By Carol McCracken (Post # 2,274)
Governor Paul LePage has filed a bill in Augusta which seeks to allow state government to interfere with municipalities wage rates in the wake of the growing movement in Portland and nationally to reset the minimum wage according to a press release issued by the Green party today.
L.D. 1361, submitted by Senator Andre Cushing, (R) Hampden, (near Bangor) on behalf of Governor LePage, seeks to ban municipalities from regulating minimum wage laws within their jurisdictions. The bill is entitled – n Act to Promote Minimum Wage Consistency – follows a recent vote of the Finance Committee to recommend to the full City Council an increase of the minimum wage to $8.75. The bill says: “The State intends to occupy and preempt the entire field of legislation concerning the regulation of the minimum wage. Any existing or future order, ordinance, rule or regulation of any political subdivision of the state is void.”
“This is unwanted state intrusion into the affairs of municipalities, said Tom MacMillan, chair of the Portland Greens. “We are petitioning for a Living Wage, $15. per hour, something the state won’t even consider. Working people should not live in poverty, yet Governor LePage is trying to block Portland voters from exercising their democratic rights under the Maine Constitution.”
City Councilor Jon Hinck, a member of the city’s Finance Committee who supports the Mayor’s minimum wage increase in a phased in process of $10.10, said in an email: “Governor LePage does not control everything in Maine. He can veto minimum wage bills and support Constitutional amendments to bar municipalities from acting, but his efforts will just boost momentum for a referendum or a People’s veto. In the meantime, the City of Portland should go forward and raise the minimum wage here,”
The Portland Greens view this bill as a pointless and backwards regulation which undermines Maine’s home-rule system. Home-rule is the principal whereby towns in Maine can enact any law that doesn’t contradict a State law. It allows Maine communities to take control on issues such as an insufficient federal or state minimum wage by passing their own regulations without waiting for action from a gridlocked legislature.