Things You Need to Know: Lawmakers Return to Augusta
Here are the things you need to know today......
From the Associated Press:
Maine lawmakers are returning to Augusta to tackle big questions on recreational marijuana sales and funding for voter-approved Medicaid expansion. This year, lawmakers face re-election and several legislative leaders are running for governor and Congress. Republican Gov. Paul LePage is in the last full year of his term in office. He has demanded that lawmakers fund Medicaid expansion while complying with demands like no tax increases.
Mainers who want to run for office in 2018 can start gathering signatures. Voters will elect one of Maine's two U.S. senators, Maine's governor, two representatives to Congress, members of the Maine Legislature and several county officers. Prospective candidates can begin collecting signatures on the first day of the new year. The number of signatures required depends on the office and party. Anyone who wants to run in the June 12 primary or Nov. 6 general election must fill out a petition.
A new mayor is going to be taking the helm in Maine's second largest city. On Tuesday, Lewiston Mayor-elect Shane Bouchard will be sworn in at City Hall along with a number of other local officials. The Sun Journal reports that outgoing Mayor Bob Macdonald, who was limited to three consecutive two-year terms, is expected to give a farewell address. Bouchard will then give his inaugural address during which he is expected to outline his goals for his first two years in office.
Bone-chilling cold gripped the middle of the U.S. as 2018 began, breaking low temperature records, icing some New Year's celebrations and leading to at least two deaths attributed to exposure to the elements. The National Weather Service issued wind chill advisories for Monday covering a vast area from South Texas all the way to Canada and from Montana to New England. The brutal weather was most extreme in eight Midwest states. Omaha broke a record that had stood since 1884.
Police say a 92-year-old woman was killed when a truck slid into the path of a vehicle in which she was riding in Oakland, Maine. WABI-TV reports that Jeannette Vigue of Winslow died Saturday afternoon in the head-on collision. Officials say the truck cross the center line after sliding on ice on Kennedy Memorial Drive. The crash remains under investigation.
Mainers who want to grow industrial hemp can apply for the 2018 growing season. The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry acknowledges that would-be hemp growers face barriers that make it tricky to grow the crop legally. Maine has allowed industrial hemp since 2016. But federal law requires a permit for the cannabis plant, regardless of whether it's grown for fiber or marijuana. States and higher education institutions can seek permits for hemp grown for research purposes. But Maine's agriculture department doesn't plan to apply for such a permit, and isn't aware of universities seeking a permit. Maine law also requires industrial hemp growers to certify their seed source. Despite such barriers, the department says it signed 33 agreements with hemp growers this year, up from two in 2016.
Maine will soon prohibit the sale of 33 invasive plants. State officials say that the Maine landscape is being invaded by otherwise beautiful plants like 'Crimson King' Norway maple, burning bush and Japanese barberry. The regulation went into effect in January 2017, and businesses had through December to sell remaining stock.
The growth of bitcoin is fueling speculation and debate about the environmental impact of the energy needed to power the virtual currency. Bitcoin is the most popular digital money in the world, and it isn't tied to a bank or a government. The environmental concerns about bitcoin stem from the process of "mining" that is central to its existence. This process uses a tremendous amount of energy at computers and server farms all over the world.
Iranian state television is reporting that nine people have been killed overnight amid nationwide protests and unrest. The report Tuesday puts the death toll in six days of demonstrations to at least 20 people.
President Donald Trump is hoping for more legislative achievements to build on the Republican-led tax overhaul. He plans to host Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan at Camp David next weekend to map out the legislative agenda for the new year. Trump returned to the White House Monday night after spending the holidays in South Florida.
South Korea has offered high-level talks with rival North Korea meant to find ways to cooperate on the Winter Olympics set to begin in the South next month. The offer came a day after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said in his New Year's address that he's willing to send a delegation to the Olympics. A South Korean official proposed they meet next week in Panmunjom.
An Associated Press analysis has found nearly half of the nation's largest public universities don't track suicides among their students despite making investments in prevention. Prevention advocates say the lack of information makes it impossible for schools to measure success and find trends that can save lives. Advocates in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Washington have pushed for better data collection at colleges, but it has not been written into law.
S-E-C! S-E-C! Alabama and Georgia won their College Football Playoff semifinals and will meet in the national championship next week, appropriately, at the home of the Southeastern Conference title game. The fourth-ranked Crimson Tide smothered No. 1 Clemson in their Sugar Bowl rubber match after the third-ranked Bulldogs won the first overtime Rose Bowl ever, a wild 54-48 victory that eliminated No. 2 Oklahoma and Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield.