A.J. Higgins

Statewide News Reporter

A.J. came to Maine Public Radio in August 2007 after a stint as a staff writer for Blethen Maine Newspapers. His news coverage for the Kennebec Journal in Augusta also appeared in the Waterville Morning Sentinel, the Portland Press Herald and the Maine Sunday Telegram. Prior to joining the Kennebec Journal, A.J. served for 13 years as political editor and State House bureau chief for the Bangor Daily News.

He began working for the BDN in 1972 while still a senior at Bangor High School, when his first job was casting the lead plates for the printing presses in the paper’s stereotype department. In the ensuing 34 years, A.J. moved up to the editorial department, where he quickly immersed himself in nearly every facet of news reporting, editing and photography.

In addition to his extensive coverage in the greater Bangor area, he also worked in the paper’s Presque Isle bureau and was named bureau chief of the paper’s Hancock County operations in Ellsworth in 1988. He was assigned to the State House in 1993.

While A.J.’s reporting on Maine Public Radio has largely centered around coverage of events in Augusta, he has turned his reporting chops to issues and topics taking place across the entire state.

A.J. resides in Manchester with his wife, Diane.

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Later this summer, the state will terminate its contract with an embattled Connecticut-based transportation vendor that frequently failed to get MaineCare clients to their medical appointments. But this week lawmakers learned that despite the company's poor performance, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services has paid millions more for service. Now the Legislature's Appropriations Committee has scheduled a meeting next month to probe the issue with the LePage administration.

Maine House of Representatives

Within Republican circles, it is simply known as "the pledge" - a  commitment by a candidate to oppose all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and businesses. And taking the pledge has become a big deal in the spirited GOP 2nd Congressional District race that pits conservative Bruce Poliquin against the more moderate Kevin Raye.  A.J. Higgins reports.

Tom Porter / MPBN

A published news report is linking a Maine street gang to the gun that was used last year by one of the Boston Marathon bombers. According to the L.A. Times, the 9-millimeter semi-automatic pistol used to kill a Massachusetts Institute of Technology security officer, and seriously wound another officer, was purchased at Cabela's in Scarborough, and passed along to a Portland drug dealer, who is believed to have given it to the alleged bomber.

FairPoint union employees from Maine took their concerns over ongoing contract negotiations to corporate headquarters today in Charlotte, North Carolina, where shareholders were convening their annual meeting. After posing a few questions to senior managers and shareholders, the employees left, saying management wants the workers to accept lower wages. But company officials say that's only part of the story. A.J. Higgins has more.

First, Gov. Paul LePage threatened to bring the Maine Legislature back into an emergency session. Now minority Republicans are urging Democrats to reconvene over nursing homes. Specifically, Republicans want to reconsider an 11th-hour bill from the governor that would provide $5 million to nursing homes from a tobacco settlement fund.

Stung by the effects of a Supreme Court decision and the failure of the state Legislature to offer a remedy, Maine Citizens for Clean Elections is advancing a new proposal it says will give outspent candidates the money they need to compete in state races.  Under the plan, state funding to the program would increase by $1 million a year, and candidates would be allowed to access more money by collecting additional contributions. A.J. Higgins has more.

Maine House of Representatives

A progressive advocacy group has apologized for a campaign flier that targeted dozens of Republican lawmakers for opposing the expansion of Medicaid in Maine. The Maine Peoples Alliance had sent out the letter to voters in those districts characterizing those legislators as "spineless" for refusing "to stand up" to the governor on the issue. As A.J. Higgins reports, that mesage offended one GOP lawmaker who uses a wheelchair.

On this last day of the legislative session, Gov. Paul LePage submitted a bill he says will provide Maine's nursing homes with the money they need to keep their doors open for the remainder of the budget cycle. But the problem for Democratic legislative leaders is that the bill would take millions from the state's Fund for a Healthy Maine that underwrites substance abuse programs.  And as A.J. Higgins reports, they also think it's being proposed too late in the session.

The state ethics commission handed down the second-largest fine in its history today, after a lengthy investigation concluded that supporters of a proposed Lewiston casino failed to satisfy state campaign finance report filing requirements. As A.J. Higgins reports, two political action committees and their backers have agreed to pay a $15,000 fine to the state.

A new law that imposes higher fines and harsher penalties on those responsible for the crime of sex trafficking has been widely lauded by prosecutors and women's advocacy groups. But some Maine attorneys are questioning provisions of the law that impose mandatory minimum fines for offenders, as well as some of its underlying rationale that imposes a criminal justice solution to solve what could just as easily be defined as a social problem. A.J. Higgins has more.

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The Raye for Congress campaign is demanding that 2nd District congressional primary rival Bruce Poliquin apologize for encouraging Republicans to vote Sen. Susan Collins out of office. Kevin Raye said Poliquin should be standing up for Collins instead of trying to elect her Democratic opponent, Shenna Bellows.

Rebounding from a divisive state convention two years ago, Republicans say there's a new spirit of unity in the air for this year's event, which opened today in Bangor. In this off-year election, Republicans are pinning their hopes on returning GOP majorities to the Maine House and Senate, sending Republicans to Washington from the state's two congressional districts and reelecting Gov. Paul LePage. LePage figures prominently in the platform passed by delegates who strongly support the governor's positions on welfare reform and lower taxes.

U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME)
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It was a day of firsts at Bath Iron Works, where members of all four unions opted to give their collective endorsement to a single candidate. And bucking a long-time tradition at the shipbuilding facility, Thursday also marked the first time that the unions chose to support a Republican over a Democrat. A.J. Higgins has more.

A tragedy on the Canadian border a year ago has offered lessons for emergency responders here who must be prepared to confront a train derailment anywhere in the state. Fire and police officials who were called to the Lac Megantic derailment last year discussed the experience with their Maine counterparts during a two-day conference in Augusta. But as A.J. Higgins reports, those insights prompted some firefighters to recall their own rail disaster right here in Maine.

It was a day of firsts at Bath Iron Works, where members of all four unions opted to give their collective endorsement to a single candidate. And bucking a long-time tradition at the shipbuilding facility, Thursday also marked the first time that the unions chose to support a Republican over a Democrat.