PORTLAND, Maine — In a legislative session characterized more by economic and energy-related proposals that did not make it into law, several new laws that took effect at midnight Thursday stand to have an effect on the state’s economy.
(A range of bills dealing with economic issues were approved last session but on an emergency basis or contingent on other events. The Maine State Chamber of Commerce provided its assessment of the 127th Legislature’s first session in August.)
For all the bills dealing with crossbows, on the business side there are about just as many that deal with alcohol taking effect midnight Thursday. So, let’s start with beer — and other liquors:
— LD 102 will allow breweries to have up to nine tenant brewers, a designation that lets each separately claim tax credits based on their production. Shipyard Brewing, which hosts one tenant brewer, Peaks Organic, led the push for that bill, which will let up to nine tenants pay lower excise taxes up on their first 60,000 barrels of beer.
— LD 684 allows agency liquor stores to open as early as 5 a.m. and close as late as 1 a.m. in municipalities and unincorporated places that have approved agency liquor stores. The law removes restrictions on Sunday hours. The previous law restricted sales from 5 to 9 a.m. Sundays, except when March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, falls on a Sunday. Separately, the Legislature approved allowing bottle service in private rooms in civic auditoriums, allowing towns with more than 30,000 people but fewer than 45,001 to have up to nine agency liquor stores and allowing restaurants to give free samples of small amounts of alcoholic beverages.
— LD 702 will let employers file their state withholding and unemployment tax forms electronically.
— LD 484 excludes hazardous materials transported by train, the routes of those trains and their frequency from public records.
— LD 485 adds licensed foresters to the list of professionals who can use a mechanics lien, securing an interest to the land being harvested, in order to secure payment under a contract to harvest timber on that land.
— LD 190 expands the list of manufacturers excluded from requirements to develop product stewardship plans, where they manage disposal of the product. The amended law adds an exclusion for specialized manufacturing and processing equipment, along with motor vehicles, watercraft and paper and pulp manufacturers.
— LD 878 expands the uses of the Finance Authority of Maine’s revolving fund, which grants or insures student loans for residents or graduates of Maine colleges or universities. The new law allows the fund also to refinance existing debt in new loan arrangements.
— LD 589 adds anaerobic digesters to the list of energy producers that qualify for state renewable energy credits.
— LD 598 adds manure and compost producers to the list of agricultural businesses that may be allowed to violate municipal ordinances if their operations are in line with the best practices determined by the state’s Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.
— LD 912 allows two or more parties to establish a municipal utility district that can support or promote broadband and Internet services, including issuing bonds for that purpose. The Legislature also passed LD 1063 over a gubernatorial veto, directing the ConnectME Authority to create a three-year broadband plan for the state. A separate bill created a new grant fund for municipal broadband projects, which depends on bond funding.
— LD 93 allows a theme park and former naval station in Cutler to qualify for the state’s Pine Tree Development Zone incentive program. The bill was among those that became law without the governor’s signature.
— LD 1310 sets a deadline of Dec. 31, 2015, for state utilities regulators to direct a utility to enter a long-term power purchasing contract with a community-based renewable energy program, which is limited to total participation of 50 megawatts of capacity.
— LD 1415 sets out how a corporation, nonprofit or limited liability corporation can be reinstated after being administratively dissolved for six years.
— LD 1092 sets a statute of limitations of six years for debt collectors, from the last action or payment from a debtor. The change also requires the debt collector not to enter any payment or settlement plan unless filing that plan in open court.
— LD 321 allows records from Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems to serve as proof of authority to assign, release or discharge a mortgage. A Maine Supreme Judicial Court decision threw the validity of those records into doubt.
— LD 941 creates two new staff positions, effective this month, in the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability to review state tax expenditures annually, starting Jan. 1, 2016. The bill became law without the governor’s signature.
— LD 1372 directs the state to encourage municipalities to develop policies that lessen local parking requirements that could hinder development the upper floors of downtown buildings.
— LD 767 sets wage requirements for call center employees in Washington and Aroostook counties, where the businesses are part of the Pine Tree Development Zone program.