This Week in Augusta – 01.19.2016 edition

Date: January 19, 2016

This Week in Augusta – 01.19.2016 edition

of the House debated for hours last Thursday on a proposal to establish a
committee to investigate whether a case exists for the impeachment of Gov. Paul
LePage.  The vote was 96-52 against launching an investigation.  They
had already voted 81-65 on affirming “our state values and principles.” 
Both outcomes were expected.  



Senate & House – 10 a.m. Tuesday & Thursday




LD 1 – LD 1455 were printed by end of 2015 session

As of today LD 1456 – LD 1564 have been printed


Ideas for new legislation include:

Require state agency heads or their designees to
appear and answer questions when request by legislative committees, legislative
commissions or study groups (LD 1560)

Update Maine tax laws to conform with the
federal tax code (LD 1564)




Reject Expensive Electric Rates (LD 1339) – A work session
will be held Jan. 19 at 2 p.m. on this bill that requires the Public Utilities
Commission to reject standard offer bids if the price quoted is less than
10-cents a kilowatt hour and if none of the bids are below that rate, to
suspend the renewable portfolio requirement and solicit new bids.


Wage Garnishment (LD 1163) – A work session will be held
Jan. 21 at 1 p.m. on this bill that establishes a process for garnishment of
state income tax refunds for the satisfaction of money judgments against an
employee.  NFIB supports.


Simplify Workplace Drug Testing Law (LD 1384) – A work
session will be held Jan. 21 at 1 p.m. on this Maine labor department proposal (carried
over from 2015) that creates a model drug testing policy for interested
employers; eliminates the requirement that an employer with more than 20
full-time employees must have a functioning employee assistance program prior
to establishing a drug testing program; 
expands the number of employers than can undertake companywide random
testing from those with 50 or more employees to those with 10 or more; and,
makes various other changes in Maine’s workplace drug testing law.  NFIB supports efforts to make it easier and
less onerous for small employers to establish a drug testing program and thus
help protect the safety of all workers.


Reduce Electric Rates for Businesses (LD 1398 – Governor’s
Bill) – A work session will be held by the Jan. 21 at 1:30 p.m. this proposal
to increase the amount of Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative Trust Fund revenue
that is to be returned to business ratepayers.


Encourage Employers to Offer Disability Plans (LD 1542) – A
public hearing will be held Jan. 26 at 1 p.m. on this proposal to give
qualified employers a tax credit of $50 for each employee enrolled in a group
disability income protection plan after January 1, 2017. The credit may be
taken by an employer for no more than 5 years.


Unemployment Benefits During Labor Disputes (LD 1501) – A
public hearing will be held Jan. 28 at 1 p.m. on this Maine labor department proposal
that amends unemployment benefit law regarding labor disputes.




Advocates for a $12 minimum wage, indexing, and phase out of
the tip wage credit, submitted 75,000 signatures last Thursday to the Secretary
of State.  If at least 61,123 signatures
are validated the proposal will be on the General Election ballot in
November.  The proposal is being pushed
by Mainers for Fair Wages, a coalition including the Maine People’s Alliance,
Maine Small Business Coalition (an arm of the People’s Alliance), and Maine
AFL-CIO.   More than 130,000 low-wage
workers would be affected, according to a coalition statement.


“In spite of what the proponents of this increase will
tell you, raising the minimum wage is the surest way to destroy jobs, damage
small businesses, and increase prices to customers. Research also shows there
will be a ripple effect of wage costs that will magnify the economic damage,”
said NFIB.


Sen. John Patrick of Rumford, a strong supporter of raising
the wage floor, commented that “While big corporations and the top 1 percent
continue to rake in money faster than they can count it, regular working folks
struggle to get by.” 

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