IN THE NEWS

In April, the Maine Legislature passed LD 2010 – a bill proposed by Senate President Troy Jackson to provide small businesses some relief from high energy costs.


We are happy to report that Governor Mills signed this bill into law before lawmakers wrapped up this past legislative session.



So what does this new law mean for Maine’s small businesses?


In response to this year’s massive swing in electric rates, LD 2010 will make tiered credit of up to $3,000 available for small businesses with high electricity costs. More specifically, it provides one time $1500, $2,000, or $3,000 tax rebates for small businesses depending on their electricity usage.


Following the bill’s signature, Senate President Troy Jackson shared a few words about the importance of the new legislation.


“If you have these massive increases in electric rates, small business owners will pass them on. When they pass them on it affects everyday working-class people. So that’s why we went forward, trying to do something, figure out something to help them,” said Senator Jackson.


Thank you, Senator Jackson, the Maine Legislature, and Governor Mills for working together to curb electric costs for our small businesses.

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Last year, high levels of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances referred to as PFAS were discovered in a number of Maine wells, farmlands, and food sources.


Although PFAS is used in the production of carpeting, furniture, and other household goods, the contamination in Maine has been linked primarily to decades-long use of sludge, from paper mills or wastewater treatment plants, as fertilizer.


These so-called “forever chemicals” are not easily broken down in the environment or the human body and have also been linked to several adverse health effects.


News of the chemicals’ discovery prompted the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to begin active testing of multiple former sludge and septage application sites across the state.


Lawmakers also quickly sprung to action to address the dangers that these toxic substances could pose to Maine’s ecosystem and our food sources. In 2021 Maine advanced a first-in-the-nation phaseout of most consumer products containing PFAS. That year, Representative Lori Gramlich of Old Orchard Beach also introduced LD 1600 to investigate PFAS contamination of Maine’s land and groundwater. That legislation is now state law.


Additionally, the Legislature passed a bill that will phase out pesticides containing forever chemicals. Rep. Margaret O’Neil of Saco proposed LD 2019 to ban the distribution of pesticides with intentionally added perfluoroalkyl or polyfluoroalkyl substances by 2030.


Maine lawmakers passed another bill requiring manufacturers to report their use of this class of toxic chemicals. That legislation also requires them to be phased out by 2030.


Representative Pluecker of Warren introduced two separate bills which were ultimately passed by the Legislature. LD 363 allows Mainers to take legal action within six years after they have discovered harm or injury from PFAS, while LD 1911 prohibits the land application or distribution of sludge or sludge-derived compost unless it is tested for all ‘forever chemicals.'


More recently, Governor Mills set aside more than nine million dollars in the supplemental budget to address the PFAS contamination. The budget also sets aside $60 million for a trust fund to address the contamination. This follows her signature of LD 1875 – an emergency measure that addresses PFAS pollution from state-owned solid waste landfills.


We still have a long road ahead to understanding the full extent and ramifications of PFAS contamination, but Governor Mills and the Maine Legislature are taking the right steps on that road to understand the problem and to prevent further degradation of our food, water, and farmlands.


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Maine’s legislature has been hard at work to provide quality healthcare, affordable housing, a more equitable tax system, and a strong, secure election system.


Thank you! Mainers for Working Families applauds the strides our representatives have made this past legislative session to improve the lives of working Mainers across the state. Read on to see some of the highlights, and learn what’s still needed to get us back on our feet. Click here to see how your elected officials voted on important issues impacting working Mainers.


Tax Fairness:

Ending the Dark Stores Loophole: Our leaders took on big box stores that shift their property tax burden onto local municipalities. The Maine Legislature passed LD 1129 to stop corporations like Walmart from exploiting what is known as the dark store assessment. That loophole allows corporations to lower their assessed property value and short-change the municipalities that house their big box stores. This new legislation effectively blocks them from evading their fair share of taxes.


Closing Tax Havens: Lawmakers also passed legislation to ensure that corporations do not manipulate the tax system to avoid paying their fair share of income tax. Representative Denise Tepler introduced LD 428 – An Act To Prevent Tax Haven Abuse – and worked with lawmakers to pass an amended version, which directs the Maine Revenue Service to review the impact of taxing income from jurisdictions outside the US and submit a report to the legislature. That report would then be used to draft legislation to close the tax haven loophole.


Expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit: Lawmakers took decisive action to lessen the financial strain on many low-income Mainers and their families by expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Our leaders took action to ensure that working families are supported amid the COVID-19 pandemic, rising cost of living, and rising inflation. Expanding the EITC will give families in poverty more leeway to pay their bills and cover other basic living expenses.


Housing:


Combatting the Housing Crisis:

This past session, House Speaker Fecteau worked with other lawmakers to address Maine’s housing crisis. Speaker Fecteau proposed LD 2003, a critical bill that deals with the many obstacles presented by zoning laws – many of which slow down the building process. Governor Mills signed the legislation into law, setting the stage for increased housing opportunities across the state in the near future.


Addressing Housing Disparities: Senator Craig Hickman sponsored LD 1961 – An Act To Help Alleviate Maine's Housing Shortage and Change the Membership of the Maine State Housing Authority – which, as enacted, addresses significant disparities in housing needs and promotes economic diversity in housing access throughout the state.


Healthcare:


Investigating Barriers to Affordable Care: Healthcare was a major priority for the Legislature this session, beginning with addressing disparities in the health insurance system and possible solutions to obtain healthcare regardless of ability to pay. Introduced by Rep. Dr. Richard Evans, LD 1778 directs the Office of Affordable Health to study barriers to affordable healthcare and ways to expand coverage for families and small businesses.


Providing Easy Enrollment:

Also introduced by Rep. Evans, LD 1390 helps the state identify people without health insurance who may be eligible for MaineCare or a health plan in the Maine Health Insurance Marketplace (CoverME) by asking about health insurance status on state income tax forms. The Department of Health and Human Services and CoverME then contact uninsured individuals and families and help them to enroll in an affordable health insurance program.


Economic Security:


Funding Paid Family and Medical Leave: As part of the 2022-2023 budget, the Legislature allocated additional funding to support the Commission to Develop a Paid Family and Medical Leave Benefits Program. This funding will assist the commission in crafting policy recommendations for a statewide paid leave system to be enacted by the Legislature.


Democracy Reform:


Securing Maine’s Elections:

Across the country, claims of “election fraud” sowed distrust in our electoral system. LD 1779 strengthens our elections and protects voters by requiring that municipal clerks keep ballots in sealed containers, moving them only with permission from the Secretary of State. If for any reason ballots need to be inspected, they must remain in the sole custody of the inspector, and the inspection must be supervised by a public official.


Thanks to our leaders in Augusta, Maine’s equitable economic recovery from the pandemic is moving in the right direction. However, there is still more work to be done to reduce health care costs, establish a Paid Family and Medical Leave program, and more. We applaud Governor Mills and the Maine Legislature for working to meet the needs of our working families.

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