Friday Five | March 24, 2023

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

1. Maryland lawmakers reach crossover deadline in session

The Maryland General Assembly headed into the last three weeks of its annual legislative session on Monday, advancing bills on its deadline known as “crossover day.” That’s when legislation needs to be approved by one chamber and sent over to the next, or else face a greater challenge to passage.

Governor Wes Moore appeared upbeat and smiled often at an afternoon press conference that day. The Democratic governor spoke about the progress of his legislative agenda, even though the Democratic-controlled legislature has made changes to some of his proposals.

Read the full story here.

2. One of Wes Moore’s biggest anti-poverty ideas won’t pass this year

A key piece of Governor Wes Moore’s anti-poverty agenda is all but certain to fail in the legislature this year, but the new Democratic governor is still claiming a win.

While the General Assembly is advancing Moore’s bill to accelerate a planned increase in the minimum wage so that it hits $15 per hour later this year, about two years earlier than planned, they roundly rejected his idea to tie future increases to inflation – and give up their power to set the minimum wage.

The Maryland Senate already passed the minimum wage bill with the indexing piece stripped out. House leaders expect it to pass in that form in their chamber, too, House Economic Matters Chairman C.T. Wilson said last week.

Moore ran on a “Leave No One Behind” platform that included closing the racial wealth gap and reducing child poverty. He argued that even in its scaled back form, the bills that are advancing through the legislature represent “the most full assault on child poverty in this state’s history.”

Read the full story here.

3. Lawmakers: State must become business-friendly

Maryland businesses selling certain essential goods or services will be prohibited from raising their prices above 15% during a state of emergency if the General Assembly passes a proposal from Attorney General Anthony Brown before the end of the legislative session in a few weeks.

Each chamber has already passed a version of the bill. The Senate Finance Committee on Thursday voted to send a version of the bill from the House of Delegates, HB 775, to the Senate floor for a vote. The Senate voted 36-9 to pass an identical version of the bill on Friday of last week.

In March 2020, Governor Larry Hogan issued an executive order prohibiting businesses selling essential goods or services from increasing their prices by more than 10%. The executive order, which restricted price gouging for items like food, medicine, childcare and car parts, expired in 2021.

More than 30 states and Washington, D.C. have similar policies, including neighboring Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, according to the Office of the Attorney General.

Read the full story here.

4. Federal Reserve keeps up inflation fight, betting bank crisis is over

The Federal Reserve is sticking with its fight against inflation, confident that a massive government intervention to stabilize the banking system has averted a crisis.

The central bank raised its benchmark interest rate by a quarter of a percentage point Wednesday, signaling that high inflation continues to pose a threat to the economy, as the job market and price increases aren’t returning to normal as quickly as policymakers expected. Officials believe the bank turmoil should slow the economy down, too, in the same way that raising interest rates does – though it’s too soon to say how much.

Those moves came as Fed officials were eyeing other economic data warily. Just before the banks collapsed, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell told Congress that the Fed might need to raise interest rates more aggressively than planned because the economy was still running too hot.

Read the full story here.

5. Legal landscape for noncompetes increasingly complex, attorneys say

An FTC proposal to ban noncompete agreements may face an uncertain future, but one thing is clear: The use of noncompetes is increasingly under challenge and must be managed by employers to comport with a shifting legal landscape, two veteran employment attorneys say.

Kirsten Eriksson and Veronica D. Jackson, principals with Miles & Stockbridge, made those observations last week in a Daily Record webinar.

“Maryland generally has the same standard as virtually every other state that allows noncompetes in the sense that they are supposedly somewhat disfavored but permitted if required to protect a legitimate business interest of the employer,” Eriksson said.

“I think the overarching take-away message is that hostility to noncompetes is here to stay so employers really need to focus on narrowly tailoring the scope of them and who they seek to obtain them from,” Jackson said.

Many of the comments submitted thus far to the FTC are from individuals who were subject to noncompetes and support eliminating the agreements. “I think both Congress and the executive branch are taking that sentiment seriously,” Jackson said.

Read the full story here.

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