Friday Five | March 11, 2022

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

1. Senate moves to pass Climate Solutions Now Act after a marathon floor session

After four hours of debate and a series of failed attempts to amend it, the Climate Solutions Now Act of 2022, a measure to boost the state’s current goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from 40% of 2006 levels to 60% by 2030, won preliminary approval in the Maryland Senate yesterday afternoon. During the hearing, Republican senators introduced amendments that would lessen the pressure on Maryland to significantly move the needle on global climate change and reduce the cost, and instead make it a regional effort. But, Democrat Senator Paul Pinsky, who chairs the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, stated he does not think we should wait for the rest of the world to act and urged the Senate to oppose such amendments. Minority Leader Senator Bryan Simonaire of Anne Arundel County also opposed Pinsky’s proposal to use some of the state’s budget to pay fees associated with the bill saying it would hurt taxpayers.

“Our main opposition to this bill is that it places a harsh financial burden on the back of Marylanders while failing to deliver any measurable environmental benefits to save our planet or Maryland for that matter,” Simonaire said.

On Wednesday, Pinsky introduced ten amendments on the floor, and the Senate adopted them during yesterday’s hearing. One addresses the much-debated requirement for new buildings to use electric power rather than fossil fuels to provide space and water heating by 2024. As amended, the bill would require the Public Service Commission to determine if there is enough capacity on the grid to support an all-electric building code in the future. It would also require buildings of 25,000 square feet or larger to reduce emissions by 30% of 2025 levels by 2035 and to net-zero by 2040. But it exempts private and public schools, agricultural buildings and historic buildings from the new standards. Read the full story here.

Act now and contact your legislators in just one click and urge them to oppose SB 528, legislation that’s bad for business and bad for consumers. Act here.

2. U.S. House approves Ukraine aid, Russia oil ban, funds averting U.S. gov’t shutdown

The U.S. House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to rush $13.6 billion in aid to Ukraine as it battles the Russian invasion, along with $1.5 trillion to keep U.S. government programs operating through Sept. 30 and avoid agency shutdowns this weekend. Legislation is now being sent to the Senate, which aims to act by midnight on Friday when existing U.S. government funds are set to expire. The House also passed legislation, by a vote of 141-17, to ban U.S. imports of Russian oil and other energy in response to its attack on Ukraine. Acting White House budget director Shalanda Young urged Congress to promptly approve both legislation to get it signed by President Biden and respond to Russia’s aggression and secure government funding.

Read the full story here.

3. Providers, Md. lawmakers push for expanded child care access 

Members of the General Assembly rolled out a package of bills to increase protection for state and local government online networks following the discovery of vulnerabilities in the state’s cybersecurity systems. The two bills, HB 1202 and SB 754, would require the Maryland Department of Emergency Management to help local governments prepare for the possibility of a cyberattack and would create a Local Cybersecurity Support Fund to help smaller governments upgrade their security systems. The legislation initially called for $1.5 billion in bond funding from the Maryland Stadium Authority to upgrade the state’s legacy IT systems. But the cost of modernizing the Department of Health’s legacy system alone will cost about $2 billion, which means a new source of revenue will have to be identified for the legislation to be sustainable.

Read the full story here.

4. GOP ratchets up pressure on Democrats for tax relief

On Wednesday, Senate Republicans renewed their push for tax relief days before an amended budget package heads to the Senate floor. They are calling on the General Assembly for broad-based relief to counteract some of the challenges Marylanders are facing with inflation and gas prices growing at the fastest pace in four decades.

“People are just coming out of the pandemic and when they go to the gas station and they see these high prices in food stores, they need tax relief,” said Senator Bryan Simonaire, the Senate minority leader from Anne Arundel County.

Republicans are also proposing to end the automatic increase in the per-gallon tax on gasoline and the sales tax on digital downloads and streaming services. Last week, Senate President Bill Ferguson hinted at a broad tax relief proposal to be considered as part of their spending plan but stated further discussions were needed with Governor Hogan and House Speaker Adrienne Jones.

Read the full story here.

5. Maryland’s unprecedented surplus grows by $1.6 billion, setting the stage for renewed tax cut debate 

New state revenue estimates were released yesterday afternoon, increasing Maryland’s historic budget surplus to about $7.5 billion and setting the stage for renewed debate on how to spend it. Democrats have pushed extra funding for schools, child care and tax break necessities such as diapers and medical equipment. While Republicans have called for across-the-board tax breaks for retirees. However, leaders from both parties agree on a one-month suspension of the state’s gas tax to provide relief to Marylanders as the cost of gas continues to rise. The new projected surplus also prompted bipartisan support to send stimulus checks to state residents.

Read the full story here.

Upcoming Legislative Briefings and Hearings 

Monday, March 14, 2022 

Tuesday, March 15, 2022 

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

You’re Invited: Inspire MD on May 12 

Join us and 300+ fellow Marylanders that are ready to network and reconnect at our BIGGER & BETTER, one-of-a-kind, spectacular event where you’ll leave feeling truly energized and proud to be part of the Maryland business community.

Learn more here

Tech for All: Engineering Accessibility into Technology
March 15 | 12:00 p.m. – 12:45 p.m.

Our President & CEO Mary Kane joins a panel of thought leaders in this webinar presented by the Maryland Department of Disabilities and Comcast to discuss how inclusive technology can create job opportunities and improve quality of life for people with disabilities.

Register here


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