-Portland, and Speaker of the House Mark Eves, D-North Berwick.

The Department of Economic and Community Development and the Department of Labor testified against the bill in a public hearing last week. 

Hunters kill 21,365 deer in 2012 as herd recovers

State officials say hunters took 13 percent more deer last year in Maine with bigger numbers reported across all of the state’s wildlife management districts.

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife reported Friday that hunters killed 21,365 deer, an increase from 18,839 the previous year.

Officials said the larger numbers provide further evidence that the state’s deer herd is recovering following harsh winters in 2008 and 2009 that thinned the herd.

As recently as six years ago, the Maine deer harvest approached 30,000 animals a year.

Wildlife officials say the current winter hasn’t significantly stressed the deer population, and that the herd is expected to continue to grow. 

Winning $1 million ticket sold at Kennebunk store

Maine Lottery officials say someone has won a $1 million instant lottery ticket.

The Maine Millionaire II ticket was claimed this week at the lottery headquarters.

Officials say the winning ticket was sold at Cumberland Farms in Kennebunk.

The store will get a $10,000 agent bonus for the selling the winning ticket.

It’s the second win of four $1 million prizes in the Maine Millionaire II instant ticket game.


Local sex offender charged with assaulting teenage girl

A Rockport man who is a registered sex offender for life has been charged with gross sexual assault on a teenage girl.

Arthur “Ron” Dodge, 54, was arrested Thursday by Maine State Police on charges of gross sexual assault and unlawful sexual contact for an incident that allegedly happened last year at Dodge’s home, police said.

He was arrested at his house at 66 Chickawaukie Pond Road and taken to Knox County Jail and is being held on $25,000 bail.

Dodge was convicted in 1990 of unlawful sexual contact and is required to be on the sex offender registry for the rest of his life, police said.


Rick Hautala, horror writer, dies of heart attack at 64

Rick Hautala, a Maine horror writer who wrote 30 books and won the Horrow Writer’s Association Bram Stoker Award for lifetime achievement, died Thursday at 64.

Hautala died of a heart attack, his wife, writer Holly Newstein, said.

Hautala graduated from the University of Maine in 1974 with a master’s degree in English literature.

He published more than 90 short stories and books, including the novel “Nightstone,” which sold more than a million copies worldwide.

He won the Horror Writer’s Association award in 2011.

Newstein said funerals “were not Rick’s thing,” so she will hold a celebration of Hautala’s life in a few months.

Hautala is also survived by three grown children.


Principal appeals decision not to renew her contract

The principal of Bonny Eagle High School is appealing a decision by the School Administrative District 6 board not to renew her contract.

The board voted last month to end the employment of Beth Schultz, the principal since 2008, effective at the end of June. The decision was made at the recommendation of Superintendent Frank Sherburne, who said he was not confident in Schultz’s leadership ability.

Schultz has requested that the board provide reasons for its decision and hold a hearing on her appeal.

The board must hold the hearing within 30 days of her request, which was received on March 8, said Peter Cary, attorney for the board.

He said the hearing has not been scheduled and the board has not provided Schultz with reasons for its decision. The board will have to do that before the hearing, Cary said.

He was not sure if the hearing would be open to the public.

Schultz waived her right to a confidential hearing at the school board meeting last month, before the vote on her contract.


Woman sent to Riverview in boyfriend’s fatal stabbing

A Bangor woman has been sent to a psychiatric facility after being found not criminally responsible by reason of insanity for the fatal stabbing of her boyfriend.

Gail Judd on Thursday entered her plea to the stabbing death of 47-year-old Michael Drouin in February 2012.

WABI-TV reported that a judge committed her to Riverview Psychiatric Hospital in Augusta indefinitely.

The 53-year-old Judd’s defense attorney said his client suffered from a liver condition that caused too much ammonia in her system, which sometimes drove her to a delirious state. He told the court she was in such a state when she stabbed Drouin.

Judd initially claimed self-defense in the stabbing, saying Drouin tried to rape her.


Investigation continuing after 75 dogs, birds rescued

State animal welfare officials say many of the 75 dogs and more than 20 birds removed from a Wilton home last week were living in unsanitary conditions and were sick.

Animal Welfare Program Director Liam Hughes told the Sun Journal on Thursday that the investigation is still open. The resident has not been charged.

Court records indicate a majority of the dogs were deemed very thin or emaciated. Some had dental disease, hair loss and scabbing from chronic flea infestations, overgrown toenails, ear and eye infections and long hair matted with feces. Many had parasites.

Among the dog breeds were dachshunds, pugs, Pomeranians, French bulldogs and shih tzus. There were seven parakeet-type birds, six lovebirds and four canaries as well as chickens.

They have been taken to a shelter.


Effort aims to recall official who backed gun proposal

Some residents of a small western Maine town that made national news when voters were asked whether every home should be required to have a gun have launched an effort to recall a town official who supported the proposal.

Town Clerk Allison Freeman confirmed Thursday that 17 people had signed the petition asking for the recall of Anne Simmons-Edmunds, head of Byron’s select board.

The Sun Journal reported that the petition initiated by resident Robert Bourassa says among other things that Simmons-Edmunds subjected “residents of the town to ridicule, embarrassment and disrepute” with her support of the gun measure.

Simmons-Edmunds said she was aware of the petition. Bourassa could not be reached.

Voters in the town of about 140 residents unanimously rejected the measure at town meeting this month.