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Friday, August 1, 2014

Drunken driving crackdown among new Maine laws

AUGUSTA, Maine – A new Maine law that aims to crack down on people with multiple drunken driving violations is among several that kick in Friday, roughly three months after the Democratic-led Legislature wrapped up its short, combative session.

The new law isn’t expected to impact many people, but supporters say it will still be a big step toward making the state’s roads safer from the most dangerous repeat drunk drivers. ...

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AUGUSTA, Maine – A new Maine law that aims to crack down on people with multiple drunken driving violations is among several that kick in Friday, roughly three months after the Democratic-led Legislature wrapped up its short, combative session.

The new law isn’t expected to impact many people, but supporters say it will still be a big step toward making the state’s roads safer from the most dangerous repeat drunk drivers.

“They are the people who absolutely should not be driving on Maine roads,” said Democratic Rep. Tim Marks, a retired state trooper from Pittston who introduced the bill.

Under the law, people with a felony operating-under-the-influence conviction on their record would be charged with a felony for subsequent offenses, which can result in up to 10 years in jail and thousands of dollars in fines, said Walt McKee, a defense attorney in Augusta. A person is charged with a felony if a victim is killed or seriously injured or if it’s their third offense in 10 years.

Currently, if someone’s felony conviction is more than 10 years old, then their next offense is considered a misdemeanor, which carries a much smaller penalty.

Here’s a look at some of the other new laws that will soon be on the books:

Veterans: Some veterans who served in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan will qualify for a $6,000 property tax exemption.

Education: Maine’s Department of Education will set aside $4 million in casino and slot-machine revenue to help school districts start pre-kindergarten programs.

Health care/insurance: Starting in January, insurance companies will have to provide coverage for anti-cancer treatments that are taken orally. Private insurers will also have to offer coverage for autism treatment for children up to the age of 10. Another new law will require health care providers or facilities to give uninsured patients an estimate of what their medical costs will be, if the patient requests it.

Tax relief: Low-and-middle income Mainers younger than 65 will see boost in a property tax credit from $300 to $600. The tax credit for residents ages 65 and older will rise from $400 to $900.