Senate Republican Radio Address, 9/13/19

New Laws Take Effect Next Week – Sen. Russell Black

State law requires that any non-emergency bill passed by the legislature does not take effect until ninety days after the end of the session in which it passes. This means that all of the non-emergency laws passed during the session that ended on June 20 will take effect next week on September 19.

I am Senator Russell Black and I represent Senate District 17 in Franklin County.

There a number of laws that will affect all of us. Some passed with wide support, others were more controversial; but all will become law and have an impact on our lives. In order to give everyone fair warning, I would like to list some of the more important ones.

A lot has been said and written about the new “handheld” cell phone law governing automobile drivers. The law prohibits the use of any handheld device while driving. The law does not apply to voice activated telephone use from devices physically programmed into the vehicle. There are some stiff fines for violation of this new law, especially for second and third offenses.

There’s a simple rule that may help clarify what is prohibited and what is not. Basically, if you have to hold it in your hand to operate it, you can only do so when you are pulled over in a safe location.

If you own a business or work in another organization that has public restrooms, you should be aware that a new law prohibits gender-specific signs on the door of any “one-stall” public bathroom in Maine.

The legislature also passed a new law making Maine the fourth state to ban single-use plastic shopping bags. To give businesses additional time to adjust to the new law, it will go into effect on April 22, 2020, which is Earth Day.

A similar bill banning food containers made of Styrofoam, also known as polystyrene, will take effect on January 1, 2021. This makes Maine the first state in the U.S. to do so.

If you transport children in your car, you should be aware of two changes to state law. Most children are now required to ride in rear-facing seats until age two; and those weighing less than 55 pounds must use child restraint systems in accordance with manufacturer regulations, which will mostly affect children up to age five.

Families that have hesitated to become part of the Foster Care program in Maine due to overly restrictive requirements will be interested to find that a major one is now gone. In the past, families had to pass a home inspection by both Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the Fire Marshal. Now DHHS can cover all of the inspection, eliminating a layer of bureaucracy and saving taxpayers money.

If you own or run a business, you should consult with your insurer about the changes to Maine’s Workers’ Compensation laws. You may find some helpful and others not, but you should keep abreast of the changes.

There is still much work to be done before this Legislature adjourns for the final time, which is expected next April. Governor Mills is holding more than three dozen bills that we passed and we will have to reach some final conclusion on each of those. In addition, there are more than 400 bills from last session that were carried over to next year so that we can do more work on them.

Also come January we will again try to get Governor Mills to release the bill we passed that included funding for Maine’s nursing homes. So far, the governor has refused to even discuss the matter that passed unanimously through both houses of the Legislature.

We will also have more discussion on the balance of the Governor’s bond proposals. The Legislature passed $105 million of the $163 million she requested in borrowing, but Republicans have a number of unanswered questions before we support the final $58 million.

If you have a question or concern about anything going on in Augusta, please contact your state senator or representative. We cannot help with a problem we don’t know about.

Again, I am Senator Russell Black of Senate District 17 in Franklin County.

Have a wonderful weekend!

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