Maine’s minimum wage has gone up to $11 an hour and the minimum direct service wage for tipped employees is $5.50 per hour. FILE PHOTO

BIDDEFORD — As the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve, a number of new laws took effect in Maine that could impact the public in significant ways in years to come.

Here’s a quick rundown on some of the most impactful new laws that are now in force across the state:

Minimum Wage 

Maine’s minimum wage has gone up to $11 an hour and the minimum direct service wage for tipped employees is $5.50 per hour.

The minimum wage will rise again Jan. 1, 2020, becoming $12 per hour. On Jan. 1, 2021, and each Jan. 1 thereafter, the minimum hourly wage then in effect must be increased by the increase, if any, in the cost of living. Cost of living increases are measured by the percentage of increase, if any, as of August of the previous year over the level as of August of the year preceding that year in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers for the Northeast Region, with the amount of the minimum wage increase rounded to the nearest multiple of 5 cents.

School Employee Background Checks

An act to require background checks for all school employees was passed unanimously supported by the 128th Maine State Legislature and will require school districts to be attentive to ensuring the safety of Maine children.

Under this new state law, school districts and private and parochial schools must share lists of school employees to the Maine Department of Education on Jan. 1, and quarterly thereafter. The Maine DOE will then check whether each employee listed has complied with all necessary criminal record checks and fingerprinting requirements. If an employee has not complied, the Maine DOE is required to notify the school district.

Health Insurance Payments

Last spring, lawmakers in the Maine House and Senate pushed through a new law, LD 1030, overriding Governor Paul LePage’s veto and requiring health insurance companies to pay for services provided by naturopathic doctors. The law will apply to insurance plans effective Jan. 1.

Insurers will have to pay for health care provided by licensed naturopaths, as they would for care given by other licensed providers, such as medical doctors, osteopathic physicians, and nurse practitioners.

Spousal Support Payments

Traditionally, spousal support payments or alimony has been tax deductible for the person making the payment and reported as taxable income for the recipient. The Tax Cuts and Job Act passed by Congress last spring changes that for new divorces granted after Jan. 1, 2019.

Now, spousal support payments made under new divorce judgments will no longer be tax-deductible for the person making the payment and the recipient will no longer be required to pay taxes on the spousal support they receive.

State Sales Tax

The Maine state sales tax threshold is now $100,000 in gross revenue in the previous calendar year or current calendar year, or makes sales into Maine in more than 200 separate transactions in the previous calendar year or current calendar year

According to state law that took effect Jan. 1, sellers who either exceed the gross sales or the transaction number threshold are required to register for a Maine sales tax permit, collect sales tax on sales shipped to Maine, and remit that sales tax to the state.

Upholstered Furniture

As of Jan. 1, a person may not sell or offer to sell or distribute for promotional purposes upholstered furniture containing in its fabric or cushioning material more than 0.1 percent of flame-retardant chemicals or more than 0.1 percent of a mixture that includes flame-retardant chemicals.

Health Care Access

Last spring, lawmakers in the 128th Maine Legislature overrode a veto from Gov. Paul LePage to approve a new law protecting residents’ preventive health care coverage as it is under the Affordable Care Act. The move combats the Trump administration’s continued attacks on health-care access.

Maine codified the ACA’s requirement that insurers offer no-co-pay birth control. The law requires health insurance to cover a list of essential preventive health care services covered by the ACA without co-pays or other cost-sharing burdens. Coverage of such preventive services is required for all individual and group health insurance policies issued or renewed after Jan. 1, 2019.

Credit Card Late Fees

Starting Jan. 1, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will allow the permissible maximums for credit card late fees to increase by $1.

Under the new limits, late fees will be capped at: $28 for the first time you’re late. Previously, those fees were capped at $27.

Fees for subsequent late payments will be capped at $39. Previously, those fees were capped at $38.

 — Executive Editor Ed Pierce can be reached at 282-1535 or by email art [email protected]

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