Portland begins paying panhandlers

Good evening from the BDN Portland office on Congress Street. Tonight Poliquin helped Republicans pass a plan to replace Obamacare; Westbrook brothers plead not-guilty to welfare fraud; and LePage wants Mainers repeatedly revived by Narcan to pay for it.

What we’re talking about

American Health Care Act through the House — The U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill on Thursday to repeal major parts of the Affordable Care Act and replace it with a Republican healthcare plan, inspired in part by Maine’s system of “high-risk pools.” The bill scraped through the House 217-213 with support from 2nd Congressional District Rep. Bruce Poliquin, who had remained silent about where he stood on the plan until just hours before the vote, BDN’s Michael Shepherd reports. Rep. Chellie Pingree, of the 1st District, opposed the bill, which will next be voted on in the Senate after the Congressional Budget Office finishes estimating its cost and effect on insurance the insurance market.

Here’s BDN healthcare report Jackie Farwell’s recent dive into how “high-risk pools” worked in Maine and what they might mean nationally.

$1,000 per incident — That’s the amount that Gov. Paul LePage wants to fine communities that do not charge people who are repeatedly revived with an opioid-overdose antidote. BDN’s Nok-Noi Ricker reports that LePage has introduced a bill that would require municipalities and counties to recover the cost of naloxone hydrochloride from repeat users, and hit them with a $1,000 fine if they don’t. LePage and the Department of Health and Human Services, which would enforce the bill, did not respond to questions, but the governor has long opposed naloxone, which he said “does not truly save lives; it merely extends them until the next overdose.”

Dead weatherman would’ve been charged with sex crime — The WCSH-TV meteorologist who was found dead by apparent suicide in Auburn earlier this year was the “one and only suspect” in an alleged sexual assault, Oxford County Sheriff Wayne Gallant said Thursday. BDN’s Beth Brogan reports that a heavily redacted police report states that Tom Johnston sexually assaulted a woman following the annual Spring Festival at Sunday River ski resort on Saturday, April 1, where Johnston served as master of ceremonies. Gallant said Johnston would have been charged with Class B felony gross sexual assault, but detectives declined to elaborate on the incident. Johnston is believed to have killed himself shortly after the alleged assault.

Brothers plead not guilty to welfare fraud— Ali Ratib Daham, 40, and Abdulkareem Daham, 21, both of Westbrook, pleaded not guilty to criminal charges arising from a welfare fraud the pair are accused of having run out of the older brother’s Portland grocery store, the Press Herald’s Matt Byrne reports. The brothers were charged with an array of crimes following a lengthy investigation by the FBI and other agencies into a fraud they allegedly ran out of the Ahram Halal Market on Forest Avenue. The alleged fraud may have cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars and was seized upon by Gov. Paul LePage as evidence of his long held position that Maine needs to crack down on welfare fraud.

Employing panhandlers — The city started its experimental program to get panhandlers off the streets by putting them to work Thursday. Two days a week through November the city will offer panhandlers minimum wage, $10.68 an hour, to work cleaning up public areas. The program, dubbed Portland Opportunity Crew, was inspired by the success similar schemes in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and San Jose, California. Look out for more reporting from us on it in the future.

Wex eyes waterfront building — A South Portland payment processing company is looking to move its headquarters onto a city-owned plot on the Portland waterfront, the Press Herald’s J. Craig Anderson. Wex has partnered with Jonathan Cohen of AD&W Architectural Doors and Windows to place a competitive bid on the roughly 48,000-square-foot lot along Thames Street between Hancock Street, next to the Portland Ocean Gateway building. Wex employs about 800 workers in South Portland, and would maintain a presence there even if it wins the lot, according to President and CEO Melissa Smith.

Tweet of the day

From The New York TImes White House correspondent Julie Davis:

The Big Idea

Dying to get to America — “Case 0435 died more than a mile from the nearest road, with an unscuffed MacGregor baseball in his backpack,” the New York Times’ Manny Fernandez reports. “Case 0469 was found with a bracelet, a simple green ribbon tied in a knot.”


Got any interesting story ideas, suggestions or links to share? Email Jake Bleiberg at jbleiberg@bangordailynews.com, or tweet @JZBleiberg.

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