A recap of this week’s top-five news items and resources from the intersection of business and government.
1. Maryland’s digital ad tax will likely be struck down, but it’s doing damage in the meantime
The recent ruling by the Maryland Supreme Court on the state’s digital advertising tax is not the victory that some politicians in Annapolis would like Marylanders to believe. In reality, our highest court’s refusal to consider the merit of a law that has already been ruled unconstitutional is much more likely a harbinger of the law’s coming defeat.
Let me be very clear: The Maryland Supreme Court has not ruled on the constitutionality of this law, despite what some might have you believe. The only time a Maryland court has ruled on the law’s merits was in 2022, when Anne Arundel County Circuit Court when Judge Alison Asti found it unconstitutional.
That court ruled the law violated the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on state interference with interstate commerce and violated the federal Internet Tax Freedom Act, which prohibits discrimination against electronic commerce. The Supreme Court did reverse the lower court’s previous ruling, but it did so based on procedural grounds. As the Democratic leadership in Annapolis knows full well, this issue is very likely heading to a different Maryland court.
Politicians who support this tax are fast to claim that they’re taking on Big Tech and getting faceless corporations to “pay their fair share.” Yet, in reality, the revenue from this tax will come directly from the pockets of Maryland businesses of all sizes. In today’s increasingly digital economy, that includes the small, women, and minority-owned businesses that these very same politicians purport to defend.
2. Marylanders show opposition to banning gas-powered cars, poll finds
A new poll shows that Marylanders are deeply averse to one of Governor Moore’s largest environmental initiatives to cut carbon emissions, with 61 percent of those surveyed saying they oppose plans to end sales of new gas-powered cars by 2035.
Moore announced plans this spring to combat climate change by phasing out sales of gas-powered cars, setting a goal that matches California’s ambitious program and would reduce the largest source of Maryland’s greenhouse gas emissions. The regulation would take effect in September, ratcheting up the percentage of electric vehicles sold in Maryland.
Half of those surveyed said they “strongly opposed” the idea.
3. Constellation repowers western Maryland wind project as part of $350M renewables investment
Baltimore-based energy provider Constellation is improving the efficiency and increasing the output of its Criterion wind project in Oakland and extending the life of the facility for 20 years – a move that will deliver more carbon-free electricity to the region and launch a $350 million effort to increase the output and lifespan of the company’s renewable energy portfolio.
Over the course of this fleetwide project, Constellation’s repowering efforts will enable 315 megawatts of its existing carbon-free wind fleet to generate greater output at the same wind conditions.
The Criterion wind project is the latest in a series of investments Constellation has made to lead the nation’s response to the climate crisis and help Maryland and other states accelerate clean-energy growth initiatives and achieve the aggressive environmental goals set forth by the Maryland General Assembly and the Moore administration. Constellation operates 27 wind projects that are capable of producing about 1,400 megawatts of electricity.
4. How will Maryland get tough on cyber security? Senator Cardin aims to help small businesses
Ben Cardin has been highlighted a lot lately after announcing his intent not to run for another term in the United States Senate. But before backing away from five-plus decades in public life next year, Maryland’s senior senator sought to address a small business and government issue that has been significantly stepped up during his last six-year term – cyber incidents.
“My focus today is going to be on how the government and Small Business Administration can help entrepreneurs, starting businesses and growing businesses, to help us in cybersecurity,” said Senator Cardin.
In Washington County in 2022, Dorchester County in 2020 and the Salisbury Police Department in 2019, cyber issues have rankled local government officials in recent years. Ransomware, where hackers hold computer systems hostage typically in return for payment, hit Baltimore City’s government in 2019, curtailing access to emails and cutting off water billing for months. In another case, Baltimore County Public Schools were closed for a day after a ransomware attack in 2020.
Cardin, who chairs the Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship, toured the Columbia facility called “DreamPort” with leadership from the institute and looked to learn how other non-cyber focused entities like small businesses could become more secure.
5. BGE awards $2.5M to 125 central Md. small businesses
Baltimore Gas and Electric Monday awarded $2.5 million to 125 small businesses in central Maryland during the sixth round of BGE’s Energizing Small Business Grants program, which continues to help businesses recover from the pandemic-fueled economic downturn.
BGE made the announcement at an event at Park Ridge Creamery in Howard County, where BGE leadership, County Executive Calvin Ball, Rep. John Sarbanes and Jessica Klaitman from Sen. Chris Van Hollen’s office presented the Ellicott City business with a $20,000 check for its grant award.
In all, 16 Howard County businesses received a total of $320,000 in grant funds and Ball announced that Howard County will contribute $650,000 to the Energizing Small Business Grants program to make BGE’s grants available to an additional 30 Howard County businesses in the next round of program funding later this year.