Commentary

Ridiculous Bills in the Maine State Legislature

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As the first session of the 127th Legislature lurches toward statutory adjournment on June 17th, Maine people can breathe a sigh of relief. Next month’s adjournment means that it will be another six months before legislators are forced to consider nonsensical bills that would victimize Maine’s small businesses community.

This is my third year serving on the 13-member Labor, Commerce, Research & Economic Development (LCRED) committee, and I’m still dumbfounded by the job-killing legislation that arrives on our desks.

Hardly a day goes by that we don’t hear public testimony on legislation that goes far beyond what even the most anti-business state legislatures are doing to smother and handcuff job creators.

For example, LD 1101, An Act to Adopt a Retail Workers’ Bill of Rights, is six pages and 3,000 words of onerous scheduling and wage mandates, modeled on two ordinances recently adopted in San Francisco.

LD 1217, An Act to Require at Least 2 Weeks’ Advance Notice of the Work Schedule for Hourly Employees at Certain Businesses, is another five pages and 2,500 words of statutory language unlike anything on the books in any other state.

Passage of these bills would place Maine way out of step with every other state in the country, increase the cost of doing business here, and send a clear message to Maine’s small business owners that they would be foolish to hire new employees.

Both bills shockingly exempt non-profits and government entities from the avalanche of new scheduling and wage mandates. Only businesses trying to earn a profit and provide good-paying jobs to Mainer workers are penalized.

Although these bills were voted down by the LCRED committee, they are far from dead. Scaled-down versions of these proposals will surely be back in some form in the next Legislature.

Another ridiculous piece of legislation that comically increases the size of government is one that mandates that when you order a 16-ounce draft beer at your local pub, you will get 16 ounces of liquid, not 14 ounces of liquid and an inch of foam. I’m not making this up, honestly. The pub police would be empowered to guarantee every Mainer’s right to a full pint, from Kittery to Fort Kent.

The same legislator who sponsored that bill also put forth LD 188, An Act to Protect Employees from Abusive Work Environments. This is a retread of a bill with the same title that Gov. LePage vetoed two years ago. Currently, no other state in the nation has enacted anything like this. The bill would be a gold mine for trial lawyers.

It would create an almost bottomless pit of potential headaches and legal costs for small businesses to educate, oversee, and police employees on what constitutes abusive behavior, ensure that it does not occur, and interject when it does even if the alleged abuse might be due to personality conflicts. The costs to a small employer in legal fees could be considerable even if the lawsuit was dropped or the employer was found to be not at fault.

Not surprisingly, Democrats decided to reel in this hideously bad piece of legislation by turning it into a “resolve,” meaning the state Department of Labor will be instructed to study the issue to see if there’s a problem that needs to be addressed in the next legislative session. Count on Gov. LePage to veto this junk proposal — again.

Lastly, we have LD 960, a bill which would dramatically expand the definition of immediate family members under Maine’s Family Medical Leave Act, to include “grandchildren, grandparents, and great-grandparents who are related to the employee by blood, adoption, legal custody, marriage, or domestic partnership.”

Once again, only a handful of states extend this type of mandated leave protection to include these individuals, and where they do, the coverage is substantially more limited.

I could go on with numerous other examples of extremist legislation that has made its way to the LCRED Committee this year, but the point is that the sponsors of these bills don’t care about the negative consequences. It’s all about advancing their agenda, and ignoring the hardworking people that we have a duty to serve.

Hopefully, the people of Maine remember these pieces of ridiculous legislation the next time they head to the polls.

About Larry Lockman

State Representative Larry Lockman represents Maine House District 137, which includes parts of Hancock, Washington, and Penobscot counties. He may be contacted at Lawrence.Lockman@legislature.maine.gov

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