As someone who has served in Augusta for a number of years now, I have seen a lot of bad ideas entertained by the Legislature. But this current session has truly been one for the record books. The sheer volume of bills this session with the potential to cripple Maine’s growing economy is unsettling and, as a business owner myself, I can tell that people are paying attention now, more than ever.

From mandatory sick time for part-time and seasonal workers to mandates that will significantly increase the cost of health care coverage and workers’ compensation insurance, there’s no shortage of anti-business proposals backed by the majority party in Augusta right now.

Sen. Jeff Timberlake

In fact, by my latest count, 46 bills, backed by Democrats in Augusta, are still being worked on today.

Their message is loud and clear — if you sign a paycheck, you are greedy; and if you earn a paycheck, you are a victim. Bill after bill unnecessarily pits employers against employees and vice versa.

Recently, the Portland Press Herald published a letter to the editor about the restrictive scheduling bill to require businesses with five or more employees to set their staffing schedules for hourly employees 14 days in advance. Deviations from the schedule could result in a penalty, even if it is to accommodate the employee utilizing their newly mandated sick leave.

Fortunately, the Labor and Housing Committee swiftly voted to kill that oppressive bill following the public hearing after hearing strong opposition from the business community. It’s sad that so many people had to take the time to travel to Augusta or hire a lobbyist to defend their business from such a ridiculous proposal in the first place.

Unfortunately, there is still an unprecedented number of bills currently before the Legislature that would drive small businesses, or all businesses, out of business.

This year alone, 25 bills have been submitted to change the workers’ compensation system. When taken into account together, there is the potential to completely overthrow the current system that has been protecting injured employees in Maine for nearly 30 years now. According to the Maine Chamber of Commerce, based on a review of just a few of the bills, premiums would increase between $15 million and $23 million if they became law.

As I said before, Senate Republicans are closely following nearly 50 bills that are still alive today with the potential to significantly damage Maine’s growing economy. While it is difficult to pick out the worst of the worst, these five are the cream of the crop, in my opinion.

LD 369 — Mandate that businesses with five or more employees offer sick leave to the tune of one hour for every 30 hours worked. This benefit would be extended to all employees, including full-time, part-time, seasonal, temporary and even per diem.

LD 758 — Would change the work search requirement for injured workers to be the responsibility of the employer, not the employee.

LD 1204 — Would make Maine the only state with no cap on weekly disability benefits, making all injuries potential lifetime claims.

LD 466 — Would increase the diesel tax from 31.2 cents to 36.2 cents.

LD 1157 — Would increase the state gasoline tax by 10 cents per gallon between June 1 and October 31.

LD 1231 — Would impose a new 1-percent tax on the wholesale price of heating oil, propane, coal, kerosene and dyed diesel fuel that is intended for residential or commercial heating purposes.

While I am hopeful that the most damaging bills this year will be killed, it is clear that Maine is no longer “Open for Business.” It is a good thing that sign has been removed.

Sen. Jeff Timberlake represents Senate District 22. He lives in Turner.

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