Friday Five | February 17, 2023

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

1. Maryland legislature to explore gambling expansion

The Maryland Senate began hearings Wednesday on a bill that would remove the last remaining blocks to unfettered gaming statewide in a plan to ask voters this November to legalize online gaming.

Funds generated from the proposed gambling expansion would be used for education, particularly the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, an education reform initiative. Companies could apply for online gaming licenses for five-year terms at a cost of $500,000, keeping 85% of profits generated from internet gaming with the remaining 15% earmarked for the Education Trust Fund, according to the bill.

The proposed legislation remains in its early stages, with members of the Budget and Taxation Committee agreeing that the bill needs some work.

Read the full story here.

2. Maryland tourism leaders want to nearly double state’s tourism budget

Maryland tourism leaders are looking to nearly double the state’s tourism budget as the industry continues to make a comeback following the pandemic.

The Maryland Office of Tourism Development currently receives $15.3 million through the state’s budget. Tourism leaders, however, say that the state’s current allocation is far behind neighboring states, citing West Virginia’s $25.4 million, Virginia’s $78 million and Pennsylvania’s $35.1 million annual budgets as reasoning for an increase.

According to statistics from Maryland Tourism Coalition, every dollar spent to market Maryland as a tourism destination returns $31 to the state. Visitors spending money on vacations reduces state tax burdens by roughly $1,000 annually. Tourism also supports over 170,000 jobs.

Read the full story here.

3. U.S. job openings see major increase in January, unemployment and inflation fears still linger

517,000 new jobs were added to the market in January, according to the latest national job market report by the U.S. Department of Labor – 3 times what was initially forecasted. In a market riddled with vast vacancies and record low unemployment, some companies have ceased hiring even though the need for workers still exists.

Experts tell us January’s job market report could ease fears on the possibility of another recession, although it remains certain the Fed is poised to raise interest rates several more times on their goal to get inflation down to 4-5% by fall.

Read the full story here.

4. CFPB moves to punish responsible credit card users

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently proposed a rule that would mean higher costs and fewer benefits for existing credit card users who pay their bills on time, along with providing fewer options for those shopping for a new credit card.

Of credit card users nationwide, 75% pay their bills on time. These consumers have come to rely on low costs from financial service providers and more choices at fulfilling their banking needs. If the rule were to go into effect, consumers – including small business owners – will have fewer credit card options and benefits. The proposal will likely cause a reduction in popular perks such as cashback rewards, discounts on groceries and gas, as well as travel deals with airline and hotel partners.

Read the full story here.

5. FTC hosts public forum on noncompete ban, House Republicans challenge

The Federal Trade Commission hosted a virtual public forum Thursday examining the proposed rule to prohibit employers from imposing noncompetes on their workers – a proposal challenged by Republican Representatives on Capitol Hill.

In a letter to FTC Chair Lina Khan and her fellow commissioners, Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan of Ohio and three others said the proposed noncompete rule exceeds the agency’s authority and would negatively impact the nation’s economy. The letter seeks information on the FTC’s economic analysis of the rulemaking, along with their communications with the White House regarding the ban. Groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have threatened to sue the agency over its proposal.

The agency maintains it can issue the rule under its power to police “unfair methods of competition.”

Read the full story here.

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