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Secondary wood manufacturing contributes 8,884 jobs and $1.8 billion to Maine's economy, about 20 percent of the forest products industry’s impact.

Legislature adjourns, but the work goes on

By Executive Director Patrick Strauch

 There were some late nights this week and frayed emotions as the legislature adjourned on Thursday around 2 a.m.

at the legislature LD 443, a bill to roll back workers compensation changes cleared the House, 81-56, and Senate, 18-16 this week, even though the bill could add tens of millions of dollars to the comp premiums of Maine employers. The bill was sent to the special appropriations table. According to the bill’s fiscal note unofficial estimates indicate the potential increase in premiums across all insured employers to be between $6.4 million and $27.2 million.

The bill, which we strongly opposed along with from the Maine State Chamber and other businesses, would remove a 10-year cap on workers’ compensation benefits for people determined to be “partially incapacitated” and would also change the definition of that designation.

The Maine State Chamber reported in its newsletter that the bill’s passage would result in “dramatically higher costs for Maine businesses.”

It is discouraging to see lines drawn between the parties on such an important issue. Policy pendulums swinging back and forth disadvantage Maine, we need to provide a better vision of how Maine can achieve better prosperity in the natural resource industries (my summer project!) and provide concrete examples of policies that hinder our progress.

  •  We monitored the efforts by Irving and Sen. Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook) and applauded the defeat of the mining bill, LD 1527, (again the chamber write-up is good). That keeps the opportunity to further examine the possibility of mining in Maine viable. There is no doubt that there will be further debates and information gathering that will inform policy during the rule-making phase of the mining rules. I think the concepts of taking responsibility for the metals Maine uses to establish their standard of life, and the need to leave no stone unturned (pardon the pun) in finding environmentally safe economic opportunities for people in rural Maine have trumped the naysayer approach used by the “environmental community.”
  • We are monitoring the ACF merger bill sitting on the appropriations funding table, and anticipate no obstacles to its passage.
  • LD 1103, the bonded labor bill, will be sent to the governor’s desk for an anticipated veto. The use of Tree Growth Tax penalties for contractors using legal Canadian labor on a property is clearly wrong, but the issue has become a partisan football. Clearly we have more work to do to help Democrats understand the importance of keeping the Tree Growth program stable and free from the constant threat of revision.
  • We were surprised by the governor’s veto of the omnibus energy bill that I think has many important components for our industry. We will keep you posed as this discussion unfolds.
  • LD 616, the wind power zoning and moratorium bill was referred back to Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee, where it will likely be carried over into the next session.

We will keep you posted as the legislature reconvenes next week to deal with vetoes and the budget. Please contact me at pstrauch@maineforest.org or 207-622-9288,  if you have and questions.

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