Inside Augusta

What did Maine lawmakers accomplish in 2019?

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The first session of the 129th Legislature adjourned in mid-June, making it critical to examine what exactly our lawmakers accomplished in 2019. This is the first session that Maine people have seen the governor and both chambers of the legislature controlled by one party since 2010. Here is what the Maine Legislature passed in 2019 to raid your wallet, restrict your liberty and undermine free markets.

Government Overreach

LD 264: “An Act Regarding the Taking of a Blood Sample from an Operator of a Motor Vehicle Involved in a Fatal Accident”

This new law will extend the ability to draw blood from the operator of a motor vehicle involved in a fatal accident to both emergency services personnel and law enforcement. While this bill could certainly expedite the process of finding which operator was at fault in a fatal crash, it raises concerns with the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. It’s important to note that a warrant must first be obtained to draw blood from an individual, with limited exceptions. Proponents of the bill sought to have the bill amended to include “all motor vehicle incidents in which exigent circumstances exist or if a warrant has been obtained to draw a specimen of blood.”

Prohibitions on the Free Market

LD 1: “An Act To Protect Health Care Coverage for Maine Families”

This bill levies restrictions and requirements on insurers to preserve in state law consumer protections under the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as ObamaCare. Instead of putting restrictions on insurance carriers, the state of Maine should try to become more attractive to private carriers to increase competition in the marketplace, thus reducing the cost of services.

LD 289: “An Act To Prohibit the Use of Certain Disposable Food Service Containers”

This new law will prohibit the use of polystyrene (Styrofoam) containers in January 2021. It also outlaws the use of plastic beverage stirrers. This is an attack on small businesses in the state of Maine. When a similar ban was introduced on extruded polystyrene food containers in New York, it was estimated that costs would increase 94 cents for every dollar spent on food service and drink containers because the alternatives were more expensive.

LD 307: “An Act To Limit the Number of Charter Schools in Maine”

Governor Mills allowed this bill to become law without her signature. It permanently caps the number of public charter schools allowed to operate in Maine at 10. There are currently nine public charter schools operating in the state. Once the last slot is filled, students who want to attend a public charter school will be hindered by this arbitrary cap. Instead, the state of Maine should be focused on expanding public charter schools and improving upon the progress that has been made since 2011 in allowing Maine students to attend schools that better meet their individual needs. 

LD 513: “An Act To Limit the Number of Students and Prevent the Addition of GradeLevels at Virtual Public Charter Schools”

Governor Mills allowed this bill to become law without her signature as well. This law caps enrollment for virtual public charter schools that operate in Maine at 1,000 students. It also prevents virtual charters from expanding to serve new grade levels. Thus, if a virtual charter reaches the enrollment cap, it arbitrarily prevents other students from attending the school. This is another bill that caters to the teachers union and does nothing to help Maine students. In fact, once the cap is reached, it will reduce the choice students and their parents have for education in Maine.

LD 946: “ An Act To Protect the Privacy of Online Customer Information”

This act would prohibit internet service providers from using, disclosing, selling or permitting access to a customer’s personal information unless the customer gives them affirmative consent. According to the Maine Chamber of Commerce’s testimony, this legislation would harm internet service providers because advertising to consumers is a common source of revenue. In addition, it targets internet service providers but allows content providers such as Facebook and Google to use their data without these restrictions. In other words, this law picks winners and losers; it hurts internet service providers but allows behemoth content providers to continue using customers’ personal information for their own benefit.  

LD 1063: “An Act To Support the Role of Municipalities in Expanding BroadbandInfrastructure”

This law would permit municipalities to construct, maintain and operate infrastructure to be used by communications service providers and would make it easier for towns and cities to establish government-owned networks (GONs). After municipalities tried to establish GONs in other states, taxpayers were often left to pick up the pieces. A report from the University of Pennsylvania Law School showed that, out of 20 municipal fiber projects that reported the results of their broadband operations, 11 had a negative cash flow. Only seven of those municipalities were projected to recover the cost within 60 years or more. If municipal broadband infrastructure projects in Maine see similar results, taxpayers could be on the hook to cover the cost for decades to come.

LD 1532: “An Act To Eliminate Single-use Plastic Carry-out Bags”

This new law prohibits retail establishments from using single-use plastic bags and allows them to use paper bags as an alternative. However, the law requires businesses to charge five cents per paper bag and prohibits the retailer from waiving the fee. The law also includes carve-outs for some plastic bags used for laundry, newspapers and more, and the prohibition takes effect in April 2020. This law ultimately hurts the consumer because it mandates that they pay 5 cents per paper bag at retailers. While this isn’t a large expense, it is another example of how state government is nickel and diming people through every means necessary to undermine free markets.

Can we also acknowledge that there is no greater misnomer than the term “single-use plastic bag”? Do you know a single Mainer who does not horde plastic bags under their sink?

Expensive Proposals 

LD 369: “An Act Authorizing Earned Employee Leave”

This law mandates that employers provide employees with one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked. Employees are able to earn up to 40 hours of paid leave. This is applicable to all employers with more than 10 employees and who are open more than 120 days annually as of 2021. LD 369 will undoubtedly cost employers more to run their businesses. Imagine a business with 20 employees who all earn $15 per hour and receive 40 hours of paid sick leave. If the employees use all of their paid time off, the business would need to find an additional $12,000 to deduct from their bottom line. Training new staff or paying overtime to compensate for workers who take leave is expensive, meaning this bill is little more than an unfunded mandate on Maine’s small business economy.

LD 917: “An Act Increasing Municipal Agent Fees for Motor Vehicle Registrations”

This bill became law without the governor’s signature. LD 917 will allow municipalities to charge $2 more for each renewal of a non-commercial vehicle registration and each new registration issued. While this fee increase would be relatively small, it still cuts into the pockets of all Mainers, especially those living in poverty. 

LD 1001: An Act Making Unified Appropriations and Allocations for the Expenditures of State Government, General Fund and Other Funds, and Changing Certain Provisions of the Law Necessary to the Proper Operations of State Government for the Fiscal Years Ending June 30, 2019, June 30, 2020 and June 30, 2021

LD 1001, otherwise known as the state budget, is a more than 10 percent increase from the 2018-19 biennial budget. These funds would be better spent on tax rate reductions for all Mainers. Instead, the left chose to fund initiatives such as Medicaid expansion, a mandatory increase in teacher salaries, increases to revenue sharing and much more. In other words, government will grow and spend taxpayer dollars when it is afforded the opportunity instead of returning surplus funds to whom they belong – the taxpayer.

LD 1282: “An Act To Establish a Green New Deal for Maine”

This law establishes that the Efficiency Maine Trust and Department of Education collaborate to provide incentives for “cost-effective electric and natural gas conservation projects” or to “arrange power purchase agreements for solar capacity installations” in new school construction projects. This will likely cost the state of Maine more money and will do little to stop or hinder climate change. Maine ranks 45th in total carbon dioxide emissions, producing approximately 0.3 percent of total carbon dioxide emissions in the United States.

LD 1528:An Act To Amend the Laws Regarding Motor Vehicle Fees” 

This new law increases the fees for a(n): 

  • Out-of-rotation registration plate and reserved registration numbers from $15 to $25 
  • Trailer under 2,000 lbs 
  • Motorcycle rider education school and instructor licenses 
  • Driver education school and instructor license 
  • Duplicate registration certificate

LD 1528 became law without the governor’s signature, but it further nickel and dimes Mainers to increase state government revenue.

LD 1564: “An Act To Authorize Project Labor Agreements for Public Works Projects”

While public authorities, such as the Maine Turnpike Authority, can already require a project labor agreement (PLA) for public works projects, this law simply encourages them to do so. PLAs bind contractors and their employees with terms such as set wages, pensions and other policies typically adhered to by organized labor. If a public authority chooses to require a PLA, it reduces competitiveness in the bidding process by favoring unionized contractors over those who are non-unionized. Contractors should be evaluated on how well they can do the job and at what cost, not by whether they can meet the terms of a PLA.

LD 1586: “An Act To Promote Major Food Processing and Manufacturing Facility Expansion and To Create Jobs in Maine”

This law will provide corporate welfare handouts to food processing and manufacturing facilities in Maine to promote their expansion. Instead of creating carve-outs for certain industries, state government needs to lower taxes across the board to make Maine more competitive. Picking winners and losers is never the answer to growing Maine’s economy. 

Elections and Voting

LD 1463: “An Act To Create an Automatic Voter Registration System”

This new law will register Mainers to vote when they make contact with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and other agencies designated by the Maine Secretary of State, including colleges and universities. Individuals should have to opt in, not opt out of registering to vote. In addition, other states like California have had significant issues with duplicate registrations and individuals being registered to vote despite being ineligible.

Big Labor

LD 757: “An Act To Improve Labor Laws for Maine Workers”

This bill became law without the governor’s signature and waives a public employer’s right to request an election be conducted by the Maine Labor Relations Board to determine whether a public labor organization represents a majority of members in a bargaining unit. Under the new law, an election can only occur if the Maine Labor Relations Board determines that majority support is “in question.”

This simply makes it easier for unions to strongarm public employees, regardless of whether they feel they’re adequately being represented in the workplace. 

LD 1237: An Act To Simplify Municipal Collective Bargaining by Removing the 120-Day Notice Required Prior to Certain Negotiations

This new law removes the 120-day written notice of request that collective bargaining agents are required to provide to public employers when wages, rate of pay or any other matters regarding the appropriation of funds by a municipality or county are on the table. Previously, this written notice was required before the conclusion of the current fiscal operating budget. Removing this time constraint will give collective bargaining agents more range to make requests without being held accountable by the 120-day notice. Increases in public employees’ wages will subsequently augment municipal and county budgets.

LD 1451: “An Act Providing Labor Unions with Reasonable Access to Current and Newly Hired Public Sector Workers”

This new law maintains that public employers provide a meeting space for an employee and collective bargaining agent to meet on the employer’s premises. It also mandates that public employers provide collective bargaining agents at least 30 minutes to meet with a new employee. Further, it requires that public employers permit employees to use their work email address to communicate with collective bargaining agents.

That’s not all; this law provides public labor unions with the name, job title, workplace location, home address, work telephone number, personal telephone numbers, work email address, personal email address and date of hire of all new employees. Employees cannot opt out of receiving communications from the union until after they meet with the union representative and the initial disclosure of their private information is made.

LD 1546: “An Act To Protect State Employees When Their Contracts Have Expired”

This law will give public employees the upper hand in labor negotiations with public employers. It would allow public employees to continue receiving merit pay increases between contracts. Collective bargaining agents can already negotiate to have these provisions permanent between contacts. This law simply makes the collective bargaining agent’s job less difficult and allows them to focus on other avenues to leverage taxpayer dollars. 

LD 1620: “An Act To Exclude Collectively Bargained Salary and Job Promotion Increases from the Earnable Compensation Limitation for Retirement Purposes”

This law will exclude salary or wage increases as a result of collective bargaining or job promotion from the cap on earnings when a public employee’s retirement benefit is calculated. This will likely increase pension costs in the Maine Public Employees Retirement System and will be covered by taxpayer dollars.

About Adam Crepeau

Adam Crepeau serves as a policy analyst at The Maine Heritage Policy Center. He can be reached at acrepeau@mainepolicy.org.

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