Friday Five | March 31, 2023

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

1. Protecting employer-sponsored health care plans

Each year during Maryland’s legislative session, health care costs, needs and other issues dominate the headlines – and for good reason. Affordable and accessible health care is essential to a thriving, healthy and productive Maryland.

However, when lawmakers debate the complex issues surrounding prescription drug affordability and health care access, one key detail is typically overlooked: that a majority of Marylanders are covered by employer-sponsored health plans, which employers and employees depend upon to provide affordable access to health care and prescription drug benefits.

This legislative session, employer-sponsored health insurance is under attack – and Maryland workers and employers stand to incur significant increases in co-pays, co-insurance rates and prescription drug prices. Meanwhile, some manufacturers and certain retail entities stand to gain via increased profits made on the backs of Maryland families and employers.

Read the full story here.

2. Cannabis legalization plan passes Maryland Senate committee; amended bill heads toward final steps

Maryland’s recreational cannabis industry inched a step closer to reality Monday as a state Senate committee passed a bill to get the industry up and running this summer.

Senate Bill 516, now closer to a full Senate vote in the coming days, is expected to go through some final changes as lawmakers settle on a plan in the next two weeks to regulate what could be a multibillion-dollar industry for the state.

Lawmakers have mostly stood by an initial plan they introduced in early February to create several phases of the rollout and direct tax revenues mostly to communities disproportionately affected by the war on drugs. That plan would allow current medical cannabis businesses to convert their licenses into new medical and recreational cannabis licenses before July 1.

Read the full story here.

3. Gov. Moore: ‘I want Maryland wind to lead the American economy in the 21st century’

Governor Wes Moore wants Maryland to be home base for America’s offshore wind industry.

He envisions the state becoming the headquarters for manufacturing, logistics and innovation in the industry and has charged his administration with an ambitious target of 100% clean energy by 2035.

In a sweeping address, the governor touted Maryland two’s upcoming offshore projects, pointed to legislation now making its way through the General Assembly that would further the state’s commitment to offshore wind and recounted the area’s history of steelmaking and the opportunities offshore wind could provide in terms of job creation.

If Moore really does want Maryland to be a global leader in the industry, the state has quite the fight ahead given the steep competition globally and nationally.

Read the full story here.

4. Experts see economic problems for U.S. as struggle over debt limit, spending cuts extends

Experts told the U.S. House Budget Committee on Wednesday the country’s economic outlook is problematic, as a fierce debate over the nation’s budget remains front and center.

House Republicans, led by Speaker Kevin McCarthy of California, have repeatedly rejected raising the debt limit unless President Joe Biden agrees to a series of spending cuts. Biden is adamant that the two issues of raising the debt limit and setting future spending levels should move forward on separate tracks.

He’s also repeatedly called on House Republicans to release their budget resolution, a tax and spending blueprint that would show how the party proposes balancing the budget during the next decade.

A debt limit default would significantly impact financial markets with falling stock prices, rising interest rates and a drop in the value of the dollar, which could lead to more inflationary pressure.

Read the full story here.

5. Maryland’s labor shortage, population decline paint bleak picture for business

America is facing a worker shortage crisis. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Worker Shortage Index ratio indicates the number of available workers for every job opening. States with a higher ratio have more workers available to fill open jobs. A ratio above 1.0 would indicate a surplus of available workers when compared to job openings.

According to the U.S. Chamber, Maryland currently sits at a ratio of 0.55, or 55 available workers for every 100 open jobs – landing our state in the “more severe” worker shortage category. At this time, there are roughly 206,000 job openings throughout Maryland, 92,396 unemployed workers, a labor force participation rate of 64.7%, a quit rate of 2.5% and a hire rate of 4.2%.

See where states stand.

The U.S. Census Bureau found that four of Maryland’s five most populous jurisdictions – including Baltimore City and Baltimore County – have lost population over the past year, according to the agency’s annual estimates released Thursday.

Though 18 of Maryland’s 24 counties increased in population, five grew by less than a quarter percent, contributing to the state’s overall population decline. The drop could lead state agencies to adjust previous predictions that Maryland, with a population of 6.16 million, would reach 6.24 million people by 2025.

Maryland lost nearly 10,000 people from July 1, 2021 to July 1, 2022, according to census data tracking both natural population change from births and deaths, as well as migration changes from people moving domestically and internationally. Domestic migration, the difference between the number of people moving to a county from somewhere else in the U.S. and the number leaving that county for another, is the driving force of the population loss.

Read the full story here.

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