A controversial proposal to let teenagers work longer hours during the school year is headed to the desk of Governor Paul LePage, a Republican who supports the changes. The legislation, which would let teens work 24 hours a week instead of 20, passed the Maine House of Representatives on a largely party-line vote Wednesday, reports the Bangor Daily News.
The proposal was scaled back from its original form, which would have lifted almost all restrictions for 17-year-olds and for 16-year-olds when school was not in session. The version headed to LePage also allows teens to work until 10:15 p.m. instead of the current limit of 10 p.m.
Republicans, who took control of Maine government following last November's elections, argued that the restrictions were too tight for today's teens. "It is time we left these decisions up to the moms and dads and these kids who are trying to improve their situation," said Representative David Burns.
Representative Erin Herbig, a Democrat, disagreed. "Given the current high unemployment rate in Maine, we should be spending our time and energy here creating jobs for people's parents not increasing the amount of hours 16- and 17-year-olds can work."
The issue has taken on outsized importance in Maine, largely because of LePage's criticism of labor since taking office. "The teenage employment bills,' Stateline reported last month, "might have passed through the legislature quietly by now had LePage not made a controversial decision to remove a labor history mural from the state Department of Labor headquarters last month.'