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Governor signs breweries, earned income tax credit bills

July 2, 2019

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Maine’s governor signed bills Tuesday to ease regulations on breweries and expand the earned income tax credit to thousands of households.

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills signed several bills passed by lawmakers in the final hours of this year’s legislative session. Most such laws will come into effect in mid-September.

Bills that the governor doesn’t sign Tuesday could be held until the next legislative session, according to her spokeswoman. Then, Mills would have three days to act on them.

By Tuesday afternoon, the fate of other bills passed by lawmakers was unclear. Lawmakers had also passed legislation to raise fees on opioid manufacturers to fund treatment and prevention, and join over a half-dozen states that allow online sports betting.

Childless, independent workers aged 18 to 24 will receive Maine’s earned income tax credit for the first time starting in 2020 under a bill signed by Mills Tuesday, according to the non-partisan, nonprofit Maine Center for Economic Policy.

The liberal-leaning nonprofit estimates the law could benefit over 100,000 Maine households. It would boost the credit from 5 to 12% of the federal refund for families with children, which brings the maximum state credit from $328 to $787 annually.

The governor also signed Tuesday a law crafted by brewers and wholesalers who cheered its passage.

Current Maine law defines a “small brewer” as producing fewer than 1,600 barrels of beer annually. Those that make more have to sign contracts with a wholesale distributor.

The new law increases the cap to 30,000 and makes it easier for breweries to exit distribution contracts. Small wineries could also produce up to 3,000 barrels per year of hard cider, on top of 50,000 gallons of wine that’s not hard cider.

Other bills signed by Mills include a new position in the office of Maine’s child welfare services ombudsman. Maine will also work to certify recovery residences serving individuals with substance use issues under a bill that Mills signed.

The governor also signed a bill directing the state’s agriculture agency to start a pilot program for the indoor cultivation of hemp. The state estimates that 100 growers would pay a $500 license fee.

Another bill funds a new consumer assistance program to help the public navigate problems with health insurance.

A bill aiming to help tribal courts address domestic violence has been pushed back to January, according to Democratic Rep. Rachel Talbot Ross.

Lawmakers plan to re-consider bond proposals at an undetermined date this summer.

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