Gov. Paul LePage yesterday signed three bills he said will reduce the cost of doing business in Maine, though Democrats and labor groups said the measures hurt workers' rights and security. The bills restructure the workers' compensation system, address the definition of independent contractors and strengthen laws to prevent unemployment fraud.
LD 1913, "An Act To Review and Restructure the Workers' Compensation System," changes eligibility requirements, creates a two-year statute of limitations for all claims, broadens appeal rights for workers and employers, and institutes a 10-year cap on benefits, according to a press release and The Associated Press. LD 1314, "An Act To Standardize the Definition of 'Independent Contractor,'" addresses the misclassification of workers as independent contractors and sets penalties for misclassification. LD 1725, "An Act To Strengthen the Unemployment Insurance Laws and Reduce Unemployment Fraud," sets criminal penalties for unemployment fraud, changes rules related to work searches and changes eligibility requirements.
In a press release, LePage said the measures "[level] the playing field for job creators and [crack] down on unemployment fraud. But Democrats, who fought the bills in the Legislature, said the changes will reduce benefits to the unemployed and those injured on the job, The AP reported. The Maine AFL-CIO said the bills are "a windfall for the insurance industry."