Maine Independent Contractors have found an ally in the Blaine House. Several months ago in the crosshairs (oops, did I use that word?) of a withering barrage of audits under a directive from former Governor Baldacci, it is doubtful that any independent contractor could have even conceived of ever uttering that introductory sentence. Yet as of January 20th, 2011 per executive order of the new Governor LePage, that same Misclassification Taskforce created by Governor Baldacci was abolished. This act was not done as a favor to independent contractors but more out of deference to simple common sense.
Independent workers do something that the Maine economy is starving for. They work. Governor LePage would prefer that they continue to do so. The Governor has taken that Executive Order one step further by introducing legislation that would require all the Regulatory Agencies to have a uniform set of compliance laws. This columnist takes some personal satisfaction in these developments. Terry Whittemore, Toby Arno and I formed an alliance called the Maine Independent Contractors Alliance. While it is still in the formation stages, MICA has already faced necessary battles. Terry and Toby joined me in Augusta to speak before a panel on the labor issues and the audits facing independent contractors. In this forum, we presented three simple ideas we thought were essential to a commonsense resolution to the conflict.
1) Enact legislation that would require all the Labor Regulatory Agencies to conform and enforce one set of compliance laws.
2) Call for a hold on all audits and fines until such legislation could be enacted.
3) Push the reset button. In other words, give contractors a second chance to comply with a simple more targeted set of rules without the devastating weight of huge fines over their heads and families.
After meeting with the legislators, we sent our ideas to the Lepage transition team. We were assured that it had been delivered to his Chief of Staff. It seems the Governor has done us one better by abolishing the very agency that was inflicting so much pain on Maine workers. He has also preempted the legislature by initiating his own bill, which would in effect accomplish MICA’s first request.
In conversations with legislators, I have found them reluctant to requite the fines already levied. It was thought too difficult to reverse what has already been affected. By abolishing the Misclassification Taskforce, it would seem Lepage has provided a valid platform to engage effective debate on the need to lift these fines from the tired backs of Maine contractors.
MICA, while still in its infancy, has clearly articulated one steady message to Augusta. The leadership of Maine needs to focus on one word, simplify. If it can accomplish the definition of this one word, perhaps our State Government can begin to bridge the divide of mistrust that has widened with the years of abuse levied against its own people. The Maine Conservative Voice and Maine Independent Contractors Alliance applaud Governor LePage for his strong and resolute leadership in standing for the people of Maine. Perhaps there really is hope for Maine after all.