Legislators nix ban on municipal regulation of rents, OK ban on balloon release

Reps require layoff notices from call centers

By Stephen Betts | May 02, 2019

Augusta — Local legislators supported a bill that would require call centers to notify the state at least 90 days before the company relocates any of its operations.

The Knox County delegation also opposed a bill that would have prohibited municipalities from regulating rents in their communities. And local representatives also supported a bill that would prohibit the release of balloons.

The Maine House voted 78-50 April 30 to approve LD 201, which requires call centers to notify the Maine Department of Labor at least 90 days before any operations are relocated. The Senate voted 21-14 on May 2 for the vote.

Voting for the bill were Democratic Reps. Pinny Beebe-Center of Rockland, Vicki Doudera of Camden, Ann Matlack of St. George, and independent Reps.William Pluecker of Warren and Jeffrey Evangelos of Friendship. Rep. Genevieve McDonald, D-Stonington, was absent from the roll-call vote.

In the Senate, state Sen. David Miramant, D-Camden voted for the bill while Sen. Dana Dow, R-Waldoboro, voted against it.

"Like the Maine mills of old, call centers often employ large numbers of people from the communities in which they are located, and when they close suddenly (as happened recently in Wilton)  it creates a huge trickle-down impact for those workers and their towns," Doudera said. "I voted for this bill to require call centers to give 90-day notice to the Dept. of Labor, employees, and the municipalities in which the centers are located in order to help communities deal with the upheaval."

Pluecker said "It just makes good sense that folks who are about to have their whole lives changed by the moving of a call center should have [90] days' notice of the impending change. Those families need time to put money aside, get their finances in order, and start looking for new work. I don't think we need to make it easier on call centers to move out of state."

The state Senate has yet to vote on the bill.

Rental regulations

The Legislature also rejected, 81-50, a bill -- LD 522 -- that would have prohibited municipalities from regulating what can be charged for rent, and also would have prohibited towns and cities from requiring rental units to register and fees to be imposed on them specifically. The Senate also rejected it 21-14 on May 2.

Voting to kill the bill were Democratic Reps. Pinny Beebe-Center of Rockland, Vicki Doudera of Camden, Ann Matlack of St. George, and independent Reps.William Pluecker of Warren and Jeffrey Evangelos of Friendship. Rep. Genevieve McDonald of Stonington was absent from the roll-call vote.

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

"As a state, we believe in the concept of home rule. Different towns and municipalities understand better than the state the kind of development, pressures on renters and rental owners, and housing shortages that they have. A one-size-fits-all policy doesn't work in this case," Pluecker said.

Doudera said she voted against LD 522  because she felt the issues were best handled by individual municipalities, and not the state.

No more balloon releases

And most local legislators also supported a bill -- LD 937 -- that would prohibit the release of balloons filled with a gas lighter than air. Scientific projects would be exempt, and the bill would not apply if the people releasing the balloons immediately recover the balloons.

The House voted 87-49 for the bill on April 30 but the Senate rejected it May 2 on a 21-14 vote.

Voting for the bill were Democratic Reps. Pinny Beebe-Center of Rockland, Vicki Doudera of Camden, Ann Matlack of St. George,  and independent Reps.William Pluecker of Warren and Jeffrey Evangelos of Friendship. Rep. Genevieve McDonald, D- Stonington was absent from the roll-call vote.

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

Doudera said "It is about a specific type of litter: specifically large-scale balloon releases which have become increasingly popular and translate to litter in our woods, lakes, rivers and oceans. Nobody thinks about what happens after the balloons pop and fall to the ground, but these pieces of latex are ingested by wildlife and marine animals and can kill them. So to me, this bill is important to protect our environment."

Pluecker said "I don't think this bill was a high priority for the Legislature, and for many of us, there are much larger issues that will be dealt with this session in Augusta. However, balloons turn into trash that can take up to four years to biodegrade in the ocean, pollute our oceans, and kill birds and marine animals. Through the fishing and tourism industry, our state relies upon our oceans for a strong economy and jobs. Balloons are a fun toy and will continue to be. Children who accidentally let go of a balloon at the fair are not the target of this bill, but the large-scale release of balloons at parties should be stopped. There are other fun ways to celebrate that are less harmful for our oceans."

Violations face fines of $100 or more.

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