Jobs and state's reputation in Legislature's cross hairs

By Tony Payne | Feb 25, 2010
Augusta —

Pingree vacation bill passes buck to Maine's small businesses

LD 1626 "An Act To Amend the Unemployment Compensation Laws Regarding Vacation Pay" has been introduced as "emergency" legislation by House Speaker Hannah Pingree. Currently, people cannot receive unemployment benefits until they have used vacation pay they have earned during their employment. This bill would remove that restriction and pass the cost for those additional weeks of income replacement directly onto Maine's employers. Effectively, the bill would allow double-dipping.
It is understandable that when jobs are scarce and the economy is struggling that some legislators would think that giving laid off employees an additional cushion would make sense. Unfortunately, they don't understand or, perhaps, appreciate that giving that cushion would actually result in more layoffs or business failures.
Maine is a state of family-run small businesses and the vast majority of employers are not getting rich. In fact, most business owners are losing a lot of sleep about keeping their businesses afloat and their people employed.
But this bill is more than just about money - it's about an attitude that passing the buck to Maine's small businesses is OK. Just like Senate President Libby Mitchell's "paid sick leave" bill which is still alive, this is a job killer.
Here is how the committee voted on the Pingree bill.  
Voting in support of LD 1626 in the Labor Committee:
Troy Jackson (Fort Kent)
Stan Gerzofsky (Brunswick)
John Tuttle (Sanford)
Herbert Clark (Millinocket)
Timothy Driscoll (Westbrook)
Anna Blodgett (Augusta)
Steven Butterfield (Bangor)
Paul Gilbert (Jay)

Opposing LD 1626 in the Labor Committee:
Peter Mills (Cornville)
Andra Cushing (Hampden)
James Hamper (Oxford)
Michael Thibodeau (Winterport)
Bruce Bickford (Auburn)
Contact your legislators and let them know how this bill will impact you or the place you work. Then, let them know what you want them to do. We will let you know how they vote when they call the roll on this issue.
Cellphone proposal not lacking coverage
It was great to see the gold-medal performance of Maine's own Seth Wescott communicated around the entire world this past week. However, it was jarring to see that the March edition of Popular Science, the world's largest science and technology magazine, featured a column right in the front of the magazine by its editor-in-chief that begins
"In January, in a session typically reserved for 'emergency' legislation, the Maine state legislature was slated to consider a measure requiring cellphone packaging to feature cigarette-like labels warning consumers that the devices may cause cancer. Its sponsor, state rep Andrea Boland, told the New York Times that she had been convinced after reading that cellphone radiation increases the risk of brain cancer, especially among kids. Well, I hope Representative Boland reads 'Disconnected', James Geary's investigation of the science behind cell-radiation concerns.
"'Let's be clear,' Geary writes. 'Cellphones are not like cigarettes. There is a proven mechanism by which cigarettes cause cancer, even if you live an otherwise healthy life. There is as yet no proven mechanism by which cellphones do the same. Most experts say there is no such mechanism.
"His piece does a revelatory job of articulating the subtler mechanisms and risks that science is just beginning to understand. He notes, for instance, that while the electromagnetic radiation from mobile phones almost certainly doesn't cause cancer, some scientists believe it may affect the body in ways that help promote cancer."
An undetermined inference yet to be proven or understood has been placed before the Legislature as a potential law by Rep. Boland. 
LD 1706 An Act to Create the Children's Wireless Protection Act includes the following language:

Warning label required.   A manufacturer of cellular telephones may not sell at retail in this State, to a retailer in this State, or for use in this State a cellular telephone unless the cellular telephone and its packaging bear a warning label that is legible, nonremovable, is located in a prominent place that is conspicuous and not obscured by other written matter, contrasts with the type, layout and color of the other printed matter, includes a color graphic symbol, appears on both the front and back of the packaging, takes up at least 30% of the back surface of the cellular telephone and contains the following statement:


The requirements of this subsection may not result in a cost to the retailer or distributor of cellular telephones.

Too many Maine legislators appear willing to pass a law for every worry that crosses their desk in matters of health, business regulation or micromanagement of our behaviors. Whether passed or defeated, the outcome is to further define Maine as an unfriendly, unpredictable and costly place to conduct business. Unfortunately, now readers of both the New York Times and Popular Science know that as well.
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