By Mal Leary, Capitol News Service
Posted May 26, 2011, at 6:13 p.m.
Last modified May 27, 2011, at 9:46 a.m.
AUGUSTA, Maine – Gov. Paul LePage is expected to sign into law legislation allowing 16- and 17-year-olds in Maine to work longer hours during the school year, his office confirmed Thursday. But the legislation provoked lengthy debate before being enacted earlier this week, with some lawmakers arguing students need to be students first.
“In this case Maine has had the most restrictive laws related to 16- and 17-year-olds in the nation,” Sen. Chris Rector, R-Thomaston, the co-chair of the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee, said during debate on the bill. ”We have been the outliers, far more restrictive than our New England counterparts and far more restrictive than most other states.”
He said the legislation brings Maine more into line with other states, although the bill was considerably watered down from its original version, sponsored by Sen. Debra Plowman, R-Hampden, which would have lifted all restrictions on the number of hours 16-year-olds could work while school is not in session. It also would have repealed all limitations on the hours a 17-year-old may work.
As amended by lawmakers, the limit for both age groups is 24 hours in a week, with a six-hour-per-day limit, up from the current four-hour limit per day. It also bans work after 10:15 p.m. on a day preceding a school day.