This Week in Augusta – 03.08.2016 edition

Date: March 08, 2016

SESSION

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

http://legislature.maine.gov/

LEGISLATION

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

As of today LD 1456 – LD 1639 have been printed for the 2016
session

MINIMUM WAGE ALTERNATIVE SOUGHT

A broad coalition of business groups formally announced last
week their support for a $10 minimum wage by 2020 to compete on the ballot in
November against a citizens’ initiative that increases the wage to $12 by 2020
(and includes indexing and phase out of the tip wage credit).  Gov. Paul LePage devoted his weekly radio
address to voicing support for the $10 wage alternative (so-called “competing
measure”).  It is not clear yet whether
the business groups will line up enough votes in the Senate and House to get
their proposal placed on the ballot alongside the $12 initiative.  The Maine Sunday Telegram on March 6 editorialized
against the business coalition alternative.

BUSINESS DEPRECIATION FIGHT ON HOLD

Governor LePage announced last week he will not support
tying tax conformity to an increase education funding.  “I will not support good policy tied to the
back of bad policy,” said the Governor in a press release.  Democrats insist on taking $23 million from
the Budget Stabilization Fund for spending on K-12 education.  “It’s totally unrelated to tax conformity,”
he said.  Both Republicans and Democrats
agree on permanent extension of the $500,000 allowance for Section 179
expensing but the two parties disagree on whether to extend 50% bonus
depreciation (Maine Capital Investment Credit), that applies to all businesses,
through 2019 as allowed by federal law (Republicans) or for only one or two
years (Democrats).  The standoff may be
resolved later this session despite the Governor’s objections.

WORKPLACE DRUG USE ON RISE

The 2015 state report on drug use in the workplace shows 5%
of those tested were positive, the highest percentage of positive test results
since 1989 when Maine began regulating employer drug testing.  Cannabinoids accounted for 84% of all
positive test results.  The percent of
applicants who tested positive in 2015 also stood at high of 5%.  Random positive tests were 3.5%.  The number of employer with state-approved
workplace drug testing policies continues to climb and now stands at 534.  A copy of the 2015 report and prior years may
be found on the Maine Department of Labor website.

www.maine.gov/labor

HEARINGS & WORK SESSIONS

Budget Stabilization Fund Increase (LD 1606) – A hearing was
held Mar. 7 on this Governor’s proposal to transfer $67,292,995 in fiscal year
2015-16 and $5,389,377 in fiscal year 2016-17 from the unappropriated surplus
of the General Fund to the Maine Budget Stabilization Fund.  Opponents believe “investing in education,
health care, and infrastructure will improve the state’s credit rating more
than increasing the state’s budget stabilization fund, especially at a time
when the state is still struggling to recover from the recession” (Maine Center
for Economic Policy).

Eliminate the Estate Tax (LD 1622) – A work session will be
held Mar. 8 at 2 p.m. on the Governor’s proposal to eliminate the Maine estate
tax beginning in 2017.  NFIB supports the
elimination.

Modernize Highway User Fees (LD 1110) – Work continues Mar. 8
at 2 p.m. on this bill that proposes various changes in the way revenues are
obtained for the Highway Fund and “yield predictable funding levels.”  Transportation committee members continue to
mull various options including a fee on electric vehicles (that don’t pay any
tax on fuel) and some legislators would like to propose a gas tax increase.

Simplify Drug Testing Law (LD 1384) – A work session will be
held Mar. 10 at 1 p.m. on a proposed amendment that streamlines the workplace
drug testing policy approval process and to recognize the evolving nature of
substance impairment.  The amendment is
the product of a stakeholder group that met over the summer at the Maine Department
of Labor.  Proposed law changes include
raising from 20 full-time employees to 50 full-time employees the threshold at
which employers with a drug testing program must also have an employee
assistance program.  The amendment also
proposes allowing employers of 10 or more workers to conduct companywide random
tests (the current threshold is 50 workers). 
Maine’s drug testing law is considered one of the most onerous in the
nation for employers.

Evaluation of Economic Development Tax Incentives – The
Department of Economic & Community Development will present a report Mar.
11 at 10 a.m. on a consultant’s evaluation of state tax incentives intended to
promote economic growth.   The briefing
will be at a joint meeting of the Appropriations, Taxation, and economic
development committees.

Related Content: Small Business News | Maine

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