BC-ME-XGR–Legislative Briefs, 2nd Ld-Writethru,876

Workers Comp board reform breezes through Senate

Eds: LD 1909

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) – A bill to overhaul the makeup of Maine’s Workers’ Compensation Board to avoid deadlocks that have occurred in the past breezed through the Senate by a unanimous 35-0 vote Wednesday and will be signed by the governor.

The bill, which had won support of both the Maine State Chamber of Commerce and the Maine AFL-CIO, was sent to Gov. John Baldacci, who scheduled a bill-signing ceremony for Thursday.

The measure reduces the size of the board from eight members to seven and names the board’s executive director as a potential tiebreaker. Three members will represent labor and three will represent management.

Under the current system, which has four labor and four management representatives, the board has often found itself deadlocked and unable to act.

House gives loggers’ bargaining bill initial OK

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Maine independent loggers claimed a victory Wednesday as the House of Representatives voted in favor of a bill to give them collective bargaining powers with Maine’s largest landowners.

The bill, which was carried over from last year’s session, won initial approval by an 89-52 vote. It faced further House and Senate votes.

The measure is sought by loggers who say they have a hard time making a living from the rates they’re now paid.

Opponents say it would increase costs for the forest products industry as a whole, which is already operating at a disadvantage to foreign and domestic competitors.

The bill would allow wood haulers and harvesters to organize associations and negotiate collectively with certain landowners to set rates. Rates would be determined by a board representing both sides and the public.

The bill divided Democrats and Republicans on the Labor Committee, with Democrats favoring its passage.

House votes enactment of nicotine water ban, BFR restrictions

Eds: LDs 1631, 1790

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) – The Maine and Senate gave their final approval Wednesday to a bill to outlaw the sale of nicotine-laced water and sent it to Gov. John Baldacci.

Supporters of the bill say nicotine should not be put in a product available to children and other unsuspecting consumers.

The bill surfaced in the Legislature after a major drug store chain pulled bottles of nicotine water from the shelves of its stores in Maine.

En route to the Senate after winning final House approval Wednesday was a bill to clamp down on the sale of products containing toxic flame retardants.

The bill seeks to ban two of the most dangerous kinds of brominated flame retardants, known as Pents and Octa, by Jan. 1, 2006, and phase out the use of a third material, Deca, by 2008 if safer alternatives can be found.

European nations have banned all three chemicals, and the manufacturer of Penta and Octa plans to halt production by January 2005, according to supporters of the bill.

Bromides are a suspected cause of learning disabilities and behavioral problems.

Baldacci signs bill to regulate adult establishments

Eds: LD 1801

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) – Gov. John Baldacci has signed into law a bill that will allow towns and cities to enact ordinances that regulate the operation of sexually oriented businesses, such as adult video, novelty and book stores.

The law will permit municipalities to pass adult entertainment ordinances without forcing them to adopt comprehensive plans. In its original form, the bill sought to ban X-rated businesses near churches, schools, parks and residential zones.

AP-ES-04-07-04 1838EDT

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