Friday Five | March 18, 2022

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

1. Senate and House give preliminary approval to different versions of paid family and medical leave

Maryland’s Senate gave preliminary approval yesterday evening to legislation that creates a mandatory paid family leave program, giving Marylanders up to 24 weeks of paid leave per year for the birth, adoption or guardianship of a child and to care for themselves after a health issue. Under the Time to Care Act of 2022, Marylanders who have worked either part-time or full-time for at least 680 hours in the last year would receive a partial wage replacement of up to $1,000 a week, depending on their pay. As amended in the Senate, the family leave insurance program would be funded by contributions from workers and employers in a 75-25 split, with workers contributing more to the fund.

Separately yesterday evening, the House of Delegates gave preliminary approval to their version of the bill, which instead established a commission to work out of specifics of a statewide paid family leave program, with the goal to implement the program in 2023 so that Marylanders can benefit no later than June 2024.

During the discussion on the Senate floor, Republicans pushed back on the bill, expressing concerns about its long-term solvency and heavy lift for the Maryland Department of Labor to set up the program. Other lawmakers also noted that this program could give an employee up to 34 weeks of paid and medical leave in a year, adding an extra cost to businesses when they can least afford it.

Read the full story here.

2. Maryland Senate democrats pass sweeping climate change legislation

The Maryland Senate passed the Climate Solutions Now Act of 2022 in a 32-15 party-line vote on Monday night, requiring the state to cut its greenhouse emissions to net-zero by 2045, partly by requiring large buildings to reduce their energy usage. Before its passage, Republicans renewed their claims that the bill would increase the cost of energy and not move the needle much on global climate change.

“This is going a bridge too far, but in a way it’s going to a bridge to nowhere because there’s no benefit…to the overall climate crisis,” said Minority Whip Justin Ready (R-Carroll). “It’s just going to raise energy prices.”

The bill is now headed to the House of Delegates, where lawmakers have introduced their own set of companion bills and is subject to review by the Public Service Commission who will determine if the state can support an all-electric building code in the future.

Read the full story here.

3. Claims of partisan gerrymandering in Md. congressional map go to trial 

The bench trial over Maryland’s new congressional map, where the state is defending against claims from two Republican lawsuits that the map violates Maryland’s constitution, kicked off on Tuesday in the Anne Arundel County Circuit Court. The two cases, which are being heard together, were filed by Fair Maps Maryland and backed by Governor Larry Hogan, Republican voters and state lawmakers who argue the General Assembly drew an illegally gerrymandered map. During the trial, Judge Lynne A. Battaglia drew a distinction between partisan gerrymandering, which is legal on the congressional level, and extreme partisan gerrymandering, and appeared to be open to exploring whether Maryland’s map crosses a line. These challenges over the legislative districts will go to trial on March 22, with no set end date, causing the state’s June 28 primary elections to be postponed until July 19.

Read the full story here.

4. Maryland stumbles to start 2022, loses 8,100 jobs in January

According to new data released on Monday by the U.S. Department of Labor, Maryland was off to a rough start this year, losing 8,100 jobs in January. The decline in January ended a streak of six consecutive months of job growth in Maryland, which in 2021 had gained 99,700 jobs and experienced a growth of 3.8%. In January, construction and government were the only two industries to experience growth, with the public sector adding 2,400 jobs and construction adding 800. The data also showed Maryland’s unemployment rate remained stable at 5.4%, and its labor force grew slightly (less than 1%), indicating a positive trend.

Read the full story here.

5. A 30-day pause on Maryland’s gas tax is poised to become law today

A monthlong suspension of the state’s 36-cent fuel tax made its way to Governor Larry Hogan’s desk and is expected to be signed into law today. This bill would make Maryland among the first states to pass a measure to drop gasoline prices. Maryland legislators had considered extending the 30-day tax holiday to 90 days, but with oil prices on a steady decline over the past week, they hope that the trend continues by the time the tax holiday ends. The legislation is expected to cost the state $98 million that otherwise would have gone to its transportation trust fund, an account used for road, bridge, tunnel and transit projects, but lawmakers plan to cover that loss by using some of the state’s $7 billion surplus.

Read the full story here.

Upcoming Legislative Briefings and Hearings 

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Get ready for Inspire MD on May 12! 

Join us and 300+ fellow Marylanders to celebrate our 2022 Business Hall of Fame Award winners and be part of a unique, experiential night that will leave you feeling truly energized and proud to be part of the Maryland business community. Purchase your tickets now!

Learn more here



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