The passage of a biennial budget and adjournment of the First Regular Session last month, to allow the budget to become law in 90 days, means we are now in the First Special Session of the 131st Maine Legislature. There is no statutory adjournment for special sessions, but we expect this Special Session to adjourn by the end of June.
Of the 2,123 legislative requests that were submitted by the December 30th cloture date, 1,850 have been printed as legislative documents.
On February 16th, the RLDAM, along with several business associations testified against LD 53, An Act to Ensure Accountability for Workplace Harassment and Assault by Removing Intentional Acts and Omissions from Workers’ Compensation Exemptions. LD 53 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 RLDAM posited that the vague language could lead to increased Workers’ Compensation claims and would reverse long-settled case law in the state. The April 4th work session of the Labor and Housing Committee resulted in a divided report.
On April 13th, the RLDAM testified against LD 1385, An Act to Amend the Maine Workers’ Compensation Act of 1992 Regarding Employee Liability. LD 1385 amends the 1992 Act to provide that an employee who causes another employee’s injury or death intentionally or with gross negligence or while committing a crime is not exempt from civil actions. The RLDAM asserted concern that it would increase workers’ compensation costs for all, not just those who have claims against them.
The RLDAM also submitted testimony against LD 524, An Act Requiring the Installation of Electric Vehicle Charging Stations in New Commercial and Multifamily Parking Lot Construction. LD 524 would mandate that at least 15% of parking spaces in new construction be equipped with electric vehicle charging stations. A sponsor’s amendment includes this in the Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code (MUBEC) and would include some exemptions to the requirement (ex. parking lots only for tractor-trailers or without electricity).
The RLDAM argued that incentives are a better approach than mandates for encouraging the installation of electric vehicle charging stations and that most small businesses do not have enough extra money to install these expensive charging stations. The Energy, Utilities, and Technology Committee voted in a divided report at the March 29th work session.
LD 949, An Act to Protect Workers from Employer Surveillance, prohibits employer surveillance unless it is strictly necessary for health or safety. It specifies that employers must notify employees before beginning surveillance and provides a private right of action to employees. At the April 4th public hearing before the Labor and Housing Committee, the RLDAM, along with many other industry groups, testified against the bill, stating that tools like GPS and security cameras are important to ensure productivity and safety and prevent retail crime and employee theft. The committee voted along party lines on an amended version of the bill.
The RLDAM also offered testimony against LD 1190, An Act to Ensure a Fair Workweek by Requiring Notice of Work Schedules. At the April 6th public hearing before the Labor and Housing Committee, the RLDAM, as well as numerous associations, argued that it would be impossible to run their businesses without some flexibility. Already unable to fill all positions, when employees call out sick or fail to show up at work, employers have to find someone else to cover the shift.
Earlier this session, LD 738, An Act to Establish a Paid Family and Medical Leave System, was introduced. Currently, LD 738 is just a concept draft, but it is assumed that the final bill will incorporate the report developed by the Commission to Develop a Paid Family and Medical Leave Benefits Program. No public hearing has been scheduled for LD 738.