MEMA Opinions Legislation Update

Yesterday was “veto day,” which is when the Legislature took up the bills that the Governor had vetoed.

I’d like to call your attention to the following two bills:

The Solar Bill

The veto was not overridden, meaning the veto has been sustained and the bill is dead. We did not lobby this bill, and it’s difficult to determine its potential impact on our businesses. Big solar and the utilities were against the bill, which would have Maine’s 800,000 ratepayers subsidizing the installation of 800 rooftop solar systems (small solar).

Tobacco purchasing age raised to 21. LD 1170

This bill originally had a fiscal note of $3 million due to the loss of sales that would result from changing the purchasing age to 21, and as such, was destined for the dead bill heap. However, the sponsors got creative and changed the language to provide for a grandfathering clause of those already 18 and older, thereby pushing out the date when all purchasers would be 21 by almost three years. (If one reaches the age of 18 by July 1, 2018, one can still be sold cigarettes by retailers.) Thus, the fiscal impact was severely reduced for the current budget. Future budgets will still incur the loss of revenue, but hey, that’s for another Legislature to explore.

(There’s been no discussion on how retailers will enforce this bill—I can’t wait to train clerks on the math when looking at licenses.)

The new fiscal note is about $100,000 (highly suspect) and the anti-tobacco crowd—dozens of lobbyists—offered up the money form the Fund for Healthy Maine. This eliminated the fiscal problem so legislators were free to vote based on how they felt, regardless of any consequences to revenue or to local business sales.

In the end, the vote to override the veto succeeded by one vote. Dan Riley and I were at the State House all day yesterday to see if we could move a few votes. We did, but unfortunately still came up one short.

MEMA’s original testimony made these points:

We are opposed to this bill for the following reasons:

  1. Social sources (other people who may be of age) provide underage tobacco products today. They will continue to do so, and now maybe even more so, if the 18-20 crowd is prohibited from purchasing the products for themselves.
  2. Persons aged 18-21 are adults, not youths (see the title of the bill).
  3. To truly address youth smoking, we must address current social sources who provide tobacco products to the current under-18 youths before we raise the age on adults. We are happy to work on that issue should it be determined that it’s a serious problem in Maine.
  4. Retailers will be penalized in Maine, plus this bill just adds another reason to purchase many items in New Hampshire and other states. The current situation on the Maine-New Hampshire border is problematic enough with an eight-cents-per-gallon higher gasoline tax in Maine and no sales tax in New Hampshire, not to mention more competitive alcohol pricing. This new bill will only encourage more destination sales in New Hampshire to the detriment of Maine retailers of all products.
  5. Adults should be allowed to purchase legal products. With all of the responsibilities currently assigned to an adult over the age of 18 (military service, marriage, divorce, health insurance mandates, health care, prosecution for crimes as an adult, etc.), purchasing a legal product is a choice that should remain with those 18 years and older.
  6. Fiscal note: we attached the financial impact analysis of the loss of revenue from Connecticut that is likely indicative of the fiscal note on this bill.