More than 30 people attended the Union Area Chamber of Commerce Winter Conference on Feb. 24 to learn about new and proposed rules and regulations for businesses.

The opening speaker, Peter B. Beaulieu, director of the Sales, Fuel & Special Tax Division of Maine Revenue Services, discussed proposed changes to the sales, use and service provider tax code that will take place if the law is not repealed in the referendum in June.

The proposed changes are extensive, at times complex, and frequently contradictory. For example, when is a candy not a candy? When it contains flour. Therefore, obvious candies such as Whoppers, Twix and a number of others would be exempt from all sales tax under the new law. Beaulieu provided detailed handouts for those in attendance to take with them. He explained how the intent of the bill of lowering of the income tax for Maine residents balances the lost revenue by increasing taxes on some items (candy and carbonated beverages, for example) and making previously untaxed service businesses taxable (recreational guiding and house cleaning services, to name a few) and taxing other items such as residential long distance services, movies and amusement parks, concert entry fees, and some installation, repair and maintenance fees.

There are also special new fees such as a $1 per passenger airport transportation fee for all conveyances to and from a commercial airport in Maine as well as changes to taxes on rentals and leasing. Beaulieu said those changes affect businesses in both paying tax on their own purchases and levying and collecting taxes when selling to their customers. Beaulieu encouraged attendees to become more informed by going to maine.gov/revenue and reviewing the proposed changes to the law.

Jill Goodwin of the Maine Builders and Contractors Alliance spoke about progress in the Legislature regarding a statewide unified code for electrical, fire and renovation building codes, which could be ready as soon as June, and the discussions under way regarding regulations to license contractors. She introduced Brent Pratt, a member of the Maine Builders and Contractors Alliance, who talked about the move to license contractors, and the complexities of determining who is a subcontractor versus who is a workers’ compensation employee. This was of special interest to the many contractors that attended the meeting. Having all contractors follow the same rules will provide a level playing field, and the fines and enforcement for contractors that are not abiding by the law can result in significant penalties.

State legislators Rep. Wes Richardson and Sen. Chris Rector offered attendees a book with the entire roster of legislators for the current session as well as the committees that they serve on. They explained the path of bills as they move through the legislative process. The legislators strongly encourage citizen participation and want to hear from their constituents on issues of either concern or of interest to them. They said a phone call or e-mail written from the heart from citizens that they were elected to serve has a far greater impact on their decision making than duplicate mass e-mails on a single issue.

Marcia Drenzyk is a member of the Union Area Chamber of Commerce. She owns Chestnut Hill Design Group, which provides graphic design and marketing services. To contact her, e-mail chestnuthill@cablespeed.com.