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Government Affairs

 

September 3, 2013

Employer and HR call to action. Please note that there is a public hearing from 1pm-7pm in Augusta, try to attend and share your stories from the Unemployment Commission./sites/meshrm.shrm.org/files/ME%20HR%20CALL%20TO%20ACTION%20Unemployment%20Blue%20Ribbon%20Commission%20Public%20Hearing.docx

June 10, 2013

Pleaes click here for a list of current status of bills we are tracking this session.

June 4, 2013

Thanks to all who participated in Maine Human Resource Professional's Day in Augusta.

This is always a fun and educational event for HR Professionals to learn more about current

issues in Augusta, the process of legislation, and meet with legislators!

Jeanne Parquette, Sarah Joy and HRP Day Attendees  

May 2, 2013

Save the date-

/sites/meshrm.shrm.org/files/HR Professionals Day 2013 - June 4th(2).pdf

Be sure to register soon, this should be a great event!

Public hearings are being held for the following bills:

LD265 An Act to Repeal the Restriction on Employers Regarding Firearms Kept in an Employee’s Vehicle

This bill repeals the law that employers must allow employees with registered guns and permit to keep guns in their locked cars.

April 9th   at 1pm, State House Room 436

LD1157 An Act to Establish the Fair Chance for Employment Act

This bill prohibits employers from discrimination based on employment status.

Public hearing is April 8th, 1pm at Cross Building Room 208

LD1201 An act to Protect Employees from Abusive Work Environments

This bill provides legal relief for exposure to abusive work environments.

Public hearing is April 8th, 1pm at Cross Building Room 208

See attached for more HR related bill information

 

 

March 12, 2013

Items of Interest

The Maine State Workforce Investment Board

The Board has posted its public strategic plan for comment. The plan may be viewed at www.maine.gov/swib/wia_plan.html

LD265 An Act to Repeal the Restriction on Employers Regarding Firearms Kept in an Employee’s Vehicle

This bill would repeal the law prohibiting employers from prohibiting employees with valid concealed firearm permit from keeping a firearm in the employee’s locked vehicle. This bill was ordered to committee and sent down for concurrence in February.

LR257 An Act to Establish an Insurance Exchange

The deadline for establishing exchanges is November 2013. This Act will set up the structure as dictated under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as amended.

LD444 An Act to Improve Worker’s Comp Coverage for all Injured Workers

This bill has been referred to committee.

Please review the complete list of bills at http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/bills/ for tracking

 

February 5, 2013: First Update on the 126th Maine Legislature

Click here for our first update of the new session.

December 21, 2012 - Wow, we're still here ;-)!

Yesterday, Committee assignments for the 126th Maine Legislature were announced.  The full list is here .  Also, the Maine Regulatory Fairness Board met and agreed to make two recommendations to be finalized in the coming weeks.  One requiring oversight agencies to make appointments with business owner rather than surprise visits and the other requiring employers to participate in continuing education to ensure they are aware of the requirments.  More here.

December 7, 2012 - Legislative Update

Federally Speaking….

Stateside….

Members of the 126th Legislature were sworn into office on December 5th, the first day of the 126th Legislature.  In a surprising move, Republicans nominated an opposition candidate for Senate President.  It is thought that Senator Garrett Mason was nominated to send a message that Senator Alfond is too out of touch with rural Maine.  Senator Alfond prevailed.

Besides the swearing of Legislators and the formal election of leadership, the Legislature elected Constitutional Officers. 

The term "constitutional officers" is a bit of a misnomer when it comes to Auditor.  The State Auditor is not mentioned in the Constitution of Maine and is therefore not actually a constitutional officer. The selection and status of the State Auditor is similar to that of the constitutional officers so we group them together.

The newly sworn Officers are:

  • Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap;
  • State Treasurer  Neria Douglas;
  • Attorney General Janet Mills; and
  • State Auditor Pola Buckley.

The Legislature set cloture for January 18th at 4:00 p.m.  You will recall that Cloture is the deadline by which bill proposals must be submitted to the Revisor’s Office in order to be introduced without limitation.  While the First session will allow great latitude for Legislators to introduce proposals on any subject matter, the Revisor’s Office is now asking that proposals being advanced by be fully drafted and not simply titles with concepts for the Revisor’s Office to develop. 

Both House and the Senate have adjourned until January 8, 2013.  Please check back for updates on Committee assignments and bill proposals as we will do our best to keep you apprised of both.

As always, thank you for your interest in Government Affairs and please have a safe, happy and healthy holiday season and a very happy 2013!

November 14, 2012 -  The 126th Maine Legislature convenes on December 5, 2012 when they will formally elect leaders.  As of today, the caucuses in the House and Senate have nominated the following for these slots.

Leaders-Elect

House

The House Republicans have chosen Rep. Kenneth Fredette of Newport as Floor Leader.  Fredette defeated two other candidates for the minority leader's post; Rep. Robert Nutting of Oakland, who was House Speaker for the last two years, and Rep. Paul Davis of Sangerville also sought the job.  Republicans also chose Alex Willette of Mapleton as House Assistant Floor Leader.

Democrats nominated Rep. Mark Eves of North Berwick to be Speaker, Rep. Seth Berry of Bowdoinham as Majority Leader and Rep. Jeff McCabe as Assistant Majority Leader.

Senate

In the Senate, the Republican minority will be led by Senator Michael Thibodeau with Senator Roger Katz as Assistant Minority Leader.

Senator Justin Alfond of Portland was nominated as President of the Senate with Senator Seth Goodall of Richmond as Majority Leader and Senator Troy Jackson of Allagash as Majority Whip.

Recounts

It seems it’s not quite over yet as there are at least 10 races contested and undergoing recounts.  The recount will not affect the balance of the Senate and House.  More detail on the counts and their outcomes may be found here:

http://www.maine.gov/sos/news/2012/electionrecounts.html

In other news…Senator-Elect King has decided to caucus with Democrats in Washington. Please check back for updates.

November 11, 2012 - Well it was quite a week in Maine on the election front with some surprises including Senator Chris Rector, Chair of the LCRED Committee losing his seat to Senator-Elect Mazurek.  Both Houses also moved from majority Republican to majority Democrat.  With these changes in leadership as well as the turnover as a number of seats had been held by those being termed-out, much will be decided in the coming weeks before the session begins.   The Bangor Daily News has a great synopsis of the results and promises updates as the recounts unfold.  Hopefully you all had a chance to vote and you will check back here often for updates!

September 9, 2012 – Here are some resources to share with friends and colleagues to help them have a voice this election season:

http://votesmart.org/voteeasy/#/state=me

http://haveavoice.shrm.org/

As a reminder, several HR related bills passed in the Legislature last session were effective August 30th, if not before.  Please see below for our legislative wrap up for more details on those bills.

Saving the best for last, our own Jeanne Paquette was sworn in as our new Labor Commissioner on Friday, September 7. More here:  http://www.maine.gov/tools/whatsnew/index.php?topic=Portal+News&id=432348&v=Article-2008

June 9, 2012.  Here is an album of the day.  Please check back for more pictures to be added as they roll in.

June 7, 2012 - Here is the special Maine DOL guide created for our June 6th forum by MDOL. Here is the MDOL bill summary referenced at the event.  Be sure to check back again for pictures and other goodies from the day as they come in from around the state!  Many kudos to MDOL staff, our partner MSHHRA and our hardworking GA team volunteers, without whose help none of this would have been possible.  We rock, she added humbly ;-)

April 30, 2012 (updated June 2, 2012) - Here is the schedule for the June 6, 2012 Maine Department of Labor Update and here is the event flyer.   We hope you will agree it’s a fabulous program!  Many thanks to our friends at MDOL for this VERY informative day and to MSHHRA for partnering with us to bring you the event as well!  If you have already RSVP’d for the event, you will receive updates at the email address provided in your original reply.  If you have not yet reserved your spot, please do so by visiting our Linkedin events page: http://linkd.in/syklI7  or by emailing mainelegregupdate@gmail.com .  Any questions you have will also be answered at that email address.

We have been approved for 3 hours of strategic management credit with HRCI for the event.  While the event itself does not include lunch, we are making reservations for those wishing to gather after the event to break bread together, network, discuss the event and otherwise transition back to their day.  Here is much more about how to get to the venue and late breaking details (added June 2, 2012).

GOTV resources - from SHRM, from Maine State CouncilMore on candidates and the Maine vote.

May 6, 2012 - 125th Maine Legislature Second Session Wrap-Up

April 11, 2012 - Alert on Maine WC reform bill from our friends at the Maine State Chamber!  Please act now!

March 16, 2012 - Latest Government Affairs update!

February 28, 2012 - Flyer for Maine State Chamber program The Economics of the Lack of Dental Care on March 7th.

February 17, 2012 - Latest Government Affairs update!

February  17, 2012 - Stakeholder report on LD 1420, independent contractor test reform in Maine.

February 16, 2012 - Letter from Executive Director Sighinolfi on LD 1571, summarizing recommendations on workers' compensation reform in Maine.

January 24, 2012 - Here is a primer to help HR professionals get out the vote in Maine in 2012.

Update on bills we are tracking in Session 2 of the 125th ME Legislature.  Please check back for statements of position.

December 22, 2011 - Bills your Government Affairs Team is tracking for the 2nd Session of the 125th Maine Legislature. Please direct any questions you have to Sarah at seconroy@gmail.com and have a safe & wonderful holiday season.  Thank you!

November 2, 2011 - final list of bills for second session consideration.

October 11, 2011 - list of bill titles for second session consideration.

September 28, 2011 - map of Maine's new Congressional Districts.

September 16, 2011, please click here for a Special Session notice & update.

July 20, 2011, please click here for our 125th Legislature, Session 1 Wrap-Up.

June 5, 2011, please click here for our latest Government Affairs Update! 

May 22, 2011, please click here for our latest Government Affairs update!

May 15, 2011, please click here for our latest Government Affairs update!

May 6, 2011, here is a report from SHRM on our very own HRP Day!

May 4, 2011, please click here for our latest Government Affairs update! 

April 26, 2011, please click here for our latest Government Affairs update! 

Did you attend HR Professionals Day in Augusta on April 6?  Please take a few minutes to complete our program evaluationHere are some pictures of our day!

April 9, 2011, please click here for the proposed amendment to LD1, out of the Committee on Regulatory Fairness & Reform on April 6th.

April 8, 2011 - Please click here for a report on HRP Day with news of pending leg of importance to HR Professionals.

HR PROFESSIONALS DAY 2011 -

Please Click Here for event site.

Please visit here for our full program.

Please visit here for directions to the Statehouse Complex.

Please click here for floor plans of the Maine State House Complex.


March 5, 2011 - Please click here for today's Government Affairs update.

February 10, 2011 - Please click here for today's Government Affairs update.

January 28, 2011 - Please click here for today's Government Affairs update.

January 18, 2011 - Please click here for today's Government Affairs update

December 23, 2010 - Please click  here for today's Government Affairs update.  Best wishes for a safe and happy holiday season and new year!

December 17, 2010 - Please click here for today's Government Affairs update. 

December 1, 2010 - Please click here for today's update on the convention of the 125th Maine Legislature with new information about how to take action on the move to eliminate the Legislature's Labor Committee.

November 21 - The Maine Democrats elected Minority Leader and Whip for the 125th Legislature on Thursday November 18th.  Representative Emily Cain of Orono is the new Minority Leader and Representative Terry Hayes of Buckfield the new Assistant Minority Leader.  As mentioned in the November 10 update, Representative Robert Nutting of Oakland has been nominated as House Speaker, with the election for all constitutional officers to be held on December 1.  For our November 10th Government Affairs Update, please click here.

The US Congressional leadership remains unchanged for the 112thCongress, except the House is now majority Republican with Representative Boehner expected as Speaker.

The Paycheck Fairness Act did not survive a cloture vote on 11/18 with both of Maine’s Senators voting no on the measure.  Senator Snowe has also now signed an amicus brief expressing concern about the constitutionality of the individual mandate.  More here:  http://snowe.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=PressRoom.PressReleases&ContentRecord_id=656d5ec0-e575-16a8-a11d-d700c30ef257

Newly elected 125thMaine Senate Officers

November 5, 2010

President - Kevin Raye - Biography

Majority Leader– Jonathan Courtney - Biography

Assistant Majority Leader – Deborah Plowman - Biography

Election of Senate Secretary and Assistant Secretary to come later.

Election of Maine Constitutional Officers on December 1.

Date of election of majority House and minority House and Senate leadership to be announced soon.

President-Elect Raye set a very positive tone of bipartisanship and openness in his remarks this morning, calling attention to the forum for this election, the Senate Chamber with open internet mikes as opposed to a closed event.  Governor-Elect LePage made a special appearance and echoed these sentiments.

Timely article with more information on what to expect over next few weeks:  http://www.onlinesentinel.com/news/lepage-to-name-transition-team_2010-11-04.html

I'll keep you posted.  Quicker updates on my twitter feed:  @mainelyhr

Thanks!

Sarah

Sarah Conroy, SPHR, CEBS

SHRM Maine StateGovernment Affairs Director

207.713.8337

seconroy@gmail.com

http://www.linkedin.com/in/sarahconroy

http://tinyurl.com/MaineSHRMLegNews

Twitter:  @mainelyhr

 
2010 SHRM Maine Government Affairs Summary of Our Efforts To Date

To help put us all on the same page as to what we are doing and why you will undoubtedly want a say, here is a primer on what your GAT is responsible for now as well as a little taste of our accomplishments this last session.

Nationally

We are responsible for working with the SHRM national GAT to bring to you all their offerings and assist in ensuring we are able to easily participate in matters of HR importance on the national level. This includes working to bring them to Maine as appropriate, bringing their programs to ME, helping you all have some support in reaching out to our congressional delegation both in DC and here in ME. Of course the SHRM GAT focuses on:

· Lobbying in DC on matters of HR import (including understanding and managing the political landscape where possible);

· Assisting SHRM members in having a voice via their new Advocacy Team Initiative as well as with previous efforts to Get Out The Vote and using their portal (HRVoice) to assist you in writing your legislators;

· Educating SHRM members on what is under consideration with all three of our legislative branches (involving legislation, regulation and judicial rulings) to help us have a say in shaping where possible, complying where not and seeking change where untenable.

In Maine

We are retooling our efforts and besides our traditional legislative tracking and updates, have endeavored to cultivate grassroots advocacy this past legislative session. We can do more with your interest and your voice. This past session we focused our bill tracking on industries represented by our chapter members. This means we generally don’t track bills specific to State of Maine employment/retirement or other bills, but will respond to member requests. Our GAT reviews the bills to determine which bills to track and then recommends positions based on member survey and feedback, along with outreach to related industry groups like the Maine Chamber, ME Staffing Association, the Alliance for Maine’s Future and Associated Builders and Contractors of Maine among others. Here is a reminder of some of our efforts to date:

· Maine SHRM Leadership conference

· HR professionals day

· Chapter legislative meetings

· Legislative updates and creation of ME Government Affairs Team

· Outreach to other industry groups

· Inviting SHRM national to assist us where needed, e.g. – in defeat of LD 1665, last session’s bill to create a paid sick time entitlement in Maine.

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From 2010 HR Convention at the Samoset:

Maine HR Voice Recommended Reading and Resources

Compiled by SHRM Maine State Chapter Government Affairs Team,

please visit here for slides: http://www.slideshare.net/guestbe91ef/meshrm-hrvoice-may2010slides

June 1, 2010: Upcoming Primary and General Election information here: http://www.mpbn.net/News/YourVote2010/tabid/1134/Default.aspx

Speaker of House (Maine) Press Release of April 29, 2010 on Joint Select Committee on Healthcare Reform here.

Our upcoming SHRM Maine State Leadership Conference: http://meshrm.shrm.org/webmodules/webarticlesnet/articlefiles/1-May2010MESHRMleadershipconferencenoseal.pdf

Thursday, April 22 - Please click here for our Legislative Wrap up!

Monday April 12, 2010 - 124th Maine Legislature Adjourned!

It’s official! The Maine Legislature adjourned at just before 5 pm today after agreeing on the bond package. Nice link here: http://www.mpbn.net/News/MaineHeadlineNews/tabid/968/ctl/ViewItem/mid/3479/ItemId/11741/Default.aspx

Your Government Affairs team will be hard at work putting together a legislative wrap-up so you can know the final disposition of the bills we tracked this session. Of course your questions are welcome at any time as well.

Thanks to you all for your ongoing interest and support. It is nice to discover what we can do to impact the legislative process when we collaborate. Oh, and yes, HR professionals RULE!

A, Sarah

Sarah Conroy

SHRM Maine State Government Affairs Director

seconroy@gmail.com

Monday, March 29, 2010 - It's Official - LD 1665 DEAD!

see here: http://www.mainelegislature.org/LawMakerWeb/summary.asp?ID=280035113LD . No roll call vote....

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1665 Still Alive After Committee Vote

The Labor Committee issued a Divided Report on Monday, March 22, with a substantial majority voting "Ought Not to Pass" on LD 1665. The vote of Representatives Blodgett and Gilbert of "Ought to Pass as Amended," however, means that the bill remains alive for debate, possible amendments, and passage after it reaches the floor. I will keep you posted as we could undoubtedly use more nudging of senators and representatives in the narrow window before adjournment. The commitment of the bill sponsors to pass something evidenced by the introduction of the replacement bill last week and the Governor’s announced support of that measure, means the pressure is still on. I will be following this and updating you – calls, emails and letters to your own legislators are still recommended and welcome.

News report on the vote: http://www.mpbn.net/News/MaineHeadlineNews/tabid/968/ctl/ViewItem/mid/3479/ItemId/11488/Default.aspx

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Legislative Update

March 22, 2010

  • LD 1665 – An Act to Prevent the Spread of H1N1 – as of this writing, the bill was voted Ought Not To Pass by a large majority out of committee and we await the introduction of the bill to the Senate floor and plan to continue to oppose it. For those of you who may have missed it, this bill was originally drafted to mandate paid sick time, making Maine the first in the nation to adopt such a law if it had remained in that form. We opposed the legislation because one-size fits all employer mandates don’t work in today’s workplace where maximum flexibility it required to meet the needs of a changing workforce. When concerns arose about support of the bill, the bill was altered to instead guarantee job protection for 5 days without the benefits mandate, however, there were concerns with the approach as well not only in how it impacts attendance and performance policies, but also how it might dovetail with myriad other entitlements like FMLA and ADA both on the state and federal levels.

  • LD192 - An Act To Index the State Minimum Wage to Inflation - The bill that would have tied the state's minimum wage to the rate of inflation was unexpectedly withdrawn by Labor Committee Co Chair Representative John Tuttle of Sanford in March. Both workers and employers expressed concerns about the potentially negative impact on the state's job market. The state's current minimum wage is $7.50 an hour -- 25 cents higher than the federal minimum -- and some lawmakers feared another increase could have a chilling effect on jobs.
  • LD 1566 – An Act Relating to the Membership of the Worker’s Compensation Board – Original bill was replaced with an amendment offered providing for members to recuse themselves in certain circumstances, and voted ought to pass out of committee. It clarifies the current restrictions on the Workers’ Compensation Board membership with regard to any possible conflict of interest between a member and an issue in front of the board.
  • LD 1565 –An Act To Amend the Laws Governing the Knowing Misclassification of Construction Workers. Voted on 3/1, divided report. Since this bill took many twists and turns and the amendment adopted allowed for sweeping powers to stop work not found in any other state agency per the AG, there is strong opposition to this bill in the amended form passed out of committee.
  • Likely On The Path to Enactment:
    • LD 1708 and LD 1769. These were the bills related to extending the State’s miniCOBRA eligible population and ensuring that ARRA subsidy will be available to miniCOBRA recipients in Maine.
    • LD 1198 – An Act to Reform Insurance Coverage To Include Diagnosis for Autism Spectrum Disorders. It requires individual health insurance policies and contracts as well as group policies, contracts and certificates for health insurance to provide coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders for persons 5 years of age and under. Coverage for applied behavior therapy is subject to a maximum annual benefit of $36,000 per year. Another act, LD 425 An Act To Require Private Insurance Coverage for Certain Services for Children with Disabilities also requires insurers to pay for coverages not previously required. This bill requires individual and group health insurance policies and health maintenance organization contracts to provide coverage for children's early intervention services after a referral from a primary care provider for children from birth to 3 years of age if the child has an identified developmental disability or delay. Coverage is limited to $3,200 per year per child up to a maximum of $9,600 by the child's 3rd birthday.
    • LD 20 - An Act To Require Insurance Companies To Cover the Cost of Prosthetics -This amendment is the majority report of the committee and replaces the bill. Under current law, health insurance carriers are required to provide coverage for prosthetic devices, but coverage is not required for those devices containing a microprocessor. The amendment removes the exclusion for prosthetic devices that include a microprocessor. Insurers were very concerned with the cost, but the committee felt usage would be low.
    • LD 1626 - An Act To Amend the Unemployment Compensation Laws Regarding Vacation Pay is on the fast track to enactment as an emergency measure. This bill allows laid off workers to collect unemployment earlier (terminal vacation pay removed as a reason to delay start).
  • LD 1524 - An Act To Ensure Equity in Unemployment Compensation Claims- This was enacted as a resolve. Original bill had sought to address the situation of 2 employers who both lay off the same employee within 30 days of each other. It required that both employers be considered the claimant's last employer for purposes of the laws governing unemployment compensation. The resolve changes this and mandates a study to see how other states do this, with report due back in January, 2011.

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March 19th Call to Action on March 18th LD 1665 Amendment

The amendment from Thursday’s work session on LD 1665 will be found here and here. Your action is urgently needed to help prevent LD 1665 from passing out of the Labor Committee at Monday’s 2 pm work session.

Toward that end, please call members of the Labor Committee, your legislator and the Governor’s Office urging Ought Not To Pass on the amended version. As time is short, please call rather than write, although emails are welcome if you are more comfortable with this approach – the work session is at 2 pm on Monday and, of course, you may attend that as well. While I urge you to read the full bill and amendment, below are some points you might find helpful. The amendment is linked above and the bill itself is here: http://www.mainelegislature.org/LawMakerWeb/summary.asp?ID=280035113 . This amendment now REPLACES the bill itself as amended previously and is no longer limited to employers of 50 or more employees, it applies to all employers in Maine. The bill requires employers to provide job protection to employees by allowing them up to 5 days of sick time (paid or unpaid) over a 12 month period and contains serious penalties for noncompliance. Employers will not be able to take disciplinary action against any employee due to an employee's failure to report to work because of illness of the employee or family member. This amendment could allow an employee to miss work, not call in and at a later date indicate that they missed work due to an illness.

Points of Consideration for Employers

  • This deserves a fair public hearing since the amendment departs dramatically from the original bill and will have major implications for employers.

  • It could limit the ability to offer performance and attendance reward and recognition programs.
  • It could limit the ability to offer service recognition award programs.
  • This appears to be an FMLA end run; how to dovetail with other laws like state and federal FMLA which have very specific guidelines on when and what documentation is required.
  • May create employee relations problems with the inability to correct perceived inequities, creating a disincentive for those who report to work without fail.
  • Administratively burdensome – employers just had to rework call-in procedures for recent FMLA regs - this will force another review and will be difficult for multistate employers to potentially have different policies and procedures for Maine based employees. This makes Maine an outlier.
  • How can employers manage to this?
    • Can they force sick leave use?
    • How to ensure those with paid time are treated fairly vs. those who take protected time and have no paid time accruals to use?
    • Proof of illness – what is required that will not run afoul of new FMLA regs? How to differentiate all the requirements – this bill appears to be illness only, will need to work this in separately from FMLA entitlements –eg - military caregiving or deployment leave. Can an employer require a doctor’s note?
    • What recourse does a business have if the employee called in sick and wasn’t?
    • What is considered ‘reasonable’ in terms of an employer’s policy?
    • The amendment includes "mental" illness. Does this mean a "mental health" day when an employee is exhausted from either work/personal issue, is it a diagnosed illness, exactly what is it and trying to determine it without running afoul of the ADA could be another difficult situation to handle.
  • Ongoing challenges with staffing will likely ensue, especially for seasonal employers.
  • When would this be available to the employee – immediately upon hire or after some period of employment?
  • What does the Department of Labor intend with regard to promulgating rules, time frame? Input?

Contacts

For your legislator’s contact information: Senate: http://www.maine.gov/legis/senate/senators/index.htm House: http://www.maine.gov/legis/house/

The audio for work sessions to you can listen you’re your computer or mobile device: http://www.maine.gov/legis/ .

The legislature’s phone number to leave a message for your legislator if you can’t reach him/her: 207. 287.1400.

Tools to assist in creating emails on LD 1665, each will need to be modified for your use:

The Governor’s Office “Share Your Views” tool: http://www.maine.gov/governor/baldacci/contact/citizen_services/share_views.html

Thanks much –

Sarah Conroy

SHRM Maine State Government Affairs Director

seconroy@gmail.com

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Call to Action on LD 1665 Amendment

March 10, 2010

MARCH 11, UPDATE: The work session for today on LD 1665 was just moved to next Thursday, March 18th at 1 pm.

Here is the full amendment from Monday’s work session on LD 1665. You action is urgently needed to help prevent LD 1665 from passing out of the Labor Committee at tomorrow’s 1 pm work session.

Toward that end, please call members of the Labor Committee, your legislator and the Governor’s Office urging Ought Not To Pass on the amended version. As time is short, please call rather than write, although emails are welcome if you are more comfortable with this approach – the work session is at 1 pm on Thursday and, of course, you may attend that as well. While I urge you to read the full bill and amendment, below are some talking points you might find helpful. The amendment is linked above and the bill itself is here: http://www.mainelegislature.org/LawMakerWeb/summary.asp?ID=280035113 . Since the amendment now limits the bill to employers of 50 or more, it is especially important if you speak for or are employed by a company this size that you speak out (consultants who counsel in this area welcome!).

You will recall that HR professionals can do better in representing their companies and their employees without administratively burdensome mandates such as these that require your companies to spend monies on benefits that don’t meet your workforce or company needs. This is one such bill that will disallow you the flexibility to reward your best performers, favoring instead a one-size-fits-all entitlement that, depending on your business model may create unanticipated, unbudgeted categories of workers.

Contacts

For your legislator’s contact information: Senate: http://www.maine.gov/legis/senate/senators/index.htm House: http://www.maine.gov/legis/house/

The audio for work sessions to you can listen you’re your computer or mobile device: http://www.maine.gov/legis/ .

The legislature’s phone number to leave a message for your legislator if you can’t reach him/her: 207. 287.1400.

Tools to assist in creating emails on LD 1665, each will need to be modified for your use:

The Governor’s Office “Share Your Views” tool: http://www.maine.gov/governor/baldacci/contact/citizen_services/share_views.html

Possible Talking Points

  • HR professionals know that we can all do better for our companies and our employees than this bill will allow us to do – this message needs to be heard! Right now they are stuck between “cost too much” and “but we need it” – the message of how we can do better is being lost. Sample language from one of our colleagues’ letters:

As an HR professional, I believe that businesses should offer paid sick time to their employees. However, I do not believe that this should be a mandated benefit and therefore I do not support LD 1665 for the following reasons:

*A company with over 50 employees may now fall into the ‘large employer’ category under the amended version, but many businesses with between 50 and 100 employees may not have a full time HR person to help them administer a complex benefit like paid leave. These businesses will now have to take resources which are already stretched to track and accrue sick hours. Also, these businesses will need a dedicated person to interpret and comply with law. As I listened to the discussion yesterday about what defines a “calendar day” for eligibility purposes, I began to image the many hours businesses will spend interpreting what is often well-intended but vaguely worded legislation.

*A company of any size only has so many dollars to spend on benefits. If an employer who currently doesn’t offer paid sick leave is now forced to do so, they may need to reduce the dollars that they have available for paid vacation, health insurance subsidy or training or they may not be able to add new jobs as quickly due to the additional costs of providing another benefit.

*I believe that companies should have the right to decide what benefits they offer. The free market will pressure them to offer certain benefits to remain competitive. Also, a sick policy should really reflect the culture of the organization. I worked with one company and it took us 6 months to develop a policy that felt right for the organization. By that I mean that it was fairly generous in its benefit (84 hours per year) but also strict in how it is administered to deter the ever-present abuse of sick time in an organization.

*During the work session one of the representatives mentioned that he doesn’t want to see someone get fired because they are sick or if they have to care for a loved one who is sick. Maine already provides job protection to those individuals who work for companies with 15 or more employees through the Maine Family Leave Act and the Victims of Violence Act. The employer is not required to pay an employee under either of these laws, but they do provide job protection. That’s a better role for government rather play – protecting an employee’s rights -- than dictating exactly what benefit, how many hours, determining eligibility etc. that LD 1665 is attempting to undertake.

  • Focus on the amendment and how it impacts your business and why it will create takeaways (if true).
  • Pull and offer statistics on your company – if possible, project the cost of the bill and the consequences of compliance as amended and compare to current costs and benefit offerings.
  • Ask whether they have asked the Department of Labor or large employers in Maine to produce actual data on which of them don’t offer this benefit currently.
  • First in the nation to do this, why do we need it at all if most employers with more than 50 employees already offer these benefits?
  • Talk about what you have already that is better and why you don’t need this (if true of course)
  • Creates new category of employee essentially – per diem or casual, but with this benefit only (besides statutory benefits). This may bump up against independent contractor use, which the Governor is also looking at and discourage employers from hiring employees, but rather contracting the labor elsewhere, if not out of State.
  • Will limit job opportunities in Maine in the future. Companies won’t choose to locate here with this outlier benefit and related costs – remember the costs are not just the benefit, but the administration and the management of employees using the benefit as well as the cost of replacement workers! (True if an equivalent benefit is not already being offered and if the stats show it is – then why do we need the bill? Should we make law in the absence of full knowledge of the need?)
  • This amendment actually offers a disincentive to grow beyond 50 employees in Maine!

You will appreciate your own efforts on this, preventing enactment of this entitlement will save you and your company time and money and free to you continue to help both each day!

Thanks much –

Sarah Conroy

SHRM Maine State Government Affairs Director

seconroy@gmail.com

207.713.8337

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MPBN report on LD 1665 worksession today, March 8, 2010: 

http://www.mpbn.net/Home/tabid/36/ctl/ViewItem/mid/3478/ItemId/11323/Default.aspx

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Legislative Update

03.05.2010

LD 1665 Update

Your action is requested! I have emailed those on our regular list with additional information not suitable for this forum. If you are interested in helping with outreach to defeat LD 1665 and did not receive this email, please contact Sarah Conroy at seconroy@gmail.com.

The amendment being offered at the work session on Monday, March 8th is slated to include the following changes/provisions:

  • Exempts employers of 50 or fewer;
  • Exempts most seasonal workers (must work 180 days or more);
  • Limits earned time to 26 hrs a year;
  • Changes effective date to 1/1/2011;
  • Allows use only for immediate family;
  • Changes status of time so as not to be paid as wages upon termination; and
  • Allows "minimal" carryover of unused time and employers are not required to provide more than 26 hrs/yr.

It is unclear how temporary, contingent, per diem workers would be treated and this will be raised at the work session.

While the hope is the majority of the Committee will continue to oppose this, there is NEW SUPPORT for the bill in its amended form. Please be sure to speak up against this bill to your legislators in any form. You can easily edit the SHRM HR Voice letter to make mention of the amendment or, of course write or call your legislators on your own.

LD 1565 Update

LD 1565 –An Act To Amend the Laws Governing the Knowing Misclassification of Construction Workers. Voted on 3/1, divided report. The Maine Chamber has a fantastic write up on this and notes what I mentioned last update regarding the Governor’s Task Force. You will find it here: http://www.mainechamber.org/mx/hm.asp?id=currentnews . This bill will also be terribly important at Monday’s worksession. As you know the Obama administration has charged the DOL with the responsibility of taking on employee misclassification so expect real reform on several front with regard to not just exempt/nonexempt per FLSA, but also much more oversight on the use of independent contractors.

LD 1708 and LD 1769 Updates

LD 1708 and LD 1769 both passed out of committee this week. These were the bills related to extending the State’s miniCOBRA eligible population and ensuring that ARRA subsidy will be available to miniCOBRA recipients in Maine.

As with LD 1198 – An Act to Reform Insurance Coverage To Include Diagnosis for Autism Spectrum Disorders mentioned in our last update, LD 425 also passed out of committee as amended. LD 425 is another benefits mandate shifting MaineCare covered services to private insurers.

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Legislative Update

03.02.2010

Of Note:

  • SHRM HR Voice on LD 1665 delayed by SHRM, expected to hit SHRM member’s email boxes on 03/03/2010. Several groups in support of LD 1665 are planning to gather at the State House on March 4th to show support for the bill.
  • LD192 - The bill that would have tied the state's minimum wage to the rate of inflation was unexpectedly withdrawn by Labor Committee CoChair Representative John Tuttle of Sanford on Monday, March 1. Both workers and employers expressed concerns about the potentially negative impact on the state's job market. The state's current minimum wage is $7.50 an hour -- 25 cents higher than the federal minimum -- and some lawmakers feared another increase could have a chilling effect on jobs.
  • The Federal Mental Health Parity & Addiction Equity Act of 2008 interim final regs were issued: http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2010/pdf/2010-2167.pdf . You will want to ensure your plans comply. History here: http://www.cms.hhs.gov/healthinsreformforconsume/04_thementalhealthparityact.asp
  • In a related matter, LD 1198 – An Act to Reform Insurance Coverage To Include Diagnosis for Autism Spectrum Disorders was just amended at the last work session to apply to all groups - individual, small, HMO, and large. If you dismissed this earlier, you may wish to look again. The committee agreed to extend the bill to cover more plans, but cutback on the age threshold for services. The amendment is not yet online; I have requested a copy and can send to anyone who needs it, just contact me at seconroy@gmail.com please.
  • The Annual Report of the Governor's Joint Enforcement Task Force on Employee Misclassification is now posted on the Maine Department of Labor Misclassification web site at: http://www.maine.gov/labor/misclass/ .
  • LD 1626 was passed to be engrossed by the House on 3/2. This is the amended bill that will allow laid off workers to collect unemployment earlier (terminal vacation pay removed as a reason to delay start): http://www.mainelegislature.org/LawMakerWeb/summary.asp?ID=280035081 .

 Other Updates:

  • Upcoming work sessions: LD 1545 (An Act to Protect Maine Workers) and LD 1552 (An Act To Improve Employment Opportunities for Maine Workers in the Forest Industry), March 4th at 1 pm, Cross Office Building. LD 20 (An Act To Require Insurance Companies To Cover the Cost of Prosthetics), March 9th at 1 pm, Rm 427, State House.
  • LD 1708 and LD 1769 both had hearings today – will update asap. These were related to miniCOBRA.
  • LD 1761 - An Act to Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Create a New Electronic Medical Records Infrastructure – must be ready by 2015 to have entire state on electronic records per fed law – Maine will down low interest loans to replace those the feds were supposed to offer via FAME to providers. The priority will be given to rural and underserved areas. Voted OTP-AM on 2/25.
  • LD 1565 –An Act To Amend the Laws Governing the Knowing Misclassification of Construction Workers. Voted on 3/1, divided report. More information to come.
  • LD 1566 –This is the bill on WC board membership. An amendment was offered providing for members to recuse themselves in certain circumstances, but it was argued that they already do this under Title 5. Passed to be engrossed as amended by House on 3/2. Amendment here: This amendment replaces the bill and clarifies the current restrictions on the Workers’ Compensation Board membership with regard to any possible conflict of interest between a member and an issue in front of the board. It cites the conflict of interest provisions found in the Maine Workers’ Compensation Act of 1992, which refers to the disqualification of executive employees from participating in matters that appear to be a conflict of interest by disclosure or by abstention found in the Maine Revised Statutes, Title 5, section 18.
  • LD 1711 – An Act to Clarify the Status of Prisoners – This was voted out of committee as OTP –AM and placed on the consent calendar on 3/2. The amendment adds persons employed while in a community confinement monitoring program to the list of persons protected by minimum wage law. It also adds this same group to the definition of "employee" in the workers’ compensation laws. The amendment also conforms a section of workers’ compensation law that deals with incarcerated individuals to that definition.

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Alert and Call To Action on LD 1665

February 25, 2010

All of you who belong to SHRM in Maine will receive an HR Voice alert, urging you to log into SHRM’s Advocacy Action Center. There you will find our alert and have the ability to read, edit, and send an e-mail message through the portal directly to your legislators in opposition to LD 1665 – An Act to Prevent the Spread of H1N1. If you are not a SHRM member, I hope you will still seek to contact legislators where you work and live as well as members of the Labor Committee. I can furnish you with the same letters, just contact me at seconroy@gmail.com. It is important to act before March 8th, the date scheduled for the Labor Committee work session. The bill may be found at: http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/bills/bills_124th/billtexts/SP063001.asp

As you may have seen, the Maine Chamber issued an alert on LD 1665 on 2/24 that I reproduce in part with their permission:

While we have not seen the actual language, we have been told that an amendment to L.D.1665 is being prepared, designed to gather enough support to pass the bill out of committee before it goes to the full Senate. We should know more after the work session on the bill, which has just been scheduled for the afternoon of March 8….

Although unconfirmed, we hear the proposed amendment may:

· Exempt employers with fewer than 25 employees;

· Exempt some portion of the workforce from coverage (e.g., part time workers, seasonal and temporary workers); and,

· Exempt covered employers if they provide an existing leave policy…

..There are two facts that cannot be amended or exempted away from L.D. 1665, and that is why the Maine State Chamber and all Maine businesses should remain opposed to this bill:

· First: An amended L.D. 1665 will result in new fixed costs that will increase the affected employers’ bottom line cost of doing business.

· Second: Maine will be the ONLY state in the country to mandate this requirement on our businesses. This will make us less competitive for new jobs and opportunities for our citizens.

In addition:

· Targeting so called “larger employers,”…those with more than 25 employees…will:

· Hurt this state’s ability to attract larger businesses and their many job creation opportunities;

· Hurt our ability to attract a buyer for a distressed or closed larger business;

· Insure that small businesses stay small! Amending LD 1665 to exempt small employers will place a chilling effect on job creation. Any small employer seeking to expand above 24 employees will be forced to balance any job creation benefits with the cost associated with complying with this mandate! That’s not job creation…that’s job prevention!

Right now, the Maine Legislature should be doing all it can to position Maine to take advantage of any and all job creation opportunities that may come along. L.D. 1665, even an amended version, goes in the exact opposite direction. It harms our small business growth, hurts our ability to attract new larger employers, and makes it more difficult for our state to rescue businesses that are in trouble or closed.

Points for Consideration, Recommendations and Notes if you choose to write your own letter or call:

Recommendations:

  • You may wish to focus on the HR role and the dual responsibilities respecting both the bottom line and people;
  • Make points specific to your workplace and what the bill will mean to your workplace in particular with as much supporting evidence as you can provide – eg – increased costs and the consequences of same;
  • Talk about what you already do to address PTO or other paid time use for this purpose;
  • If true, stress that this interferes with benefits that are already in place that address needs specific to your workforce and how;
  • Ask that the bill be defeated completely, not reworked;
  • Review the following points and decide if and how you might like to incorporate them in your testimony, letter or conversation with your legislator.

Points:

  • This bill actually repeals 26 MRSA, SS 636 PL 2005, c. 455, SS1 See pps 28-9 here: http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/Statutes/26/title26ch7.pdf . This was just enacted in 2005 as the Maine Act to Care For Families. It replaces it to include brand new definitions of family members that do not match what is currently in use. You will note the definition is broader and there is no way to ask for any proof of use as legitimate, or any requirement that residence is shared or that the care occur in Maine.
  • The definition of employee is very broad and includes any employee relationship – temporary, intern, fellow, apprentice etc.
  • Banked time will likely be payable upon termination to anyone having time after working for at least 90 days.
  • It appears that the annual entitlement is available each year, PLUS carryover. There is conflicting language and the intent should be clarified.
  • Bill is entitled H1N1, but the use available is much broader, including incorporating by reference 2 unpaid leave entitlements, thus making them paid – one for domestic violence related needs, the other for public health related closures.
  • Is this the right time to do this? We are in a recession with many layoffs and a State budget in crisis, this is the wrong time to further burden struggling employers with more.
  • Maine would be the only state with such a law if this is passed.
  • There is a federal bill doing the same thing is also under consideration, please see this: http://edlabor.house.gov/newsroom/2009/11/house-democrats-introduce-h1n1.shtml and http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h111-3991
  • The number of hours available for accrual will depend on company size, up to 52 hours per employee per year for large employers, up to 26 for small employers.
  • Large and small employer definition does not match other standards – 25 employees = large, less than 25 employees = small.

Notes:

  • They have addressed PTO programs so that the intent of the law is to credit employers who have PTO programs and allow them to count, but the language needs refinement to ensure that any law will not override policies already in place.

Tips on writing to your legislator:

http://www.maine.gov/sos/path/exploring/write.html

Links to listen to the labor (and other) committee hearings:

http://janus.state.me.us/legis/audio/cmte_directory.htm

Joint Committees and their members:

http://www.maine.gov/legis/house/jtcomlst.htm

As always, I am happy to help, please feel free to contact me at seconroy@gmail.com or 207.713.8337.

Thank you for weighing in on this important matter!

Sarah Conroy

Maine State SHRM Government Affairs Director

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February 25, 2010, 10 am - Federal Bipartisan HealthCare Summit (including live steaming link): http://www.whitehouse.gov/health-care-meeting/bipartisan-meeting

The President’s Proposal is substantially similar to the Senate bill passed on Christmas Eve and does not include a public option. However, the proposal makes the following changes to the Senate bill –

Delays the effective date of the “Cadillac plan” excise tax to 2018, and increases the dollar limits to $10,200 per individual and $27,500 for families. These limits could increase if “health costs rise unexpectedly.” It excludes stand-alone dental and vision plans from the tax.

· Increases the employer penalty for not providing coverage from $750 to $2,000 per employee in 2014.

· Increases the individual penalty for not having coverage for higher income individuals.

· Implements a new Medicare hospital payroll tax on unearned income.

· Reduces payments to Medicare Advantage plans based on a combination of House and Senate proposals.

· Delays the taxation of Medicare Retiree Drug Subsidy (RDS) payments to 2012.

· Delays the surcharge or excise tax on certain industries – pharmaceuticals from 2009 to 2011, medical device manufacturers from 2010 to 2013, and health care insurers from 2011 to 2014.

· Phases out the Part D donut hole starting in 2010.

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Interview with Rep Tuttle on minimum wage indexing bill:

http://www.mpbn.net/DesktopModules/PDGNews/MediaPlayer.aspx?PDGNewsStoryID=11093&PDGNewsMediaID=1149&TabID=36&ModuleID=3478

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Legislative Update

February 18, 2010

Update from SHRM National

SHRM’s Government Affairs Division offered a conference call update on February 16, 2010 to talk about what they expect to happen in Congress for 2010 and to update Government Affairs Leaders on some upcoming updates to their advocacy plans and tools. Here are some notes from the call:

  • Speakers were Michael Layman, Sherry Johnson, Field Services Director for GA and Bob Carragher – contact details on the GA staff can be found here: http://www.shrm.org/Advocacy/PublicPolicyStatusReports/State/PendingLegislativeReport/Documents/SHRM%20Staff%20Contact%20List.pdf
  • Michael talked about the major unanticipated changes in the legislature due to the election of Scott Brown and the recent decisions of key legislators like Evan Bayh to not seek re-election has impacted not only Health care legislation, but also the current jobs bill and others.
  • Harry Reid has taken up cutting down the 400 page jobs bill and the Senate is expected to take it up next week (on recess this week). This bill is in excess of $40 billion dollars and seeks to offer tax incentives for hiring the unemployed among other provisions. It does NOT include an extension of unemployment benefits – that will be addressed separately.
  • He reiterated that the SHRM-opposed NLRB nominee Craig Becker (an SEIU attorney) had stalled in the Senate on 2/9 and added that the vote was 52 in favor of confirmation to 33 opposed. This opens the door for the Obama administration to offer him a recess appointment. This would create a term ending 12/31/2011 instead of the 5 year appointment he would have received with confirmation.
  • The Senate is planning a hearing on 3/13 on the Paycheck Fairness Act – you will recall that already passed the House before all attention turned to healthcare. SHRM is opposed to this bill mostly because it would transform damage awards among other changes. Bill here: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=s111-182
  • The Healthy Families Act is expected to be considered later this year. This is the federal bill similar to our own LD 1665. Please see the Senate bill here: http://www.opencongress.org/bill/111-s1152/show
  • ENDA is expected to come up this year also. You will recall this as the Employment Nondiscrimination in Employment Act which seeks to offer protection under Title 7 for gender identification and sexual orientation. More here: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d111:S1584: Our own two Senators co-sponsored this bill.
  • SHRM believes that the election of Scott Brown spells the death nell for immigration reform in Congress for 2010, but the administration is dedicated to it so it is expected that it will return.
  • SHRM is also working on supporting a new bill to extend Section 127 benefits as the tax favored status sunsets at the end of the year.

 This link contains the second half of the presentation:

http://www.shrm.org/Advocacy/Documents/CLA%20Conference%20Call%20PowerPoint%202.16.10%20[Compatibility%20Mode].pdf

Here is the update I think you find the most relevant at this time. By March 31, 2010, SHRM will begin identifying one key contact (‘precinct captain’) in all 435 congressional districts

  • Provide each key contact a database of other HR Advocates residing in that congressional district
  • It will be the role of each SHRM state legislator director to oversee state legislative activities, including periodically reaching out to the key contacts in their respective states
  • Each key contact will be asked to ensure that at least one face-to-face meeting with a legislator (federal or state) has occurred prior to Election Day 2010, during which the role HR professionals play in today’s workplaces is discussed, as well as advocating on a pending HR federal or state public policy matter. Each meeting should be coordinated in advance with SHRM GA staff.

 I will update you on the Employment Law and Legislative conference, but would rather you join me! Please see:

http://www.shrm.org/Conferences/EmploymentLawLegislativeConference/Pages/default.aspx

As an aside, I thought I’d also include the new model CHIPRA notice in case you’ve not seen it yet: http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/pdf/chipmodelnotice.pdf As a reminder, an employer must provide the Employer CHIP notice if it maintains a group health plan (i.e., if the employer provides medical care benefits directly or through insurance, reimbursement, or otherwise) in a state that provides premium assistance under Medicaid or under a state children’s health insurance program for the purchase of group health plan coverage. So, whether an employer is subject to the notice requirement depends on where the group health plan participants or beneficiaries reside – not the location or principal place of business of the employer, plan, plan administrator, insurer or affiliated service provider. (If the state in which the employee (or employee’s family) resides does not offer premium assistance programs, no notice is required.)

I welcome your questions at seconroy@gmail.com.

Maine Legislative Update

Please see the updated tracker here.

Updates from this week’s sessions:

  • LD 192 - An Act To Index The State Minimum Wage To Inflation - Rep Tuttle referenced his own upcoming amendment at the public hearing on 2/18/10. This amendment is not yet posted online, but one change is to have this begin on 1/1/2012 instead of 1/1/2010. He also noted in greater detail how the index would work and what it would be based on. Most testimony for and against was based on the original bill. Please check back for the amended bill.
  • LD 1620 was tabled, LD 1198 was voted out with a divided report. Please see tracker and check back for updates.

Newly Scheduled Work Sessions And Public Hearings

(For all upcoming, please see tracker)

  • LD 1565 – An Act to Amend the Laws Governing the Knowing Misclassification of Construction Workers - another work session will be scheduled for this on Monday, 2/22.
  • LD 1545 – An Act to Protect Maine Workers – Public Hearing scheduled for 02/25/2010, 1 pm, Rm 220 Cross Building

· LD 1769 – This is the emergency measure from the Governor’s office to grant a special election window to those who declined miniCOBRA coverage before ARRA was extended. Work session added on 3/3 at 1 pm, room 427, State House.

· LD 1566 – An Act Relating to the Membership of the WC Board – new work session, 2/22, 1 pm, Rm 220, Cross Building.

· LD 1552 – An Act To Improved Employment Opportunities for Maine Workers in the Forest Industry – new work session, 2/25, 1 pm, Rm 220, Cross Building.

  • LD 1738 – An Act to Create a Duty to Report Serious Injuries - New work session on 02/23/2010, 1 pm, State House, RM 438.

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Legislative Update

February 11, 2010

LD 1665 - An Act to Prevent the Spread of H1N1. I wanted to pass along the Chamber’s alert on LD 1665 as well as to let you know that I have requested that SHRM national assist our community by creating an HR Voice blast. I will keep you posted on the timing of this. (As you may guess, they are still digging out in DC.) Hopefully you had a chance to watch the Maine Watch video on LD 1665 (link below) and have been following it in the news. I hope you will take the opportunity to speak to your legislator and/or contact a member of the Labor Committee about this bill. (Please see the talking points prepared last month below for more information or contact me for more detail.)

Here is an excerpt from the Maine Chamber email (thank you to the Chamber):

“… the legislation submitted by Senate President Elizabeth Mitchell (D-Kennebec) that would mandate all Maine businesses provide all employees some portion of paid sick time. Thank you for all of your assistance in contacting legislators to urge them to oppose the bill. HOWEVER, this bill still remains in play! Despite the considerable passage of time, the bill has not been scheduled for a work session by the Joint Standing Committee on Labor.

In recent days, we have heard rumors that some proponents of L.D. 1665, are trying to rally support for an "amended" version of this bill by proposing to "exempt" certain segments of the business community either by industry type, size of businesses etc. Without question, the proponents of the bill are, and will continue to try and gather legislative support by mitigate its impact on some business.

There are two facts that cannot be amended or exempted away from L.D. 1665, and why the Maine State Chamber, and all Maine businesses should remain opposed to this bill:

· First: An amended L.D. 1665 will result in new fixed costs that will increase the affected employers bottom line cost of doing business.

· Second: Maine will be the ONLY state in the country to mandate this requirement on our business. This will make us less competitive for new jobs or opportunities for our citizens.

DO NOT BE FOOLED BY THESE TACTICS. Any proposal that attempts to amend away the many problems contained in L.D. 1665 only shifts the burden onto another segment of the business community. While exempting certain businesses, for now, may entice some legislator to consider voting for the proposal, if you think you are "safe", think again. Make no mistake, just because you may find yourself, or your business exempted this should this bill pass this session, you can fully expect the proponents of this bill will come back in the near future to expand the scope of this mandate onto all Maine businesses.”

LD 1198 – Another work session has been scheduled for February 17th . This is the bill that seeks to shift health care costs for those under 18 with Autism Spectrum disorders to private insurers (more detail in tracker) ; LD 1620 will also be worked on at this session. That is the bill that prohibits health plans covering Maine residents from including provisions that terminate payment of further claims after a defined maximum specified aggregate amount of health care claims has been paid on an annual, lifetime or other basis on behalf of an individual, family or group.

LD 1565 – This bill is about knowing misclassification of construction workers. Long work session on this mostly centered around Section 105 of a related WC bill passed last session (LD 1456) specified that a predetermination of status as an independent contractor must be obtained for each job site or else they will be considered employees and covered/paid for by the prime’s WC insurer. The new form in use as of Jan 2010 includes a 12 part test and is an update of the process in use since 2005. WC statute does not require contractors to get a predetermination, but insurers had interpreted the statute to allow them to require it. The WC audit still determines whether the person is a contractor or an employee, but since the new predetermination application is so detailed, the determination should match the audit and, of course the provision of proof of WC coverage by a worker obviates the need. Independent contractors have requested not one form per prime/general contractor, but one master determination of contractor status to present as needed. There is also talk of making it a web-enabled form so it can be submitted online.

LD 1565 was tabled pending a meetings on 2/12 and 2/17 to work out language to correct problems with LD 1456. Stakeholders are insurers, WC board, independents and subcontractors as well as the Governor’s office. As they are concurrently running a misclassification taskforce, there is talk of looking to them for recommendation as to stop work orders and classification determinations (or at least to make sure conflicting directives are not issued).

LD 1566 – This is the bill about the membership composition of the Worker’s Compensation Board. At today’s work session, this bill was tabled pending work on a proposed amendment. Expected to be discussed again next Thursday, 2/18.

LD 1769 – This is a new emergency measure from the Governor’s office to grant a special election window to those who declined miniCOBRA coverage before ARRA was extended with a public hearing on 2/24 at 1 pm, room 427, State House. This will match the federal provision and likely open the door for Rep Mazurek’s bill to proceed, LD 1708 – extending miniCOBRA.

The bill: http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/bills/bills_124th/billtexts/HP125901.asp

These bills were assigned public hearings all on February 25, Rm 220 Cross Office Building at 1 pm: LD 1545, LD 1552 and LD 1715. Please visit the tracker here for more detail.

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February 9, 2010

Here is the updated tracker with upcoming hearings and work sessions. A couple of items of note:

  • LD 1464 - An Act To Amend Licensing, Certification and Registration Requirements for Health Care Providers and Other Facilities was passed to be enacted.
  • LD 1709 – An Act Concerning the Use of Long Term Antibiotics for the Treatment of Lyme Disease was voted OTP as amended out of committee.
  • LD 1198 – the work session was ongoing as of this update, so please check back for final disposition.

 Have a great week!

Sarah Conroy

Maine SHRM State Government Affairs Director

seconroy@gmail.com

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Maine Watch video on LD 1665 featuring Peter Gore, VP of Advocacy & Government Relations at Maine State Chamber of Commerce and Sarah Standiford, Executive Director of the Maine Women's Lobby: http://www.mpbn.net/Television/LocalTelevisionPrograms/MaineWatch/tabid/477/ctl/ViewItem/mid/3470/ItemId/10833/Default.aspx

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Legislative Update

February 4, 2010

Legislature is still on track to adjourn by 4/2, they are building this into the budget as their effort to help with the State budget deficit. This means lawmakers will be working through their normal February break. In the same vein, there is talk of more tobacco taxes, a local option tax and possibly a 1 or 2 cent sales tax hike. The sales tax seems unlikely, but tobacco tax might fly now that NH has imposed a tax on the same par as Maine’s so folks aren’t going out of the way to stock up at the border anymore. There continues to be discussion on tying minimum wage hikes to CPI – there will need to be a provision to ensure it doesn’t result in a lowering of minimum wages or see-saw effect. This happened in Colorado.

Please note this special update pertaining to LD 1408. We have not been tracking this bill, but I include it because those who have came to the business community for feedback. This bill pertains to immunizations for children 0-18.

In summary (with apologies to those with the full history – consider these “cliff notes” if you will!), these are currently covered by private insurers or the state via the vaccine free children program. This is new because the state used to enjoy full fed government reimbursement, but lost these funds recently. The bill creates a program modeled after one in NH, where a board is created to decide what vaccines will be purchased and acts to purchase them from the CDC at reduced cost. Insurers and providers can’t get these rates on their own. Parties are in agreement that all kids in Maine should have access to vaccines and the insurers are not opposed to the idea.

The discussion is around:

· board composition and rules,

· creating special funding reserves outside the general fund so that monies may be used only as intended on this program,

· cost – is it really cheaper to set up this approach or will the administration burden of a special board become so costly as to cancel all the savings?

· How to ensure plans won’t discontinue their coverage so it will be paid outside the insurance plan, how to ensure members are counted correctly and plans don’t pay twice etc.

· Research on how other states fared with this approach.

The work session is 2/11 at 2 pm, Cross Bldg 209. In short, if you’d like to have your say on the particulars, do so by contacting a member of the Committee on Health and Human Services. Since the committee has reached out to the business community in a nonpartisan way and we think most everyone agrees to the concept, respectful suggestions on how to make the approach viable are most welcome.

Update on LD 1665 – it is sitting with no work session scheduled right now because there appear to not be enough votes in the Senate to pass it. Looks like at least 6 or more would not vote for it in Senate. Even in the House many will not vote for it. If committee were to vote today it could come out 8-5 ONTP majority. Even Co-Chair Tuttle does not currently plan to support it.

Update on LD 1626 – This is the bill to allow for earlier UI payout to those with vacation payouts and it’s on a fast track and should come to the floor this week or next. You may have seen the Chamber’s talking points in opposition, but you may want to think twice about using one of the arguments posited that people are likely to get jobs during the time of their vacation payout. The ME UI exhaust rate right now is about 40% so folks are not getting work even after 26 plus weeks. This one is hard to cost out since it fluctuates with the economy and will be high when economy is bad. I have heard an estimate of $2 M payout in 2010 alone for this change.

More Updates

LD 425 was voted out of committee with a divided report -this is the one to shift costs of early intervention programs from state to private insurers. Rather expensive, insurers opposed.

LD 20 has been extended in committee – this is a really expensive mandate – about $30-$90 per prosthetic. This is likely to drive premiums, so it’s good they are taking their time.

LD 1198 – extended in committee also, another work session on 2/9. Another very expensive mandate to cover autism spectrum disorders. Initial max is expected to be capped at $36k for small group coverages. I double checked and this will not conflict with the Mental Health Parity and Equity Addiction Act (MHPAEA) since that pertains to large groups only at this point : http://www.cms.hhs.gov/healthinsreformforconsume/04_thementalhealthparityact.asp .

LD 1709 – Lyme Disease antibiotics treatment requirement. Dr.Dora Mills, Maine’s Director of Public Health, actually came and testified against this so it was tabled, will likely be replaced by some sort of mandatory education around lyme disease treatment and prevention.

LD 1709 – MiniCOBRA – tabled also.

I hope you will take time to have your say. I like to think of this as HR Wellness – we are focusing on keeping HR in a healthy balance, not waiting to triage less-than-perfect (although certainly well meaning) law! If I can help in any way with this, please let me know.

Sarah Conroy

Maine State SHRM Government Affairs Director

seconroy@gmail.com

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Legislative Update

January 30, 2010

Please visit this newly updated tracker for the most recent information. You will note several updates including upcoming public hearings and work sessions. Updates since our last update below on 1/25 include LDs 757, 425, 1262, 1708, 1537, 1566, 1620, 1681 and 1709. Noteworthy in particular is LD 1626, Speaker Pingree’s emergency measure to Amend the Unemployment Compensation Laws Regarding Vacation Pay. This is the bill that will allow UI to begin earlier for those with vacation payouts. There was a party line vote 8-5 in the committee, with the majority favoring passage. The bill was strongly supported by Labor and strongly opposed by business. No movement yet on LD 1665.

Worksessions are next for LD 1708 and LD 1709, both expanding health coverage. You will also note several bills coming to committee for the first time.

There are also a number of bills now DEAD, including LD 1681, the bill to establish a workshare as a part of Maine’s UI program.

Be sure to let me know if I can answer any questions. I can be reached at seconroy@gmail.com.

Thank you –

Sarah Conroy

SHRM Maine State Government Affairs Director

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Legislative Update

January 25, 2010

Items of Interest

Governor Baldacci’s State of the State Address: http://www.maine.gov/tools/whatsnew/index.php?topic=Gov+News&id=89381&v=Article-2006

Chief Justice Saufley’s State of the Judiciary Address, scheduled for Tuesday, January 26th at 11 am, can be heard or heard and seen here: http://www.maine.gov/legis/house/h_audio.htm

Relevant Joint Committee Audio Links

Labor: http://www.maine.gov/legis/audio/lab_cmte.html

Insurance and Financial Services: http://www.maine.gov/legis/audio/insurance_cmte.html

Judiciary: http://www.maine.gov/legis/audio/judiciary_cmte.html

Health and Human Services: http://www.maine.gov/legis/audio/health_cmte.html

Updates On Some Bills We Are Tracking

Please visit the link to the tracker in the last update below for more detail on each bill. Tracker itself will be updated later in the week. More updates will come as the session progresses.

LD 20 – An Act to Require Insurance Companies to Cover the Cost of Prosthetics - The committee has requested extension to 2/4, so no report yet.

 LD 1498 – An Act to Adopt A Drug Benefit Equity Law – Voted OTP-AM on Jan 20th. Awaiting committee report and amendments. This will impact any of your plans that now reward mail order pharmacy use with discounts. You may wish to weigh in.

As a reminder:

The purpose of this bill is to bar health insurance carriers from favoring certain types of pharmacies, such as mail order pharmacies, over other types of pharmacies, such as independent retail pharmacies. This bill:

1. Prohibits a carrier from refusing to contract with a pharmacy provider that meets the terms and conditions established by the health plan;

2. Requires that coinsurance, copayment and deductible factors be applied uniformly regardless of the type of pharmacy the health plan enrollee chooses; and

3. Prohibits a carrier from limiting the quantity of drugs that an enrollee may obtain at one time unless the limit is applied uniformly to all pharmacy providers within the health plan's network.

LD 425 – This bill, requiring insurers to cover certain early interventions services for disabled children was voted out of committee with a divided report – awaiting the report now.

LD 1464 – OTP –AM on Jan 7th – This is the bill requiring criminal background checks for healthcare workers with direct patient care duties. If you are a healthcare provider/agency, you will need to ensure your policies and procedures comply should this pass.

LD 1365 – An Act to Establish a Single Payer Health Care System – Voted ONTP on January 20th.

LD 1198 – An Act to Reform Insurance Coverage to Include Diagnosis for Autism Spectrum Disorders - The committee has requested extension to 2/4, so no report yet.

LD 1524 – An Act to Ensure Equity in Unemployment Compensation Claims Voted OTP-AM on January 21.

LD 1537 – An Act to Amend the Statute of Limitations Under the Maine Human Rights Act - Work Session coming up on January 28th, 1 pm, State House Room 438

LD 1665 – An Act to Prevent the Spread of H1N1 – still awaiting committee action – no work session scheduled yet

LD 1708 – An Act to Expand MiniCOBRA – hearing is January 27th at 1 pm, State House, Room 427. This is expected to pass as there appears to be little opposition among our members and other industry trade groups. Most brokers and insurers support this because it keeps people insured and premiums flowing and companies this size get most of their advice on this from brokers. Because the impacted member size is 1 – 19 employees, administering COBRA will be new for them and miniCOBRA is eligible for the ARRA subsidy, so more administrative complexity. I have recommended to the Chamber and to MANP that they tell their members of this size about this and perhaps inform the committee of the same.

Be sure to let me know if I can answer any questions. I can be reached at seconroy@gmail.com.

Thank you –

Sarah Conroy

SHRM Maine State Government Affairs Director

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As requested, here is an updated tracker for detail on all the bills we are following and their dispositions. Please note:

  • If you can’t make a hearing or work session, you can listen to them online and can offer your input by contacting a committee member and/or your Senator or Representative. How to do this is outlined in the talking points on LD 1665 below.

  • There is no work session scheduled for LD 1665 yet, please see the tracker for more detail.
  • Things are moving quickly, you will notice some bills we were tracking have already died.
  • If you want to be notified when this page is updated, please email mainelegregupdate@gmail.com and enter SUBSCRIBE in the subject line.

 If you are interested in learning more, please contact Sarah Conroy, Maine State SHRM Government Affairs Director at seconroy@gmail.com

Thank you for your interest in SHRM Government Affairs!

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Update from the 124th Maine Legislature’s Joint Committee on Labor

January 14th Public Hearings

Well, it was a marathon session – close to 8 hours. Before the committee were 3 bills:

  • LD 1626 – a big turnout in favor of this bill, less opposition. My general impression is that this will pass in some form, so if you are opposed, be sure to make your voice heard.
  • LD 1595 – good turnout in favor, almost no opposition. Expect this will be OTP out of committee.
  • LD 1665 -

Huge turnout both for and against. More volume in opposition. We had seven HR managers come to testify in about LD 1665 (yay) along with a slew of small business owners. Only 3 of us got to testify, but those who had to leave were allowed to enter their written testimony into the record. Those representing HR were:

· Mike Brown from Kris-Way Trucking (South Portland) – testified in opposition

· Darlene Levesque from White Rock Distilleries (Lewiston) – observing only

· Bob Smith from D&G Machine Products – turned in paper testimony in opposition

· Paul Hoyt – Dead River (Bangor) – testified in opposition

· Bethany Turon from Wal-Mart Distribution Center (Lewiston) – testified neither for nor against

· HR Manager from Sappi Fine Paper (mills – sorry, didn’t get name) – testified in opposition

· Sarah Conroy (Lewiston) - testified in opposition

There were also a lot of business owners who also have HR responsibilities of course. I represented myself only, but did mention my volunteer efforts with SHRM GA and was able to provide the results to date of both surveys – the one on LD 1665 that is still running and the earlier survey on employer pandemic response.

There were a number of folks, including HR professionals that were invited back for the work session, so I fear this may not automatically be voted ONTP out of committee as hoped. The feeling I got is that they are looking to work on compromise, but I will get my ear to the ground for more information. If the volume of opposition coming great distances to testify in opposition were the only measure, I would say this bill would not pass, but this is politics, so not sure yet what was posturing. Stay tuned, we are not out of the woods yet, so if you can rally more folks to call their legislators, please do.

We are refining our Government Affairs team mission to best meet the needs of our membership. This means we will discontinue tracking bills that are considered to the benefit of Maine State employees only and may also remove others based on request. The lion’s share of our tracking will be bills in the labor, business and financial affairs committees, but we will certainly track anything labor or benefit mandate related if it impacts industries in which we have members needed update.

Thanks so much for all your hard work in getting the word out on LD 1665. I am sure our efforts will be rewarded!

As always, I invite your participation – feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns…

Sarah Conroy

SHRM Maine State Government Affairs Director

207.713.8337

seconroy@gmail.com

 

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Talking Points in Opposition to LD 1665 for HR Practitioners in Maine

January 7, 2010

I have been asked to provide the following for your consideration as you weigh whether you wish to oppose LD 1665 – An Act to Prevent the Spread of H1N1.  

If you could kindly let me (Sarah Conroy) know if you intend to contact your legislator, write or testify, I’d appreciate it. I can be reached at seconroy@gmail.com . There are several HR professionals planning to attend the hearing on January 14th and we’d love to coordinate the effort if at all possible. This session is being accelerated in anticipation of an early adjournment on or about April 2nd so it is important to make your case as soon as possible and certainly on or before January 14th. Thank you!

The bill may be found at: http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/bills/bills_124th/billtexts/SP063001.asp

Please see the following links for information on testifying and writing letters. I am also happy to provide samples of my own letters for your use as templates upon request. I can be reached using the contact information above.

Guides to testifying at public hearings:

http://www.maine.gov/legis/opla/citizensguide.pdf

http://www.maine.gov/legis/senate/Documents/hearing/Hearing%20Guide/hearguide.htm

http://www.maine.gov/sos/path/exploring/testify.html

Tips on writing to your legislator:

http://www.maine.gov/sos/path/exploring/write.html

Links to listen to the labor (and other) committee hearings:

http://janus.state.me.us/legis/audio/cmte_directory.htm

Joint Committees and their members:

http://www.maine.gov/legis/house/jtcomlst.htm

Points for Consideration, Recommendations and Notes:

Recommendations:

  • You may wish to focus on the HR role and the dual responsibilities respecting both the bottom line and people. As an HR professional, your opinion is valuable - you are in the trenches and volunteering your time, not a paid lobbyist;

  • Please be clear that you are speaking on behalf of yourself (or your employer if applicable) and not as an official SHRM representative.
  • Make points specific to your workplace and what the bill will mean to your workplace in particular with as much supporting evidence as you can provide – eg – increased costs and the consequences of same;
  • Talk about what you already do to address PTO or other paid time use for this purpose;
  • If true, stress that this interferes with benefits that are already in place that address needs specific to your workforce and how;
  • Ask that the bill be defeated completely, not reworked;
  • Review the following points and decide if and how you might like to incorporate them in your testimony, letter or conversation with your legislator.

Points:

  • This bill actually repeals 26 MRSA, SS 636 PL 2005, c. 455, SS1 See pps 28-9 here: http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/Statutes/26/title26ch7.pdf . This was just enacted in 2005 as the Maine Act to Care For Families. It replaces it to include brand new definitions of family members that do not match what is currently in use. You will note the definition is broader and there is no way to ask for any proof of use as legitimate, or any requirement that residence is shared or that the care occur in Maine.
  • The definition of employee is very broad and includes any employee relationship – temporary, intern, fellow, apprentice etc.
  • Banked time will likely be payable upon termination to anyone having time after working for at least 90 days.
  • It appears that the annual entitlement is available each year, PLUS carryover. There is conflicting language and the intent should be clarified.
  • Bill is entitled H1N1, but the use available is much broader, including incorporating by reference 2 unpaid leave entitlements, thus making them paid – one for domestic violence related needs, the other for public health related closures.
  • Is this the right time to do this? We are in a recession with many layoffs and a State budget in crisis, this is the wrong time to further burden struggling employers with more.
  • Maine would be the only state with such a law if this is passed.
  • There is a federal bill doing the same thing is also under consideration, please see this: http://edlabor.house.gov/newsroom/2009/11/house-democrats-introduce-h1n1.shtml
  • The number of hours available for accrual will depend on company size, up to 52 hours per employee per year for large employers, up to 26 for small employers.
  • Large and small employer definition does not match other standards – 25 employees = large, less than 25 employees = small.

Notes:

  • They have addressed PTO programs so that the intent of the law is to credit employers who have PTO programs and allow them to count, but the language needs refinement to ensure that any law will not override policies already in place.

Your Government Affairs Team! There’s still room, let us know if you want in!

Chapter

Government Affairs Warrior

Chapter

Government Affairs Warrior

HRASM

Lisa Noonan, Director

CMHRA

Amie Parker

 

Johnna Major

 

Bethany Turon

 

Celine Frueh

MidCoast SHRM

Mary Caldwell

 

Shannon Kashinsky

HRAEM

TDB

 

Carol Taylor

MSHHRA

Chris Riendeau

 

Amy Cross Sawyer

KVHRA

Cathy DeMerchant

NESHRM

Robin Beckwith

State Council

Sarah Conroy

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SHRM Maine State Council Government Affairs Team

Pre-Session Update

December 31, 2009

Happy 2010!

As promised, here is an update on the bills scheduled for the second session of the Maine 124th Legislature, including both carried-over and new bills. Please take a moment to review our legislative tracker here for detail on each bill, including upcoming public hearings and work sessions. Our intention is to follow these bills and update you regularly, but this is a two- way street so your input is always welcome. We particularly encourage you to participate with us in contacting your legislators to speak out either for or against bills. As our team is comprised of your fellow HR professionals across Maine, we are you. We hope to inform, encourage and team with you, but we aren’t set up to officially lobby. This may make us a bit different from other groups that update you and we hope this will make you feel more a part of our team and efforts. Some items of note follow:

· Be sure to note the LD numbers in the tracker are hyperlinks, so you can navigate easily between the tracker and the legislature’s website. There are a few new bills that had not been posted as LDs yet, this information will be updated shortly.

· There are several bills that have upcoming hearings and work sessions, a few of which you will surely want to have a say on. In particular, LD 1665, An Act To Prevent the Spread of H1N1 comes before the Labor Committee with a public hearing on January 14th. Since this bill is similar to several in recent years looking to add a paid sick time entitlement, it bears close watching. The amounts are generous and, while it appears to credit PTO programs already in place (one of the issues with these bills in the past), in its current draft it will be burdensome in cost and administration and inhibit employer flexibility. Of course this already complex bill will require dovetailing with multiple leave entitlements (and family member definitions) and if you have employees in other states, you know that brings added complexity. There is also a bill at the federal level that addresses this same issue. With Maine’s excellent Public Health response to H1N1, is this bill truly necessary? Please consider a closer look at the bill and a talk with your legislator. All legislators are included on our tracker, so you can easily find out how to contact him/her when you look at the bill.

There are several insurance mandate bills with upcoming hearings, a couple of which could have significant cost implications for employers if mandated – LD 1198 – An Act To Reform Insurance Coverage To Include Diagnosis for Autism Spectrum Disorders and LD 1498 – An Act To Adopt A Drug Benefit Equity Law.

Other bills of note include LD 934, which is similar to the federal Employee Free Choice Act, but pertains to those in Maine’s public sector only and LD 1365, which seeks to establish single-payer health care. There are also bills on foreign labor, unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation and construction worker misclassification.

While our mission is to monitor Maine legislation and encourage HR participation in lawmaking, we are also following what is happening on the federal level. As you know, everything has been back-burnered in favor of passing health care reform. Here is synopsis of the House and Senate versions that must be reconciled in conference committee in January.

http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_HEALTH_CARE_COMPARING_THE_BILLS?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME

Feel free to contact me at any time with questions, concerns or suggestions, but also please take time to get to know your chapter Government Affairs warriors. We could not do this without them. (Thanks guys!) Here is our team:

 

Chapter

Government Affairs Warrior

Chapter

Government Affairs Warrior

HRASM

Lisa Noonan, Director

CMHRA

Amie Parker

 

Johnna Major

MidCoast SHRM

Mary Caldwell

 

Celine Frueh

HRAEM

TDB

 

Shannon Kashinsky

MSHHRA

Chris Riendeau

 

Carol Taylor

KVHRA

Cathy DeMerchant

NESHRM

Robin Beckwith

State Council

Sarah Conroy

 

Thanks for your interest –

 

Sarah Conroy

Maine State SHRM Government Affairs Director

207.713.8337

mainelegregupdate@gmail.com