FILE - ME Verso paper mill workers 10-25-2018

Workers at the Verso paper mill leave at the end of their shift Oct. 25, 2018, in Jay, Maine.

(The Center Square) – Dozens of business groups across Maine have mounted opposition to a bill under consideration by lawmakers that would increase the number of salaried employees who receive overtime.

Under current law, salaried workers making less than $36,000 a year must receive overtime pay at 1.5 times their normal pay rate for anything above 40 hours a week. Salaried employees making more than that can earn overtime wages, but their role cannot include managing or supervising others.

Supporters of the proposed legislation say it is necessary to compensate those who routinely work overtime but aren’t compensated. Under the bill, LD 402, the figure for overtime eligibility would gradually increase to $55,224 over the next two years.

Opponents say the bill, “An Act to Restore Overtime Protections for Maine Workers,” would prevent new jobs from being created.

“L.D. 402 would create new barriers and seriously undermine economic growth and new opportunities in Maine in many ways, including incentivizing existing and prospective employers to look elsewhere to grow and locate their businesses and jobs,” Maine State Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President Peter Gore said in a statement published by the Portland Press Herald.

A group called the Small Business Coalition sent 2,000 signatures to the Legislature in support of the measure, which they said could alleviate excessive burnout and lost productivity.

David Clough, Maine state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, said companies are particularly concerned the increase could take effect as they address this year’s minimum wage hike to $12, as well as a new paid time off requirement that takes effect next year.

Professional associations and companies opposing the bill include those that represent construction businesses, hospitals, farmers, insurance, auto sales and beer and wine distributors.

The bill was presented to the Legislature by Rep. Ryan Tipping, D-Orono and has nine co-sponsors, including Senate President Troy Jackson, D- Aroostook.

(The Center Square) –