The 131st Maine Legislature is continuing at a slow pace, primarily due to new leadership and a number of snowstorms last month.
Of the 2,123 legislative requests that were submitted by the December 30th cloture date, 856 have been printed as legislative documents.
Earlier this month, the final report from the Commission to Develop a Paid Family and Medical Leave Benefits Program was released. The Commission was tasked with putting forward legislation for consideration by the 131st Maine Legislature.
One of the Commission Chairs, Senator Matthea Daughtry (D-Cumberland), has introduced LD 738, An Act to Establish a Paid Family and Medical Leave System. While LD 738 is just a concept draft, it can be assumed that the final legislation will incorporate the commission’s report. The final report contains recommendations and outlines parameters of a paid family and medical leave program for the state.
The commission suggests that Maine workers would be able to take up to 16 weeks of paid leave a year to care for themselves or a family member, although no more than 12 weeks at a time for any one event. Those taking leave would receive a benefit of either 80% or 90% of their typical wages. The benefit would be capped at 120% of the state’s average weekly wage (currently $1,240 a week).
In order to qualify, an employee would need to have earned a minimum amount of wage income over the previous 12 months and have been making contributions into the fund during the period. The employee would also need to prove that he/she had a qualifying event.
The program will be funded through payroll contributions, split between the employer and the employees. Employers with 15 or fewer employees would be exempt from paying in although their employees would be covered. Self-employed workers could choose to opt in and would only be responsible for the employee part of the contribution. Actuarial estimates show that about 600,000 employees, 90% of the state’s workforce, would be eligible for the program.
LD 738 has yet to be scheduled for a public hearing.
Another bill, LD 53, An Act to Ensure Accountability for Workplace Harassment and Assault by Removing Intentional Acts and Omissions from Workers’ Compensation Exemptions, sponsored by Representative Lee (D-Auburn), would remove intentional acts and omissions from the exemptions from civil action related to damages sustained by an employee when an employer has secured payment of workers’ compensation.
The public hearing for LD 53 was held on February 16th. The RLDAM, along with a number of other business associations, testified that the language was vague, could lead to increased Worker’s Compensation claims, and would reverse long settled case law in the state. The work session has not yet been scheduled.