This Week in Augusta – 04.03.2017 edition

Date: April 03, 2017

SESSION

Tuesday – Senate & House, 10 a.m.

Thursday – Senate & House, 10 a.m.

 

http://legislature.maine.gov/

 

LEGISLATION

LD 1203 – LD 1318 printed

New titles of interest include:

  • Address policies relating to substance use in the workplace (LD 1222)
  • Provide more sources of revenue for the Highway Fund (LD 1226)
  • Allow a local option sales tax on meals and lodging (LD 1230)
  • Increase efficiency in enforcement of the Maine Human Rights Act (LD 1239)
  • Support small manufacturers (LD 1244)
  • Ensure effectiveness of tax expenditures (LD 1245)
  • Allow local option sales tax by referendum (LD 1265)
  • Prohibit employers from preventing employees from discussing other employees’ wages (LD1259)
  • Create a single-payer healthcare system in Maine (LD 1274)
  • Reduce to $1,000,000 from $5,000,000 the amount exempt from the Maine Estate Tax (LD 1276)
  • Allow children 26 years old or young to remain on their parents’ health insurance policy and clarify that insurers may not impose lifetime or annual limits on benefits or impose pre-existing condition exclusions (LD 1279)
  • Require employers to make good faith effort to verify a person’s U.S. citizenship or legal status before offering the person employment (LD 1307)
  • Establish an energy policy for Maine (LD 1313)

 

WC PREMIUM RATE SAVINGS APPROVED

The “loss cost” factor, which used in setting workers compensation premium rates, will decrease by 4.3% for new and renewing policies as of April 1. The decrease is expected to save Maine employers more than $9.5 million, according to the Maine Bureau of Insurance. The bureau estimates there now has been a 53.6% decrease since the emergency reform law took effect January 1993.

 

LABOR ECONOMIST

Maine’s chief labor economist, Glenn Mills, in a briefing last week to the Consensus Economic Forecasting Commission, reported that the job picture has improved markedly but he noted economic and population dynamics are very uneven across the state:

  • 3.2% unemployment rate in February is tied for lowest since 1976
  • Rate has been below 4% in 13 of the last 16 months, only the third such period in four decades
  • Inflation-adjusted wages continue to rise at the fastest rate in decades, “reflecting a very competitive staffing environment”
  • Nonfarm payroll jobs are back to pre-recession levels
  • Total population has barely grown and the working-age population continued to decline this decade.
    • Declines have been pretty rapid across the northwest and northeast rim of the state
    • Cumberland and York are the only counties with substantial population growth
  • Some of the population declines are due to negative natural change (more deaths than births)
    • Only Cumberland and Androscoggin Counties had significant positive natural change
  • Most of the population declines in the north are due to negative net migration
  • Most of the population gains in the south are due to positive net migration
  • It appears that the stronger than expected job growth is from people moving from areas where there is less opportunity to areas where there is more opportunity (this has also contributed to the rapid decline in unemployment)

 

NOTABLE HEARINGS SCHEDULED

Here is a schedule of hearings on selected issues that may interest small business owners:

Apr. 3, 10 a.m. – Labor, Research, Commerce & Economic Development

  • Modify unemployment benefits work search requirement for certain seasonal claimants in temporary layoff status (LD 700)
  • Exempt certain seasonally unemployed construction workers and loggers from unemployment benefits work search requirement (LD 962)

 

Apr. 4, 1 p.m. – Insurance & Financial Services

  • Require that health insurance policies cover medical marijuana (LD 1064)

 

Apr. 5, 10 a.m. – Labor, Research, Commerce & Economic Development

  • Restore the tip credit to Maine’s minimum wage law (LD 673)
  • Restore the tip credit to Maine employers (LD 702)
  • Establish commission to study phase-out of subminimum (tip) wage (LD 1117)

 

Apr. 5, 1 p.m. – Labor, Research, Commerce & Economic Development

  • Create a training wage (LD 774)
  • Prohibit Maine minimum wage from exceeding the New England average (LD 775)
  • Eliminate indexing the minimum wage to inflation (LD 778)
  • Base the minimum wage on a New England average and restore tip credit (LD 831)
  • Exempt certain employees from the minimum wage laws (LD 971)
  • Establish a minimum wage for minors (LD 991)
  • Keep the minimum wage at $9 and restore the tip credit (LD 1005)

 

Apr.10, 10 a.m. – Labor, Research, Commerce & Economic Development

  • Provide paid or unpaid family leave to employees depending on business size (LD 1159)
  • Improve the lives of working families (LD 1155)
  • Create modification factor to reduce workers compensation insurance rates for qualifying small employers (LD 913)

 

Apr.10, 10 a.m. – State & Local Government

  • Ensure cost-efficiency in contracting out services by the State (LD 1193)
  • Protect taxpayers in the privatization of State services (LD 1213)

 

Apr.11, 1:30 p.m. – Transportation

  • Provide revenue to fix and rebuild Maine’s infrastructure (LD 1149)
  • Establish a task force to assess mileage-based revenue as a substitute for the gas tax (LD 1150)

 

Apr.13, 1 p.m. – Insurance & Financial Services

  • Encourage consumers to comparison shop for certain health care procedures in order to lower health care costs (LD 445)

 

NOTABLE WORK SESSIONS SCHEDULED

Here is a schedule of work sessions on selected issues that may interest small business owners:

Apr. 3, 10 a.m. – Labor, Research, Commerce & Economic Development

  • Modify unemployment benefits work search requirement for certain seasonal claimants in temporary layoff status (LD 700)
  • Exempt certain seasonally unemployed construction workers and loggers from unemployment benefits work search requirement (LD 962)

 

Apr. 6, 1:30 p.m. – Insurance & Financial Services

Eliminate health insurance rating based on age, geographic location or smoking history, and reduce rate maximum variability due to group size (LD 76

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