Sen. Susan Collins splits with party on Planned Parenthood vote, forces Pence tie-breaker

Good morning, Maine. Here’s your morning briefing.

National news

Senate kills family-planning rule, with Pence breaking tie

Vice President Mike Pence took the rare step of breaking a tie in the Senate on Thursday, casting the deciding vote to roll back protections for reproductive health funds. Using the Congressional Review Act, which allows lawmakers to repeal recently minted regulations, senators killed a rule intended to keep federal grants flowing to clinics that provide contraception and other services in states that want to block the funding.

Aside from Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, the 51-50 vote fell along party lines: Republicans — including Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan — voted for the measure, and Democrats voted against.

The nonprofit Planned Parenthood, which provides abortions and many other health and contraception services, receives some of the federal funding.

Ex-Trump adviser Flynn seeks immunity for testimony in Russia probe

President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, has told the FBI and congressional officials investigating the Trump campaign’s potential ties to Russia that he is willing to be interviewed in exchange for immunity from prosecution, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

Wall Street analyst: Anthem is likely to exit many ACA exchanges

Anthem, a major health insurer, is “leaning toward exiting” many of the areas in which it sells insurance on the Affordable Care Act exchanges, according to Wall Street analysts who met with the company.

The future of the exchanges, where individuals can buy insurance with the help of government subsidies, has been thrown into doubt as companies wait to see whether the Trump administration and Congress will take steps to stabilize the business.

Why North Carolina abruptly flip-flopped on its ‘bathroom bill’

Whether the bathroom bill’s eventual demise is a spark of social change in the South or a blip on North Carolina’s otherwise Republican-dominated politics depends on who you talk to.

Even as they decried the repeal as discriminatory, LGBT and civil rights advocates say the battle over bathrooms has awakened a new activist class.

White House appears to be the source of Nunes’ surveillance claims

The White House offered Thursday to show lawmakers intelligence reports that purportedly mention associates of President Donald Trump, raising new questions about whether the president’s staff previously leaked details about the classified documents it is now offering Congress.

In a letter Thursday, White House Counsel Donald McGahn invited the leaders of the House and Senate intelligence committees to review the classified documents — apparently the same reports mentioning Trump transition officials that Rep. Devin Nunes, R-California, the House committee chairman, said he was shown at the White House last week.

Local headlines

Hospital network that includes EMMC, Mercy braces for credit rating hit

A major credit rating agency is considering downgrading Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems, concerned about the ability of the state’s largest hospital system by geography to pay back its loans.

Moody’s Investor Service has consistently lowered the system’s rating since 2013. Another downgrade would sink EMHS into the “non-investment grade” category, better known as “junk bond” status.

Maine to get $5.1 million from Volkswagen emissions settlement

Volkswagen and its affiliates Audi and Porsche, as well as their American subsidiaries, have agreed to pay more than $157 million to 10 states — including $5.1 million for Maine — to settle environmental lawsuits filed last year challenging the companies’ secret use of unlawful “defeat device” software in their vehicles, state Attorney General Janet Mills announced Thursday. The software caused tens of thousands of tons of excess harmful pollutants to be emitted into the air in Maine and other states, she said in a prepared statement.

Spring snowstorm could drop a foot in some parts of Maine

The latest snowstorm to hit the area should arrive in Maine late Friday and lay down heavy, wet snow all day Saturday, with the possibility of up to a foot in some areas, according to Meteorologist Tom Hawley of the National Weather Service in Gray.

LePage rejects Real ID quick fix, backs bill to comply with federal standards

Gov. Paul LePage on Thursday vetoed a bill that aims to help Maine veterans thwarted by federal Real ID rules gain access to medical care outside the state.

“I respectfully urge the Legislature to not provide case-by-case carve outs for groups being affected by Real ID,” LePage wrote.

Maine is one of only four states that are not in compliance with the Real ID law and among the consequences is that Maine drivers’ licenses are no longer valid for entering federal facilities in other states.

L.L. Bean joins forces with Portland-based advertisers VIA Agency

Maine-based retailer L.L. Bean cut ties with advertising agency Erwin Penland of South Carolina and announced in a news release Wednesday that The VIA Agency of Maine would be their advertising.

VIA was selected after a rigorous review process, according to L.L. Bean

Living, events

Maine’s craft beer is headed to Iceland

The project is specifically about beer, but economic development officials and the Maine Brewers’ Guild said they hope the arrangement will open other doors for trade across the North Atlantic. “We’re going to start with the fun and the business will follow,” Dana Eidsness, head of the Maine International Trade Center’s North Atlantic Development Office, said. “This is beer diplomacy.”

Maine farmer aims to spark grain renaissance

In his new role serving as the executive director for the Maine Grain Alliance, Tristan Noyes said he wants to work toward making this type of widespread knowledge be the case for growing grains in the state.

“We don’t have that same kind of culture and knowledge basis for folks [growing grain],” he said.

“If I am a potato grower and I go down the road to my elder potato grower who’s been doing it for 70 years and ask a question, he’s going to know everything. If I’m growing grain there is not the same person down the road as there once was, so that’s what we’re trying to build back.”

Dear Liz: Is it OK for a married man to have dinner with a woman who is not his wife?

Dear Liz gets stumped by a question that is causing heated debate. Chime in with your hot take.

St. George River Race rescheduled for April 2

The course is 6 miles. Registration is $20 and proceeds benefit children’s programs at the YMCA. Visit or contact Dale Cross at the Y at 338-4598 or

Mayo Regional Hospital and Dover-Foxcroft Police Department collaborate on drug take-back

In a collaborative effort to continue the drug take-back program in the Piscataquis Region, Mayo Regional Hospital and the Dover-Foxcroft Police Department are working together to make drop boxes local communities more accessible. Mayo Regional Hospital will now have a drug take-back box located in the main entrance of the hospital so that community members can bring unused prescriptions, out dated medications and alike for a safe drop off at the hospital.

Passagassawakeag River Race to be held April 1

The 44th annual Passagassawakeag River Race will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, April 1, at the Passagassawakeag Stream in Morrill to benefit children’s programs at YMCA. The race is 8 miles. Registration for $20 will be held 8:30-10:30 a.m. Contact Dale Cross/Waldo County YMCA, phone: 338-4598, or