Friday Five | April 1, 2022

A recap of this week’s top-five news items and resources from the intersection of business and government.

1. Lawmakers send statewide paid leave bill to Governor Hogan 

A statewide paid family and medical leave program got final legislative approval in the Senate yesterday evening, sending the measure to the governor in time for a potential in-session veto override before the session ends on April 11. The legislation would offer Marylanders 12 weeks of partially paid family leave each year to care for themselves or a family member after a serious health issue and up to 24 weeks of paid leave for new parents. The program would be funded by both employers and workers, with the exact contribution from each to be determined from a cost analysis completed by the Department of Labor once every two years starting later this year. Depending on their pay, Marylanders who worked either part-time or full-time for at least 680 hours in the last year would receive a partial wage replacement of between $50 – $1,000 a week during their leave.

Read the full story here.

Our President & CEO Mary Kane issued a statement promptly after the bill’s passage in the House on Wednesday evening:

“The Maryland Chamber of Commerce and our network of businesses across the state are disappointed that the General Assembly flip-flopped from the original proposal of establishing a commission to thoroughly evaluate the effects and cost implications of such a program. The bill that passed tonight was put together in a back room with the final version allowing limited input from Maryland stakeholders. We have been vocal on our desire to see a comprehensive evaluation of a paid family and medical leave insurance program before pressing forward with an ill-conceived, cost-prohibitive program like the one just voted on.”

Read the full statement here.

2. Gov. Hogan, Democratic leaders in the General Assembly strike deal on tax cuts package

On Monday, Governor Hogan and the top Democrats in the Maryland General Assembly agreed on a tax relief package that will cut income taxes for most Marylanders age 65 or older, eliminate sales tax on many child care and medical products and create a new tax credit for businesses that hire Maryland residents from groups who often struggle to find jobs.

According to the governor’s office, the bipartisan deal is expected to cost the state $1.86 billion over the next five years, would provide substantial relief to about 80% of Maryland retirees who would be eligible for a tax credit worth up to $1,000 for single filers or $1,750 for couples. A huge win for both parties and described by Hogan as the largest tax cut package in state history.

The tax-relief package also eliminates the 6% state sales and use tax on items like diapers, baby bottles, infant car seats and blood pressure monitors. It would also give a state tax break to companies that hire people who often face challenges when in the job market such as the disabled, military veterans, the long-term unemployed and residents of low-income neighborhoods. The legislation is still working its way through the General Assembly, and it is expected to pass during the ongoing 90-day legislative session ending on April 11.

Read the full story here.

3. Maryland General Assembly passes sweeping climate change legislation, sending to Gov. Hogan under threat of veto

Maryland lawmakers gave final approval on Thursday morning to a sweeping piece of climate change legislation that would push the state to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels and is now headed to Governor Hogan’s desk, who has hinted at a possible veto. However, the timing of the bill’s passage gives Democrats, who control the legislature, an opportunity to override Hogan’s veto before the legislative session ends.

The bill aims to boost the state’s current goal of reducing its carbon footprint from 40% to 60% by 2031 and require owners of large buildings (of at least 35,000 square feet) to reduce their carbon footprints by 20% by 2030. Republicans continue to advocate against this legislation that would raise the cost of energy for both Maryland families and businesses at a time when they can least afford it.

 Read the full story here.

4. Md. Democrats pass new congressional map – as AG appeals gerrymandering ruling

On Wednesday, Maryland Democrats in the General Assembly passed an alternate congressional map, following last week’s ruling from Judge Lynne A. Battaglia that extreme partisan gerrymandering was present in the original map. Battaglia threw out the previously approved map by the General Assembly on the grounds that it violated the state constitution’s provisions for drawing legislative districts, making it the first time in Maryland’s history that a judge applies those rules to congressional rather than state districts. But immediately after the Maryland House passed the alternate map, Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh filed a notice of appeal against Battaglia’s ruling. He filed notices in the Maryland Court of Appeals and Special Court of Appeals and until the higher courts resolve the case, it’s unclear what map will be used in the midterm elections.

Read the full story here.

5. A key inflation gauge sets 40-year high as gas and food soar 

Yesterday, the Commerce Department reported an inflation measure closely monitored by the Federal Reserve jumped by 6.4% in February compared to a year ago, with sharply higher prices for food, gasoline and other necessities, now reaching its highest annual level since 1983. However, Thursday’s report doesn’t reflect the consequences of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine which indicates inflation measures will likely worsen in the coming months. The Federal Reserve responded to this month’s intensified inflation spike by raising its benchmark short-term interest rate by a quarter-point from near zero, making borrowing more expensive and affecting many consumer and business loans that could weaken the economy over time. Many economists predict inflation will peak in the coming months and will still be a comparatively high 4.3% by the end of this year.

Read the full report here.

You’re Invited! Inspire MD on May 12

Join us and 300+ fellow Marylanders for a unique, experiential night where we will honor two of Maryland’s most prominent business leaders and induct them into the Maryland Business Hall of Fame: Mary Ann Scully and Don Fry. Reserve your spot now!

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Mary D. Kane: With a new dawn comes opportunity — if we work together | Commentary