While more than a thousand bills were introduced in the 131st session of Maine’s legislature, only a select few have passed both chambers and made it to the Governor’s desk. Legislative developments can and will impact the state’s outdoor industry – from PFAs regulations to e-bike incentives to paid family leave policies.
Maine Outdoor Brands is committed to ensuring that our state is a thriving hub for outdoor enthusiasts and businesses alike, and will continue to follow and advocate for policies that support the health and sustainability of our $3 billion outdoor recreation economy.
Below you will find a summary of the legislation passed in 2023 that impacts the outdoor industry, as well as a summary of bills that have been carried over for consideration when the legislature reconvenes in January.
Bills Impacting Outdoor Recreation:
This bill includes electric bicycles (e-bikes) in the Electric Vehicle Rebate Program, managed by Efficiency Maine Trust, specifically for low-income and moderate-income individuals using e-bikes as their primary mode of commuting. The aim is to encourage sustainable transportation alternatives. (Read more from MOB member the Bicycle Coalition of Maine)
This bill directs the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to establish a stakeholder group to study the effects of wake boats on Maine’s freshwaters. The findings of this stakeholder group are to be reported no later than February 1, 2024. (Read more from MOB member the Maine Marine Trades Association)
This bill directs the Department of Transportation to remove 31 miles of state-owned inactive railroad track between Standish and Fryeburg to be replaced with an interim ten-foot-wide bicycle trail, surfaced with either pavement or stone dust. (Read more from MOB member the Bicycle Coalition of Maine)
This bill prohibits open burning during red flag warnings and puts 3-foot height and diameter limits on all recreational campfires. However, licensed camping facilities are exempt from this limit.
This bill allows individuals who have completed an approved boater safety education course and are certified in first aid to operate watercraft as employees of seasonal businesses engaged in recreational activity instruction without obtaining a guide license. (Read more from MOB member the Maine Professional Guides Association)
LD 1969 eliminates the Land for Maine’s Future Fund, replacing it with the Land for Maine’s Future Trust Fund, which will be financed by proceeds from the sale of bonds, eligible investment earnings, and public and private contributions. Eligible investment earnings credited to the assets of the various funds listed under this bill will become part of the assets of the Land for Maine’s Future Trust Fund. In the past, these earnings were generally credited to the general fund rather than be recaptured. (Read more from MOB member the Maine Coast Heritage Trust)
Bills with Implications for Outdoor Businesses:
LD 217 extends the deadline for mandatory PFAS reporting to January 1, 2025, and introduces amendments to the reporting methodology. Manufacturers can report on the amount of total organic fluorine in a product if specific PFAS compound amounts are unknown. Information provided by a material supplier is also admissible under the new legislation. Manufacturers with 25 or fewer employees, as well as specific exempted products, are excluded from PFAS reporting requirements. (See the letter that MOB submitted to the Department of Environmental Protection regarding their PFAS rulemaking)
This provision establishes the Dirigo Business Incentives Program, offering tax credit incentives of up to $500,000 for a given tax year to qualified businesses. The eligible industry sectors for the program are agriculture, forestry and fishing; manufacturing; long-distance freight transportation; software publishing; data processing; computer design services; engineering; architecture; and scientific research and development services.
LD 1318 directs the Maine Technology Institute to review specific targeted technology sectors and their industry clusters to determine if governing laws require amendments to remain effective and relevant.
This bill establishes the paid family and medical leave benefits program effective January 1, 2026, funded by employer payroll premiums. Private family and medical leave benefit plans are allowed, provided they offer similar protections and benefits as the state’s plan.
An individual covered by the plan is entitled to take paid leave to:
- Bond or care with one’s child during the first year after the child’s birth.
- Care for a family member with a serious health condition.
- Take sick leave.
- Tend to a family emergency.
- Take medical leave if a covered individual is unable to work due to a serious health condition.
The max amount of paid leave that a covered individual can receive is 12 weeks in a given benefit year.
Several bills have been carried over for consideration when the legislature reconvenes in January. Some notable ones include:
LD 1156 sought for the issuance of $30,000,000 in bonds for the Maine Trails Program in order to leverage at least $6,000,000 in matching contributions from public and private sources to be used for the design, development, and maintenance of non motorized, motorized, and multi-use trails statewide. (Read more from MOB’s testimony in support of this bill)
LD 1285 sought to transfer $20,000,000 from the unappropriated surplus of the General Fund to the Land for Maine’s Future program for the purpose of acquisition of land and interest in land for conservation, water access, outdoor recreation, wildlife and fish habitat, and working farmland. (Read more from MOB member the Appalachian Mountain Club)
LD 1450 calls for a one-time appropriation of funds for the replacement of 28 miles of track between Standish and Fryeburg per the recommendations of the Mountain Division Rail Use Advisory Council. (Read more from MOB member the Maine Trails Coalition)
LD 1817 aims to create the “Outdoor School for All Maine Students” program and changes the definition of “outdoor education program provider” by removing the requirement that the provider qualify as a tax-exempt organization. The bill clarifies that grants must be used for students enrolled in publicly funded schools and that a student receiving home-school instruction is eligible to participate in the program, which would consist of 2-night, 3-day experiences in addition to day programs. Lastly, the Outdoor School for All Maine Students Fund is established within the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Service (Read more from MOB member the Nature Conservancy in Maine)
As advocates for the state’s outdoor industry, staying informed and actively participating in these policy developments is crucial for shaping the future of Maine’s outdoor economy. Thank you to Maine Outdoor Brands’ Government Affairs Committee and summer intern from Maine Law School, Zion Mercado, for tracking and advising on legislation in 2023.