Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) will continue his push to loosen the state's child labor laws in the new year, arguing that 12-year-old children should not be restricted from working and learning life skills.
Currently, children in Maine younger than 16 who want to work must be enrolled in school, be passing a majority of their courses and obtain a work permit before starting a job. School-age children get those permits from a local school superintendent, and from there, the paperwork is sent to the Department of Labor.
According to the Bangor Daily News, LePage wants to change that requirement so that students can bypass the superintendent during the summer months and go straight to the Department of Labor, quickening the process.
As the Bangor Daily News notes, "The initiative falls short of LePage’s stated desire to lower the legal working age to 12, but reprises previous unsuccessful attempts to make it easier for Mainers younger than 16 to earn a paycheck."
"The department is planning to continue to review the restrictions on employment to see opportunities where the federal law would allow that job but state law does not," Department of Labor spokeswoman Julie Rabinowitz told the paper. "Because parental permission is always required, in the end it is better for the parent to judge whether a particular job is suited for their teenager, especially those 15 year olds who have summer birthdays and can't do certain jobs because they won't turn 16 until the second week in August and it isn't worth it for the employer to hold that summer job for them for only a few weeks."
LePage has long supported policies allowing younger children to work.
"I went to work at 11 years old," he said at a town hall meeting in 2011. "I became governor. It's not a big deal. Work doesn't hurt anybody."
"I'm all for not allowing a 12-year-old to work 40 hours," LePage told Down East magazine in an interview published this month. "But a 12-year-old working eight to 10 hours a week or a 14-year-old working 12 to 15 hours a week is not bad."
LePage formally kicked off his reelection campaign last month. He is expected to face U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud (D) and businessman Eliot Cutler (I).