AUGUSTA (AP) – New age restrictions will apply to young operators of personal watercraft in Maine starting next year.

Gov. John Baldacci has signed into law a bill barring youths from ages 16 to 18 from operating personal watercraft unless they can show they’ve completed a boater safety course, or unless they have someone 18 or older aboard.

State law already prohibits people under 16 from operating personal watercraft. The new restriction, which was signed by the governor Wednesday, will take effect in 2007.

Baldacci signs divestiture bill

AUGUSTA (AP) – Gov. John Baldacci has signed a bill requiring the divestiture of Maine State Retirement System funds in companies doing business in Sudan.

Supporters say the bill will help the people of Sudan’s Darfur region because the Sudanese government is using its revenue to attack and kill Christians and non-Muslims in Sudan. It requires divestment by Jan. 1, 2008.

As enacted, the law will require the Maine State Retirement System board to report to the Legislature on the progress of divestment. It also repeals a state law relating to shareholder initiatives by state officials on state investments in Northern Ireland.

Baldacci signed the Maine bill Wednesday, the same day the U.S. House approved a bill that would deny American aid to nations violating United Nations Security Council resolutions that impose an embargo on arms transfers to Sudan.

Thermostat bill goes to governor

AUGUSTA (AP) – A bill calling for the collection of mercury thermostats in Maine won final legislative enactment Thursday and awaited the governor’s signature.

By a unanimous 138-0 vote, the House of Representatives gave its final approval to a bill that would require manufacturers to set up a system to collect and recycle unused mercury-added thermostats. The Senate later gave its final approval without a roll call.

State environmental regulators must also create a plan to give financial incentives for the return of old thermostats. The bill is modeled after a state law that requires automakers to pay $1 bounties to junkyards and scrap dealers for each mercury switch turned in.

Existing state law also banned the sale of new mercury thermostats as of this past January.

The state says at least 5,600 pounds of mercury are contained in old thermostats in Maine homes and businesses. But less than 10 percent of the mercury in thermostats removed from buildings is turned in, meaning it ends up in the environment where it poses health risks.