Friday Five | March 17, 2023

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

1. Moore recommits Maryland to highest national climate goals for EV sales

Governor Wes Moore on Monday announced that Maryland was recommitting to the most aggressive national climate goals for electric vehicle sales.

Earlier that day, the Maryland Air Quality Control Advisory Council voted unanimously to recommend that the Maryland Department of Environment adopt the so-called Advanced Clean Cars II Standards, pioneered by California, to speed the transition from internal combustion engines to vehicles powered by electric batteries. The agency is expected to finalize a regulation laying out the timetable for gradually increasing Maryland EV sales come fall.

Late last year, former Governor Larry Hogan paused Maryland’s adoption of the second phase of California’s vehicle climate standards, creating a one-year gap in the state’s participation in the national alliance. As a result, Maryland won’t adhere to California’s climate yardsticks for model year 2026 car sales, but beginning with model year 2027, the state – which has followed California’s standards since model year 2011 – will resume participation.

House Republicans issued a statement Monday afternoon criticizing Moore’s announcement, saying Maryland officials shouldn’t be following another state’s lead while noting that the cost of purchasing electric vehicles is out of reach for most residents.

Read the full story here.

2. Biden insists banking system safe after two bank collapses

President Joe Biden insisted Monday that the nation’s banking system was safe, seeking to project calm after the collapse of two banks stirred fears of a broader upheaval – prompting regulators to offer emergency loans to banks to stave off additional failures.

“Your deposits will be there when you need them,” Biden said.

Despite this message from the White House, investors continued to dump shares in bank stocks as U.S. regulators closed the Silicon Valley Bank last Friday after depositors rushed to withdraw their funds all at once. SVB is the second largest bank failure in U.S. history, behind only the 2008 failure of Washington Mutual. New York-based Signature Bank also recently collapsed, making it the U.S.’s third-largest failure.

Under the plan announced by U.S. regulators, depositors at SVB and Signature Bank – including those whose holdings exceed the $250,000 insurance limit – will resume full access to their funds. Under a new Fed program, banks can post securities as collateral and borrow from the emergency facility.

Read the full story here.

3. Lawmakers: State must become business-friendly

While Hunter Douglas representatives say economic conditions played a big factor in their decision to close its Cumberland, Md. plant, state Sen. Mike McKay and Del. Jason Buckel said more needs to be done to make Maryland business-friendly for employers.

A maker of blinds and shades, Hunter Douglas announced last week that the Cumberland plant will be closed by summer. Members of the Western Maryland legislative delegation reacted to the plant closure last Friday.

“It’s very disappointing to lose any type of industry of that nature and that number of employees in a county of our size,” said Buckel, who represents Allegany County’s District 1B.

McKay cited that losing jobs to neighboring states is an issue that Maryland is capable of correcting. He added that the level of regulations on Maryland businesses makes it difficult for the state to compete with neighboring Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Read the full story here.

4. Proposed legislation would change sick leave requirements for Md. seasonal workers

The business community on the Lower Eastern Shore is supporting a bill concerning sick time requirements for seasonal workers. Currently, seasonal and J1 workers must work for 106 days before they can receive five days of sick leave. House Bill 1015 would increase the required threshold to 120 days.

“These employees come in, they work during the busy season, and then they either return to school, or if they’re J1 workers, go back overseas. This bill is intended to provide some provisions for sick and safe leave during the period that they’re here employed as seasonal workers,” said President and CEO of Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce Bill Chambers.

106 days is an arbitrary number, Chamber says, adding that it would not cover the typical summer season for Maryland’s resort towns.

The bill currently sits in the House Economic Matters Committee.

Read the full story here.

5. Md. gained 8,200 jobs in January as unemployment stays at record low

The state of Maryland gained 8,200 jobs in January and the unemployment rate remained at a record-low 3%, according to preliminary numbers released Monday by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The leisure and hospitality sector experienced the most growth with an increase of 4,500 jobs. Other sectors adding jobs include trade, transportation and utilities (3,100), private education and health services (2,900), government (2,200), information (1,000), other services (800); and financial activities (200).

Sectors that experienced a decline included professional and business services (5,900), mining and logging and construction (500) and manufacturing (100).

Read the full story here.

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