Polystyrene containers and single-use plastic bags: Earlier this year, the Environment and Natural Resources Committee heard two bills aimed at reducing waste by banning the use of polystyrene containers used in the food service industry as well as prohibiting the use of single-use plastic bags by retailers at the point of sale. The public hearings drew numerous testifiers from both sides of the issue; proponents voiced concerns about littering Maine’s landscape and harming our natural resources and opponents expressed concerns about food safety and increased business costs.
During a recent work session, the committee proposed merging the two proposals into one and changing the focus of how to reduce waste. The amendment approved by a majority of the committee members sets forth a new state policy to promote the use of reusable bags and locally recyclable alternatives to disposable polystyrene food containers as a way to reduce waste caused by these two items. The proposal sets out goals for municipal adoption of reusable bag and polystyrene food container ordinances. By December of 2019, it is goal to have at least 20 municipalities adopt ordinances governing the use of these items. By 2029, it is the goal to have a minimum of 50 municipalities adopt ordinances. It is expected that the bill may be taken up by the full Legislature within the next week.
Car rental tax: The Taxation Committee is holding a public hearing on the car rental tax bill today. As mentioned in an earlier newsletter, LD 116 proposes to increase Maine’s short-term car rental tax from 10 percent to 15 percent. Should this tax go through, Maine would have the highest car rental tax rate in the nation. When national corporations and non-governmental organizations plan national and regional meetings, they look at overall costs including lodging rates, food costs and travel expense. When the tax on car rentals increases by 50 percent, they will look elsewhere to hold those events. Not only does it impact Maine’s competitiveness to host these types of meetings, it also impacts the local retail shops, restaurants and entertainment venues that are frequented by family members who tend to travel with their spouse and/or parent to these events.
Snowmobile reciprocity: Although the snow may be melting, snowmobiling will be a hot topic in Augusta on Thursday. The Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee will be hearing a bill that would allow reciprocal recognition of New Hampshire and Maine snowmobile registrations. Snowmobiling is estimated to have an economic value of $350 million per year and supports the full time equivalent of 3,100 jobs statewide. Annually, more than $12 million in sales, meals and lodging tax revenues are attributed to snowmobiling.