Collins’ request to extend unemployment benefits rejected

A request by Sen. Susan Collins to pass a measure that would extend unemployment benefits for 30 days to thousands across the country, including some people in Maine, was rejected by Kentucky Sen. Jim Bunning, a fellow Republican.

Bunning has held up legislation that would keep the benefits going for hundreds of Mainers whose unemployment ran out Feb. 28. Estimates of how many Mainers are affected by Bunning’s hold range from 500 to 2,200. Bunning is insisting that spending cuts be made before the $10 billion extension goes forward for a vote.

Bunning’s action is also holding up provisions of the bill that would prevent a steep cut in Medicare reimbursements and extend small business loan guarantees, among other things.

Despite Bunning’s efforts, Senate Republican leaders insist the measure will be passed sometime this week.

USM unveils cost-cutting merger plan

The University of Southern Maine is proposing to consolidate its eight separate schools into five and cut three academic deans. USM officials said the plan will save the school $750,000 a year in administration costs, according to the Portland Press Herald.

Under a draft plan released March 1, USM would emerge from the plan with three new colleges: The Muskie College of Public Service, Management and Society; Communication, Culture and the Arts College; and Nursing, Health Professions and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). The Lewiston-Auburn College and the University of Maine School of Law would both remain unchanged.

USM currently has eight schools and colleges: School of Applied Sciences, Engineering and Technology; College of Arts and Sciences; School of Business; College of Education and Human Development; Muskie School of Public Service; College of Nursing and Health Professions; Lewiston-Auburn College; and University of Maine School of Law.

The names of the new colleges are preliminary and would probably change, USM officials said. The proposal would eliminate three deans, each of whom earns an annual salary of $210,000, as well as an administrative assistant who is paid $40,000, the paper reports.

A final draft is expected to be submitted March 19 to USM President Selma Botman. The final version is scheduled to be presented in April to the system’s trustees, the paper reported.

Baldacci touts drop-out prevention program

Gov. John Baldacci was in Washington, D.C. on March 2 pushing to expand a program called Jobs for America’s Graduates. The governor said the program has worked in Maine and 31 other states and should go nationwide.

“Now that there’s a focus on school dropouts, it’s this program that schools are trying to utilize more of because it moves kids from the streets to the schools, and from the schools to a career and citizenship and a career-ready individual,” Baldacci told Capitol News Service.

The Jobs for America’s Graduates program was launched in Maine by Gov. John McKernan. It helps at-risk kids graduate from high school and transition to college.

Displaced BNAS workers get more federal assistance

Maine is getting a federal grant of nearly $2.5 million to help workers affected by the closure of the Brunswick Naval Air Station. Maine’s two congressional representatives, Chellie Pingree and Mike Michaud, said the money will help some 400 affected workers.

“This funding will provide Maine with additional resources to help those who are in the process of transitioning to new jobs and career paths,” said Michaud in a statement. This is the third so-called National Emergency Grant Maine has received to help BNAS workers transition to new jobs.

With the latest grant, the state has received a total of $5,771,555 to help some 700 BNAS workers upgrade their skills and get counseling, job placement and other services.

“We have to make sure we do what’s needed to get Mainers back to work, but this will offer them some security in the meantime,” Pingree said.

The grant will be administered by the Coastal Counties Workforce and the Maine Department of Labor.

Man arrested in connection with child’s death

A man wanted in connection with the death of a 15-month-old Bangor boy has been arrested in Maryland. Authorities told the Bangor Daily News that the FBI arrested Edgard Anziani, 27, March 2 in Baltimore. Anziani was wanted on a murder charge in connection with last week’s death of Damien Christopher Lynn at a Bangor apartment.

Anziani, of Lawrence, Mass., was not the boy’s father, the paper reported; he was staying with the child’s mother, who was in the hospital at the time of the boy’s death.

Anziani reportedly told police the child fell down stairs in the apartment, but an autopsy determined his injuries could not be explained by such a fall, the paper reported.