AUGUSTA (AP) – Marine Cpl. Eric McCue was given a hero’s welcome Wednesday by the Legislature and Gov. John Baldacci, who said, “We’re very proud of you and your service.”

“Unbelievable” was the first word uttered when the tall, 21-year-old South Portland native was asked for his reaction to all of the attention from Maine’s top elected officials.

McCue lost two toes on his left foot and broke his right foot when he stepped on a land mine in Iraq in April. He received medical treatment in North Carolina and returned to his home state a week ago.

In Augusta, McCue was escorted around the governor’s office by Baldacci, who even let McCue try out his chair for a minute.

“Don’t get too used to it,” Baldacci quipped after McCue sat for a few moments.

Baldacci used the occasion to ceremonially sign a bill that was enacted in March, which designates Interstate 95 from Augusta to Houlton as the Purple Heart Trail.

In the House of Representatives, Rep. Kevin Glynn, R-South Portland, called attention to members of the military who protected “our lives (and) our liberties fighting in Iraq,” adding, “One such great American hero is Eric McCue.”

The House gave McCue a standing ovation and a sentiment was passed which acknowledges McCue’s service and wishes him well.

Governor signs bill to curb forest-cutting practice

EDs: LD 1616

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) – Gov. John Baldacci took a walk outside Wednesday to sign a bill to reduce a forest-cutting practice known as liquidation harvesting.

In a ceremony in Capitol Park near the State House, attended by lawmakers and representatives of forest-products and environmental interests, Baldacci called the bill he submitted a part of his initiative to promote sustainable forest management.

The bill directs state forestry officials to write rules that substantially eliminate the practice of cutting and removing valuable lumber and then selling the land to make quick money.

It also requires increased oversight of timber harvesting on woodlands held for short terms and requires that harvests be conducted with long-term forest productivity and health in mind.

State officials estimate as many as 45,000 acres are subjected to liquidation harvesting each year in Maine.

Baldacci to sign off on workers compensation board budget

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) – Gov. John Baldacci announced Wednesday he will sign into law a bill approving the Maine Workers Compensation Board budget.

Baldacci had threatened to yank the board’s checkbook because he was not pleased by a record of gridlock that’s hampered the insurance system for people hurt on the job, according to a spokesman.

The legislation was passed Wednesday as an emergency measure so that it will take effect immediately, rather than 90 days after the Legislature adjourns. The emergency approval will enable the board’s operation to continue without interruption. Without the approval, the office would have shut down on June 30, the last day of the current fiscal year.

The budget for the next fiscal year was approved by a vote of 135-3 in the House and unanimous vote in the Senate.

Some strings are attached. The funding measure directs the board to come up with a plan for converting to electronic filing of workers’ comp paperwork, and demands action on other matters that have been tying up the board.

The workers’ comp board has four members representing organized labor groups and four representing management. With the even split between sharply competing interests, many of its votes end up in ties.

AP-ES-06-05-03 0215EDT

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