The Maine House failed on a tie vote May 25 to kill a bill that would prohibit state and local governments from entering into labor contracts that call for the unions to represent non-members.

The House voted 74-74 to indefinitely postpone a vote on LD 309. A tie vote, however, fails.

Local legislators were split along party lines on the measure with Democrats voting to kill the bill and Republicans voting to keep it alive.

Voting to kill the measure were Democratic Reps. Edward Mazurek of Rockland, Chuck Kruger of Thomaston, Joan Welsh of Rockport, Andrew O’Brien of Lincolnville, and Walter Kumiega III of Deer Isle.

Voting to keep the bill alive were Republican Reps. Wes Richardson of Warren, Dana Dow of Waldoboro, Deborah Sanderson of Chelsea, and Jonathan McKane of Newcastle.

Later on May 25, the House voted 74-71 to send the proposal back to the Legislature’s Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee for further work.

Democrats voted not to send it back to committee but Republicans, including Dow, voted to have the committee re-consider the bill.

On May 26, the Senate also joined with the House in sending the measure back to the committee. All three Midcoast Republican state senators – Sens. Christopher Rector of Thomaston, A. David Trahan of Waldoboro, and Michael Thibodeau of Winterport voted to send it back to committee. Rector chairs the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee.

The bill amends the state’s labor laws to ensure that each public sector union represents only those public employees who voluntarily are members of that union.

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Tom Winsor, R-Norway.

Unemployment change

A closely divided House also voted May 25 to increase the number of weeks a worker must work before the employer is responsible for paying unemployment benefits.

The House voted 75-73 to support LD 1117. The bill originally would have increased from five to eight weeks the amount of time a person would have to work for a business before that employer would have to be responsible for unemployment benefits.

The amended version increases the amount of time to seven weeks.

Local legislators were also divided on this bill but not solely along party lines.

Supporting the measure were Reps. Richardson, Sanderson and McKane. Voting to defeat the bill were Reps. Dow, Mazurek, Kruger, Welsh, O’Brien, and Kumiega.

On May 26, the Senate approved an amendment to the bill that would direct the Maine Labor Commission to create a study group to determine the appropriate number of weeks before an employer would be liable for unemployment.

The House and Senate will have to vote again in attempt to work out the differences.