A recap of this week’s top-five news items and resources from the intersection of business and government.
1. Maryland’s climate bill holds its first senate hearing
During Tuesday’s hearing for Maryland’s Senate’s Climate Solutions Now Act of 2022 (SB 528), representatives of utility companies, real estate groups and small heating oil suppliers warned the proposed legislation would increase the demand on the state’s electric grid, driving up the cost of energy that would ultimately hurt their bottom line. They mainly took issue with provisions that would require newly constructed buildings to begin the phase-out of fossil fuel use for water and space heating starting next year and the mandate for preexisting buildings over 25,000 square feet to reduce their emissions steadily over time. Supporters of the bill argue now is the time address climate change and help those communities that are mostly impacted by it. But many during the hearing, including BGE’s Vice President of Regulatory Policy and Strategy Mark Case, identified the bill’s timeline as unrealistic, too expensive and harmful to businesses.
“We also support beneficial electrification, but rolled out under a sensible and phased-in approach of voluntary incentives versus moving immediately to outright bans,” said Case. Read the full story here.
The Maryland Chamber of Commerce will continue to voice our concern on Senate Bill 528 which would have drastic cost implications for both Maryland businesses and consumers. Instead, we propose working closely with Maryland lawmakers on finding ways to ensure our state achieves its existing and attainable greenhouse gas goals. Take action now and urge your elected officials to oppose this dangerous and burdensome legislation by clicking here.
2. Family & Medical Leave Insurance (FAMLI) Program holds its first House and Senate hearings
This past week, hearings took place for legislation introduced as House Bill 8 and Senate Bill 275 that would add another new and costly leave mandate for Maryland’s businesses that are still struggling from the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the current bill, employees can receive up to 24 weeks of paid leave, relinquishing all decision-making and proof validation to the state. In addition, the bill stipulates that the program will be funded by payroll contributions from both employers and employees, adding an extra cost at a time when they can least afford it.
We will continue to monitor this bill closely and aim to work with the General Assembly on putting together a program that better balances the needs of both employees and employers. Make your voice heard! Urge your legislators to oppose House Bill 8 and Senate Bill 275 and tell them now is not the time to layer another cost of doing business in Maryland by clicking here.
Changes to Maryland General Assembly protocols and schedules: Beginning Monday, all Senate committee hearings will be held in person, and the full Senate will have floor sessions almost every day. A hopeful sign of normalcy two years after the COVID-19 pandemic ended the 2020 session abruptly and led to drastic rule changes for future sessions. Read the full story here.
3. Bill aims to open a network of markerspaces across the state
For the third year in a row, legislators are revisiting Senate Bill 435, a bill aimed at supporting the development of new markerspaces across the state to support economic development. The legislation, also known as the Maryland Makerspace Initiative Program, would distribute money to organizations and local governments for markerspaces in which community members could use a variety of crafting and manufacturing tools, as well as take classes. Advocates of the bill say these centers would develop our future workforce and would help new and existing business owners who cannot afford a traditional office. A recent study by Coppin State University’s business school analyzed the impact of Baltimore’s markerspace, Open Works, and found it had a $9.5 million economic impact on Maryland and supported 118 jobs and 55 small businesses.
Read the full story here.
4. Digital Ad Tax argues in Maryland federal court case
Yesterday, Maryland’s first-in-the-nation digital ad tax was challenged by attorneys in a federal court arguing whether the law is a tax or an unconstitutional penalty targeting Big Tech. The virtual hearing, which involved attorneys for the state of Maryland and a lawyer representing Big Tech who gave arguments before U.S. District Judge Lydia Kay Griggsby, is being closely watched by other states considering a tax for online ads. Supporters of the bill defended the law as a legitimate revenue-raising measure and as a necessary step to modernize the state’s tax system. However, those challenging the law, including representatives from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Internet Association, argue it violates the federal Internet Tax Freedom Act that prohibits discrimination against electronic commerce.
Read the full story here.
5. Maryland court moves filing deadlines for June primary as it weighs redistricting lawsuits
The Maryland Court of Appeals has extended the filing deadline from February 22 to March 22 for the June gubernatorial primary due to ongoing legal challenges to the legislative redistricting map approved by the General Assembly last month. The decision comes after four official challenges have been filed to redraw the congressional district lines that, according to opponents, are not a fair representation of Maryland voters and violate the state’s constitution. Read the full story here.
Judge Lynne A. Battaglia will issue her decision by Tuesday on whether claims by Maryland Republicans that gerrymandering of the state’s congressional districts violates the state’s constitution are enough to warrant a trial. If Battaglia allows the challenge to go forward, she said a trial would likely be scheduled for mid-March, which would put Maryland’s June 28 primary elections in danger of being postponed if the congressional maps are tossed out. Read the full story here.
Upcoming Legislative Briefings and Hearings
Tuesday, February 22, 2022
Wednesday, February 23, 2022
Thursday, February 24, 2022
Friday, February 25, 2022
STATE of the STATE presented by Bank of America