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WALPOLE, Maine — The Maine Ocean Acidification Committee is ready to hold its first meeting.

The committee is charged with studying the impacts of ocean acidification on the state's environment. Its first meeting is scheduled for Friday in Walpole.

The council has 16 members and is slated to meet at least four times before wrapping up its work by Dec. 5. Officials say the panel will report its findings to the state legislature's Marine Resources Committee.

Susan Sharon / MPBN

This week Maine hunters started setting out barrels laden with meat, pastries and other sweets in anticipation of the annual three-month bear hunt that begins at the end of August. The bait is used at regulated sites to attract bears, which are difficult to spot in the dense Maine woods. But if supporters of a statewide referendum are successful, baiting, trapping and the use of hounds to hunt bears will be outlawed except in special circumstances. And that possibility has state bear biologists and the hunting community on edge.

It's Thursday and time once again for "Across the Aisle," our weekly foray into Maine politics, with analysts Cynthia Dill, a practicing attorney and former Democratic state legislator; Dick Woodbury, an economist and tax policy consultant to the campaign of independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler; and former Republican lawmaker Meredith Strang Burgess, who is CEO of Burgess Advertising and Marketing in Portland.

The statewide debate over statewide debates entered its second day Thursday with the Poliquin for Congress campaign denying that it had declined an invitation to appear with his two 2nd Congressional District challengers on MPBN television this fall. Meanwhile, a short-lived alliance between conservative independent Blaine Richardson and Democrat Emily Cain fell apart after Richardson backed out of a joint pledge to boycott any debate that did not include all three candidates. A.J. Higgins has the latest developments in this ongoing story.

AUGUSTA, Maine — State health officials are confirming the first two cases in Maine this year of a travel-acquired disease which is transmitted by mosquitos. Maine Center for Disease Control Director Dr. Sheila Pinette says that both Maine cases of chikungunya are in people who traveled to the Dominican Republic. She says several additional unrelated cases are under investigation.

The line extends beyond the frame of the picture at Maine Brewing Company in Freeport.
John Bradford, MPBN

Maine Beer Company expanded its brewing and retail operations to Freeport, a bit more than one year ago from a small industrial space in Portland. The craft brewer is fitting right in as a tourism destination with its more notable neighbors L.L. Bean, Nike, Patagonia, Brooks Bros. and Calvin Klein with today's release of "Dinner," a Double IPA bursting with hops.

Independent U.S. Sen. Angus King wants U.S. employers to voluntarily offer paid parental or medical leave for workers while they are meeting necessary family obligations, such as caring for a sick child or after giving birth.

Current federal law requires employers of 50 or more workers to provide 12 weeks of unpaid leave for such circumstances. Speaking today on the Senate floor, King says a measure authored by himself and Nebraska Republican Sen. Deb Fischer would open up tax incentives to employers of any size.

Vernon Barford School

The Maine Calling tackles its first kids' book.  Geared toward middle school readers, Wonder by R.J. Palacio tells the story of a 10-year old boy named August with severe facial deformities heading off to school for the first time.

Guests:

Josh Christie is the author of Maine Beer: Brewing in Vacationland. He is a bookseller at Sherman’s Books in Portland and co-founder of the podcast Bookrageous.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Senate President's leadership political action committee will pay a $1,500 fine for a campaign finance violation.

The Maine Commission on Ethics and Governmental Practices commission fined Justin Alfond's PAC on Thursday. The Democrat says that contributions and expenditures were inadvertently left off two quarterly reports.

The penalty for such a violation is more than $31,000, but commission staff had recommended the smaller fine because the PAC self-reported the errors, among other things.

WILTON, Maine — One of the main attractions at this year's Wilton Blueberry Festival isn't a fruit — it's a set of giant inflatable human organs for people to walk through.

The Morning Sentinel reports the two-day festival will include an inflatable heart, lungs, and a 50-foot-long human body visitors can walk through to observe the way organs work. The festival's chairwoman says the festival is adding the giant organs to bring an educational aspect to the event.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Senate has unanimously confirmed Republican Gov. Paul LePage's judicial nominees.

The Democratic-controlled Senate on Thursday approved the nomination of Jeffery Hjelm to the Maine Supreme Court and Deputy Attorney General William Stokes to Superior Court.

Hjelm's a superior justice for the Knox County Superior Court. The Camden resident was nominated to the Superior Court by Gov. Angus King in 1998 and was reappointed by Gov. John Baldacci in 2005.

PORTLAND, Maine — Google's barge in Portland, Maine, is on the move, but the mysterious structure's destination is unclear.

The Portland Press Herald reports the four-story barge moved to South Portland on Wednesday. The owner of the cargo terminal where the barge is docked tells the paper an "international barging company" purchased the barge and it and is soon leaving Portland for an "ocean voyage."

By Alanna Durkin, The Associated Press

AUGUSTA, Maine — A new Maine law that aims to crack down on people with multiple drunken driving violations is among several that will soon kick in following the Democratic-led Legislature's short, combative session.

Under the new law that goes into effect on Friday, someone with a previous felony operating-under-the-influence conviction will automatically be charged with a felony for a subsequent offense.

BANGOR, Maine — The Maine attorney general's office has taken action to ban a used car dealership owner from doing business in the state for seven years after accusing him of unfair and deceptive trade practices.

Under terms of a proposed consent judgment, Glenn Geiser and his dealerships, My Maine Ride and Bumper2Bumper, Inc., will be out of business until 2021. Some consumers will be eligible for partial restitution for repair costs and may be eligible for forgiveness of loan balances on repossessed cars.

AUGUSTA, Maine — A new state law about to take effect is aimed at preventing the state from missing deadlines for the relicensing of dams.

The Legislature approved the law after the Maine Department of Environmental Protection missed three federal deadlines. Democratic Rep. Jeff McCabe, the assistant House majority leader, said that resulted in the state losing its power to weigh in on water quality issues for those waterways.

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