March 12, 2010

Bill requiring licenses for contractors fails

Another legislative effort to require building contractors to be licensed by the state has fallen short in committee – this time by one vote.

The Business, Research and Economic Development Committee, voted 7-6 to oppose the bill, L.D. 272. With all three committee senators voting no, its prospects in the full Senate are poor – it may still be discussed in the House.

"Most of us think that contractor licensing is at some point necessary," said Sen. Elizabeth Schneider, D-Orono, co-chairwoman of the committee. "For me, it was just putting the cart a little bit before the horse."

The bill calls for contractors to pass a test to obtain a license. Specialty contractors such as roofers and framers would be encouraged, but not required, to obtain licenses.

Schneider said she would not support a contractor-licensing bill until the statewide Uniform Building and Energy Code takes effect statewide next January. Licensing opponents have said that without a statewide building code, there is no way to prepare a certification test.

"I have no doubt that, within the next four years or so, this issue will come before the committee again," Schneider said. "It won't do it justice until we really see how the uniform building code goes and see what sort of bugs there are there."

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Bruce MacDonald, D-Boothbay, was disappointed.

"It's a good bill that will both provide consumer protection and, at the same time, weed out some bad actors that are out there," MacDonald said. "Only 19 states have no form of residential contractor licensing."

Electricians and plumbers are already licensed in Maine. The Office of the Maine Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division typically receives more complaints about contractors than any other profession: There were 459 in 2007.

MacDonald had modified his original bill so licenses would only be required starting in January 2012, a year after the building code is adopted statewide.

"It will give plenty of time for both the professional licensing board in the state and the contractor community to get ready for it," MacDonald said. "We think it is entirely reasonable to take up the bill now."

MaineToday Media State House Reporter Ethan Wilensky-Lanford can be contacted at: 620-7016 or at:


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