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Legislative Update: May 2016

Marine Patrol Gets Salary Increase A sincere thank you to everyone who pitched in on LD 1523 Resolve, To Provide Wage Parity for Supervisors of Law Enforcement Personnel, to get better pay for Maine’s Marine Patrol Officers. The MLA submitted written testimony in support of the bill and lobbied the Legislature to support it. Governor LePage signed the bill on April 19. The news law provides for upward adjustment of salary schedules in fiscal year 2015-16 by 12 to 18% for certain law enforcement positions in the Department of Public Safety, the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and Department of Marine Resources. Maine’s Department of Marine Resources has been struggling in recent years to recruit and retain marine patrol officers. Currently, 18% of all Marine Patrol field officer positions are vacant, with seven vacancies out of 38 positions. In the southern most section, four of the five Officer/Specialist positions are vacant. Between 2011 and 2015, 18 applicants were hired, while 10 officers resigned. In 2015, five officers left Marine Patrol for new positions in law enforcement, citing salary as the biggest factor for their move. It is hoped that passage of LD 1523 will help Marine Patrol fill these vacancies and retain new officers.

Lobster Licensing Reforms Approved Governor LePage signed a series of lobster licensing reforms into law on April 5. The reforms include changes to the how the waiting lists are managed, how zone exit ratios are calculated, requirements of the Student Program and the Island Limited Entry Program. The Marine Resources Committee approved the final language for LD 1503 An Act to Amend Lobster and Crab Fishing License Laws in mid-March. Waiting List The new law creates two separate waiting lists – one for new entrants to a zone who have completed the Apprentice Program and the other for those who seek to transfer into another zone. While the zone councils set exit ratios to manage the list of new entrants into a zone, the DMR is charged with adopting rules to manage the zone transfer waiting list. The DMR must verify at least once every three years that each person on the waiting list wishes to remain on the list. DMR will attempt to contact those on the waiting list by mail, telephone or email. If a person doesn’t respond within 60 days of the initial contact, DMR will send a notice via certified mail. Any person who doesn’t respond within 30 days of the date of the certified notice will be removed from the waiting list. Any person who did not respond to the notice in a timely manner because that person was on active duty with the U.S. Armed Forces or National Guard may be placed back on the list in the same position. Zone Councils and Exit Ratios Lobster zones may base exit ratios on licenses retired or the greatest number of trap tags purchased in any prior year associated with the license retired, up to the zone maximum. Lobster zone councils may recommend that an exit ratio based on tags retired be applied retroactively. Lobster zones must post an agenda at least seven days in advance if they are to consider any action which would affect someone’s ability to get a license, such as exit ratios. Student Program Student lobster licenses may be issued to a person who is between age 8 and under age 23 and is enrolled as a student at least half time. Breaks between enrollment as a student cannot exceed six months. Student license holders under age 18 who complete all requirements of the Apprentice Program may obtain a commercial license (status quo). Student license holders under age 20 who complete all requirements of the Apprentice Program and received a HS diploma or GED may obtain a commercial license. Student license holders under age 23 who begin logging time before age 18 and complete all requirements of the Apprentice Program, are enrolled in and meeting the requirements of a half-time course of study at an accredited postsecondary institution, and maintained status as a student since before age 18 and in each licensing year thereafter, may obtain a commercial license. Island Limited Entry Program Persons wishing to fish on an island in the Island Limited-entry Zone Program may apprentice in any zone. An island may establish an Island Limited Entry Program if a referendum is supported by a majority of Class I, II and III license holders.

Lobster is Maine’s official crustacean MLA sent a letter of thank you to the Brewer Community School third graders thanking them for their efforts to make lobster the official crustacean of Maine! The third-graders were learning about the state of Maine earlier this year when they discovered that lobsters had not been honored as an official state crustacean. They worked with their teachers to write letters to state senators and representatives resulting in introductions of LD 1609. The students travelled to the State House to make their case before the Legislature’s joint State and Local Government Committee, which unanimously approved the bill. Governor Paul LePage traveled to the Brewer Community School where the third graders watched him sign the bill into law in April.

Agencies to Consider Marine Debris The Legislature has directed several departments within state government to consider ways to reduce the impact of marine debris on Maine’s coastal ecosystems through passage of LD 427 Resolve, Directing Certain State Agencies To Consider the Effects of Marine Debris. The new law directs four state agencies -- Department of Marine Resources, Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife or Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry – to consider the effects of marine debris and how the potential marine debris may be managed and mitigated whenever the agency takes any action. This is in place until January 2019. Marine debris comes in several forms and sizes, from tiny 5 to 10-micron flakes of plastic to large chunks of metal or Styrofoam. The oceans annually receive an estimated 4,800,000 to 12,700,000 metric tons of plastic waste.

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