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Maine House passes “Green New Deal” to require certain workers on job sites, force schools to buy solar power

Rep. Chloe Maxmin (D – Nobleboro) speaks in favor of her bill to mandate certain workers on job sites and put solar panels up at schools, which she refers to as a Green New Deal for Maine.

AUGUSTA – If you thought Nobleboro State Representative Chloe Maxmin’s bill titled “An Act To Establish a Green New Deal for Maine” was about fighting climate change or protecting the environment, you might be mistaken.

The Maine House of Representatives passed the bill today, but not before a number of members of the House of Representatives raised points of order during the sponsor’s floor speech and raising objections to provisions in the bill.

The points of order were largely centered around the idea that Rep. Maxmin (D – Nobleboro) was giving a floor speech about climate change and the nation’s future when the bill she was pushing forward was a labor union-backed bill designed to require more workers from certain programs be on job sites, and to force schools to buy solar power.

Republicans objected to the micro-management of the private sector in their speeches, with Rep. Jeff Hanley (R – Pittston) at one point saying, “The Soviet Union called and they want their central planning back.”

At another point, Rep. Hanley asked, “Are we going to, at some point, legislate how many baggers we are going to have in grocery stores?”

Even some members said they were in support of solar power, but uncertain why the government would need to get in the middle of dictating who worked on any particular job site.

Rep. Maxmin’s bill would require construction companies or employers who are working on power generation facilities that will generate two megawatts of power or more to have at least 10% of the workers on that job site fall under the Maine or U.S. Department of Labor’s “apprentice” classification starting in 2021.

That mandated percentage increases twice, eventually rising to require 25% of the workers on one of those job sites to be apprentices starting in 2027.

At one point, Rep. Maxmin suggested that the construction hiring provision in her bill was not a mandate because of a provision allowing for an exception if no workers that met the classification were available.

Rep. Hanley responded by pointing out that, “If you read the bill in its entirety, there is a penalty. That’s why it is a mandate.”

Rep. Joel Stetkis (R – Canaan) asked, “So if a contractor has a choice between a laborer that’s deemed an apprentice and one that’s not, is the apprentice given favor over the other, regardless of their skills?”

Nobody in the chamber rose to answer Rep. Stetkis’ question.

Other members, such as Rep. Steven Foster (R – Dexter) pointed out that schools might be better served by having options other than solar panels in some areas, saying that solar may not be the “best idea” for some schools.

Opponents also argued that adding new mandates to the construction process would likely drive away companies looking to invest their money in Maine.

Maxmin’s bill also adds requirements to build solar electricity generation facilities at newly constructed schools that the school district would then be required to purchase power from. The purchase price and contract would be managed by the Efficiency Maine Trust and stipulates only that the purchase contract be “commercially reasonable.”

Rep. Maxmin contended that the bill would move Maine in the right direction when fighting climate change, saying that she had been working on this issue for more than 15 years. She said she cared about Maine’s past, present and future and said she wanted, “The Maine that I hand down to my children to be the same Maine that raised me.”

In the end, the bill passed by a vote of 84-55 with Democrats supporting and Republicans opposing. One “independent” lawmaker also opposed the bill.

It will now move on to the Maine Senate for consideration.

You can read the full text of the bill by clicking here.

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