Most local reps backed tax on commercial water extraction

Ban on handheld phone use by drivers OK'd

By Stephen Betts | Jun 20, 2019
Source: File photo

Augusta — Midcoast legislators were of one mind in backing a ban on the use of handheld phones or mobile devices while driving.

Both the Maine House and Senate voted Thursday, June 20, to approve LD 165.

Similar legislation had been approved during the administration of Gov. Paul LePage, but the bill was vetoed and the Legislature failed to override that action.

This bill would impose a fine of $250 for a first offense, increasing to $500 for subsequent offenses in the ensuing three years. There would also be license suspensions beginning at 30 days for subsequent violations within three years of a first offense.

All Midcoast legislators voted for the bill. The House approved the bill 117-23, and the Senate 22-12.

Reps. Pinny Beebe-Center, D-Rockland; Vicki Doudera, D-Camden; Ann Matlack, D-St. George; independent William Pluecker of Warren; independent Jeffrey Evangelos of Friendship; and Genevieve McDonald, D-Stonington, voted for the bill. State Sens. David Miramant, D-Camden; and Dana Dow, R-Waldoboro also voted for the legislation.

"With all the tragic accidents we're witnessing, we had to do something," Evangelos said.

If Democratic Gov. Janet Mills signs the bill, it will become law in 90 days. The law is projected to generate $78,000 in fines over a full year.

The state already has a law that makes it a violation to text while driving.

Tax on bottled water

Most local legislators also supported LD 1074, which would have placed a 12-cent-per- gallon tax on companies that extract more than 1.5 million gallons of water annually in Maine for commercial bottling purposes.

The legislation, however, failed in both the House (92-50 June 18) and the Senate (24-10 June 19).

In the Senate, Miramant voted for the bill, while Dow opposed it.

In the House, all local representatives except Matlack voted to support the legislation.

"I voted for this bill because I believe that the company that is taking massive amounts of Maine's natural resource, clean ground water, must make a contribution to Maine," Evangelos said.

The revenue from the new tax would have gone to expand high-speed broadband access and provide tuition grants.

Public employee bargaining change

The House (80-67) and Senate (19-15) voted June 19 to support LD 1177, which would make arbitration decisions for state and municipal employee labor disputes binding on salaries.

In addition, insurance and pension decisions by an arbiter would be binding in municipal contract disputes.

Miramant and Dow both voted for the bill.

In the House, all local representatives except Matlack voted for it.

"I supported this measure because I believe in the rights of workers to be treated fairly.  It's apparent that the governor may veto this bill, however," Evangelos said.

The legislation, however, was vetoed Friday , June 20 by Gov. Janet Mills who said the private arbiters are not accountable to the public. The Legislature has yet to vote on trying to override the veto, however, the earlier votes were well short of a two-thirds majority.

Comments (3)
Posted by: Valerie Wass | Jun 26, 2019 11:27

Very good point Stephen!


Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Jun 21, 2019 09:04

DEMOCRATIC gov Janet mills promotes the fact " the law is projected to generate $78,000 in fines over the full year"  Nothing said about the number of potential lives saved by diminishing the number of distracted drivers.  This is legislation that should have been enacted years ago.  Finally the state is doing something most other states have been doing for years, but we are not really concerned about lives this legislation has the promise of bringing in almost $100,000 so we can spend more on "needed" social programs.

Posted by: Valerie Wass | Jun 20, 2019 16:39

Support banning while holding and talking on cell phones.  I have seen so many drivers in front of me drive back and forth across the road sideways, sometimes going into the other lane or nearly going off the road on the passenger side while talking on their phones.  YOU ARE DISTRACTED.  It is extremely dangerous.  Many have died because of other's talking on their phones.  TAKING A LIFE LASTS A LIFETIME. WAS IS WORTH THAT CALL?

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