AUGUSTA (AP) – Days after a stormy hearing on his nomination for the top Maine State Police post, Craig Poulin won the Senate’s confirmation Tuesday by a unanimous vote.

Without debate, senators voted 32-0 to elevate the 49-year-old Gardiner resident and state police veteran to chief.

Poulin, currently one of two majors in the state police, succeeds Col. Michael Sperry, who is retiring. Poulin joined the state police in 1978.

Last Thursday, the Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voted 11-2 to endorse Poulin’s nomination.

Several committee members who voted for the nomination said they did so despite concerns that had been raised before the committee a day earlier.

Neutering bill awaits funding

AUGUSTA (AP) – An animal welfare bill that prompted testimony in Maine from “M.A.S.H.’s” Loretta Swit now awaits only funding authorization after receiving final legislative votes of approval.

The bill set aside Tuesday for final funding seeks to create a state fund to help low-income Mainers pay for spaying or neutering of their dogs and cats.

Most of the money would be raised through a voluntary checkoff on Maine individual income tax forms, which would allow taxpayers to donate a portion of their refunds or make donations with the tax returns.

Swit, who played Maj. Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan on the long-running television series, held a news conference in the State House and testified before a legislative committee last month in favor of Gardiner Democratic House Speaker Patrick Colwell’s bill.

17-year-olds may get voting rights

AUGUSTA (AP) – A bill to give some 17-year-olds the right to vote in Maine primaries was one step from final legislative passage after receiving final House approval Tuesday.

Representatives voted to enact a bill allowing 17-year-olds to vote in primary elections, provided they turn 18 in time for the general election.

The bill has been scaled back from a constitutional amendment that was introduced last year. In its original form, the bill sought to give unqualified voting rights to 17-year-olds.

The amended bill faces a final Senate vote.

Lawmakers honor Catholic bishop upon retirement

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) – The Maine House and Senate formally honored Bishop Joseph Gerry on Tuesday as he retires as spiritual leader of Maine’s Roman Catholics.

Lawmakers applauded Gerry after passing an item congratulating him and offering their best wishes as Gerry returns to the St. Anselm monastery in Manchester, N.H., where he spent most of his adult life as a Benedictine monk.

Gerry, who has headed the statewide diocese since 1989, is being succeeded by an auxiliary bishop from the Boston archdiocese, Richard Malone. He will be installed as bishop of the Diocese of Portland on March 31.

Speaking from the House floor Tuesday, Assistant Minority Leader David Bowles, R-Sanford, said Gerry taught legislators to “put aside petty differences and prejudices to work for the betterment of fellow citizens.”

Bowles said Gerry served as a “moral compass” for the Legislature while communicating his message “with humility and humor.”

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