Eye on Augusta: Public Hearings for the Week of March 6
Thursday, March 02, 2017 9:45 AM
Tax on Bottled Water, Tax Exemption for Tampons
The Taxation Committee will get lively next week as they consider a range of bills to raise and eliminate taxes on various goods and services on Monday, March 6. LD 493, sponsored by Rep. Gina Melaragno (D-Auburn), would create a one-cent excise tax for every 25 gallons of ground or surface water extracted by bottled water companies that extract more than one million gallons per year. Melaragno’s proposal would use the tax revenue to create a special fund, 85 percent of which would be used to support well water testing and the rest to be dedicated to lake water quality monitoring.
LD 116, sponsored by Rep. Jared Golden (D-Lewiston), would increase the sales tax on car rentals from 10 percent to 15 percent to provide funding for multimodal transportation. And Rep. Richard Campbell (R-Orrington) will present LD 206, which eliminate the sales tax on feminine hygiene products.
Sea Level Rise
Over in the State and Local Government Committee, Rep. Lydia Blume (D-York Beach) will introduce LD 540, which would direct state agencies to conduct activities around coastal areas that are consistent with a policy that encourages planning for the effects of sea level rise. The bill also allows coastal regions to develop coordinated plans for addressing the rise in sea level. The bill will be heard on Monday, March 6.
On March 8, the Environment and Natural Resources Committee will hear LD 469, sponsored by Rep. Mick Devin (D-Newcastle), which would require that the state Department of Environmental Protection create a regulatory standard that addresses the impacts of sea level change and increased storm surges on coastal resources.
Proposed Mandate for Contractors
On March 7, the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee will hear LD 441, which would require that painters, carpenters and other contractors have an on-site person certified by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) when engaged in painting, renovation, remodeling, maintenance or repair activities on buildings constructed before 1978. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Nathan Libby (D-Androscoggin Cty.), would also require that people performing maintenance on a multi-unit residential building that receives housing subsidies or vouchers be certified by the EPA. The bill is meant to comply with the EPA's Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule, a federal regulation that requires that projects that disturb lead-based paint in homes, child care facilities and pre-schools built before 1978 use certified renovators who are trained by EPA-approved training providers and follow lead-safe work practices.
Mandatory Inspections for Wastewater Systems
Also on March 7, LCRED will consider LD 559, sponsored by Rep. Gary Hilliard (R-Belgrade), that would require property with underground wastewater disposal systems in inland shoreland areas to be inspected prior to the sale of the property. Under current law, the inspection requirement only applies to sales of properties within coastal shoreland area.
The Real ID Bill
Last fall, the US Department of Homeland Security repeated its threat that it won’t accept a Maine driver’s license or ID card as a permissible form of identification to board a commercial aircraft after January 22, 2018, if Maine doesn’t change its state IDs to comply with federal regulations. Maine is currently one of six states that is not compliant with the 2005 Real ID law, an anti-terrorism measure that requires states to standardize driver’s licenses to a set of federal guidelines. A 2007 Maine law prohibits the state from complying with some provisions in the Real ID law, such as using digital photos that can be used with facial recognition software.
On March 7, the Legislature’s Transportation Committee will hear LD 306, sponsored by Sen. Bill Diamond (D-Cumberland Cty.), that would repeal the 2007 law and put Maine into compliance with the Real ID law. Civil liberties groups have opposed Real ID over concerns that the policy could lead to rampant identity theft and undermine privacy. The ACLU has argued that if fully implemented, the Real ID law could allow the government to go even further in tracking movements of citizens while creating administrative burdens for states. According to the Maine Secretary of State’s Office, it would take a few months to comply with Real ID and would cost about $1 million.
Banning Criminal History Questions on Job Applications
On March 8, the State and Local Committee will hear LD 288, sponsored by Rep. Bettyann Sheets (D-Auburn), which would prohibit the state from asking about an applicant’s criminal history on applications for state jobs. According to the National Employment Law Project, 65 million Americans, or one in four adults, face barriers to employment due to criminal records. The same day, the committee will also consider a bill to designate November as “Maine Buy Local Month” and another one establishing the first Saturday in May as “Maine Community Litter Cleanup Day.”
Exercise Mandates for Schoolchildren
On March 8, the Education Committee will consider LD 378, sponsored by Sen. Rebecca Millett (D-Cumberland Cty.), which would require that schools provide at least 30 minutes of daily physical activity for all students in kindergarten to grade 5. The US Department of Health and Human Services recommends that children ages 6 to 17 participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day. However, according to federal statistics, only one in three children are physically active every day and, on average, children spend more than seven hours per day in front of a screen.
Stricter Regulations to Prevent Oil Spills
On March 8, Sen. Ben Chipman (D-Cumberland Cty.) will present a bill to the Environment and Natural Resources Committee that would amend the rules on oil discharge prevention and pollution control. LD 450 would require terminals, facilities, refineries, vessels and related equipment used for transporting oil or oil by-products to be protected by an oil boom device during transfers. The bill would also require companies to notify the US Coast Guard prior to transfers.
On the same day, the committee will hear LD 452, sponsored by Sen. Jim Hamper (R-Oxford Cty.), that would repeal the law requiring retailers to sell only reformulated gasoline in York, Cumberland, Sagadahoc, Androscoggin, Kennebec, Knox and Lincoln counties.
ATV Helmet Repeal
On March 9, Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee will hear a bill that would repeal helmet requirements for young people operating all-terrain vehicles. LD 41, sponsored by Sen. Paul Davis (R-Piscatiquis Cty.), would exempt anyone under the age of 18 from having to wear a helmet while operating or as a passenger on an ATV, as long as the person is “wearing a seat belt and the all-terrain vehicle is equipped with roll bars or bracing welded or attached to the frame in a permanent manner, with a roof or with a protective enclosure.”
The committee will also consider LD 277, sponsored by Rep. Paul Stearns (R-Guilford), which would exempt ATV passengers who are under 18 from wearing helmets. The bill would allow parents to let passengers under 8 years of age ride without a helmet as long as they are riding directly adjacent to the operator with side-by-side seating.
Finally, the IF&W Committee will hear Rep. Jeff Timberlake’s (R-Turner) LD 483, which would remove provisions regarding snowmobile noise levels to reflect current snowmobile manufacturing standards.