Wednesday, January 3 marked the beginning of the Second Regular Session of the 131st Legislature. This short session is scheduled to adjourn on April 17, giving lawmakers just 103 days to complete their work, which includes carry overs, emergency legislation and department bills.
While we anticipate a fairly busy short session, it is predicted that the top issues will include gun control, housing issues and a supplemental budget.
Next week, the Council will testify on two bills (listed below), and we’re requesting your help with one of them. On Tuesday, January 9, the Innovation, Development, Economic Advancement and Business Committee will hold a public hearing on a bill that we oppose, LD 1815, “An Act To Protect Maine’s Consumers by Establishing an Abuse of Dominance Right of Action and Requiring Notification of Mergers.”
Sponsored by Rep. Rebecca Millet of Cape Elizabeth, LD 1815 has been identified as a threat by the business community. Part of a national push by an interest group that has so far been unsuccessful, this bill would drastically change our antitrust laws and expose Maine businesses to litigation by allowing a plaintiff to bring an action against any person with a dominant position in the conduct of any trade, business or commerce, in any labor market or in any furnishing of a service in this state that abuses that dominant position.
A dominant position is presumed if a person has a share of 60% or more of a relevant market as a seller, or 50% or more of a relevant market as a buyer. How the size of a relevant labor market is determined is undefined, meaning this law could apply at the town level, county level, regionally or statewide, depending on the rulemaking process.
What could this mean for our industry? Here are two examples – one as a buyer and one as a seller:
- If a landowner owns 60% or more of a township and they sell wood, they could be considered to have a dominant position, leaving them open for meritless lawsuits.
- If a mill purchases more than 50% of the wood supply in an undefined “relevant market”, it would be considered to have a dominant position, leaving the facility open for meritless lawsuits.
Dominance is so undefined, nearly anyone could bring action against nearly any business, large or small. Under this bill, “fair trade” is prioritized over “free trade”.
When it comes down to it, our antitrust laws are well established, and have protected consumers adequately for more than 100 years. LD 1815 is a solution in search of a problem, and it would create chaos for businesses that operate in our state. Please consider submitting testimony in opposition to this bill using the instructions outlined below.
As always, if you have any questions about this bill or any others, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
Pat and Krysta