AUGUSTA — A proposal to require licensing for residential general contractors drew debate in both the House of Representatives and Senate this week before lawmakers gave initial approval to the bill.

The House of Representatives voted 78-67 in favor of the bill, L.D. 1929, and the Senate voted 20-14 to support the measure. But the bill could get shut down by the Mills administration, which last year filed testimony in opposition.

Supporters of the bill sponsored by Rep. Tiffany Roberts, D-South Berwick, said it would protect consumers and improve public safety.

The bill establishes licensing requirements for residential general contractors that perform construction work costing over $15,000, as well as a board to administer the licensing requirements. It includes a $579,413 fiscal note for the first year, with similar costs going forward, to cover the costs of the board and the administration of the new licensing program.

Sen. Chip Curry, D-Belfast, said the board would give the state the ability to address “bad actors.”

“You have the ability to do disciplinary actions. You have the ability to do investigation and you have the ability to suspend licenses and drive out bad actors, rather than continue to find victims year after year,” Curry said. “It creates a mechanism to address substantial fraud.”


Sen. Mattie Daughtry, D-Brunswick, said licensure offers additional protections for both contractors and consumers, providing insurance benefits for contractors and a way for consumers to have a formal process to go after a contractor who scams or swindles them. Daughtry said there can be barriers to licensure, but the cost of the license provided for in the bill – capped at $250 – is reasonable.

Opponents of the bill in the Senate said it would make it more difficult for people to get into jobs in the construction industry and result in higher costs for consumers.

“What this type of bill does, is it hurts the people that are most vulnerable,” said Assistant Senate Minority Leader Lisa Keim, R-Dixfield. “There are lots of avenues for the consumer to check and make sure the contractor they want to work with has good recommendations, has insurance. They can also look at voluntary certification. But putting these barriers up hurts the people we want to help.”

Sen. Jeff Timberlake, R-Turner, said the bill is very concerning to him. “I think of, over the years, all the people I’ve hired who were starting out and wanted to get a start in doing repairs or helping you build something,” he said. “And we’re going to make this way more difficult for them. I think people have the ability on their own to decide if they want to hire someone or not.”

Anne Head, commissioner of the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation, testified on behalf of the Mills administration last session in opposition to the bill, though it has since been amended.

“It is unclear which problems this bill seeks to solve,” Head wrote at the time. “If the goal is to address the fact that unqualified persons are doing substandard work on Maine homes, this bill does very little to ensure that those potential licensees are any more qualified with a license than without one. If the goal is to address potential financial harm from fraud or criminal behavior, this bill does very little to expand the enforcement mechanisms that already exist within the Attorney General’s office or a private right of action.”

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