AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Maine's teenage workers may soon be able to work a few more hours in a week-but they won't have to accept a lower wage.
The State Senate today gave initial passage to L.D. 516, a bill that would allow sixteen and seventeen year-olds to work a maximum of 24 hours a week during the school year. Teen worker bills have been controversial in the Legislature this year. At the public hearing last month, critics said it was an effort to roll back child labor laws. Originally, the proposal would have allowed teens to work 32 hours per week during the school year. Since then, it was modified to provide for a 24-hour week. The present law allows for 20 hours. The bill would also allow teens to work a six-hour day. During the summer, teens would still be able to work as many hours as they want, which is the same as current law. The measure passed the Senate 21-13 on Tuesday, with all Republicans and one Democrat supporting it. The bill now goes to a vote in the House. Sponsor Sen. Debra Plowman (R-Hampden) says she expects comfortable passage in the House.
Many democrats, however, are still opposed. Sen. Troy Jackson (D-Allagash) says he is concerned that allowing teens to work longer hours will hurt their education, and lower their chances or even desire to go to college.
Sen. Plowman also says the fate of her bill has been improved by the defeat of another. A second teen worker bill drew widespread criticism for trying to create a special "training wage", under which teen workers would be paid $2 / hour less than minimum wage when they start a job. Plowman says many people thought that was part of her bill, and says she even received hate mail because of it. That proposal, however, was defeated by the committee and the legislature.