Friday Five | May 27, 2022

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


1. Maryland’s gas tax is set to increase unless lawmakers intervene

Effective July 1, the Maryland gas tax is set to automatically increase due to a bill passed in 2013 that established a formula calculated by the comptroller each year that ties the state’s gas tax rate to inflation. This year that calculation will lead to an increase of 6.6 cents per gallon, leading Maryland motorists to pay 42.7 cents in taxes on every gallon, a 18.3% increase over the current 36.1 cent rate. Despite recent calls from some of Maryland’s top officials for the General Assembly to hold an emergency special session to address the tax, top legislative leaders scratched that idea on Wednesday, saying the state cannot miss out on the $200 million in revenue for its transportation fund.

Read the full story here.

Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot urged the special session in a letter earlier this week to Governor Hogan, Senate President Bill Ferguson and House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones.

“We are all feeling the effects of surging gas prices, which have become a global problem and result from big oil taking advantage of global uncertainty to make record-shattering profits,” Ferguson and Jones said in a joint statement.

But presiding officers said on Wednesday that ensuring the safety and integrity of Maryland’s roadways, bridges and transit system is their priority and that the funding is critical to ensure Marylanders have a reliable transportation network. For days, Hogan’s office has suggested that Franchot has the authority to take unilateral action, while the comptroller has suggested that the legislature or Hogan must act. It is unclear who, if anyone, will take action.

Read the full story here.

Now, surging gas taxes are expected to be a political weapon in the upcoming Maryland election. Read the full story here.


2. Maryland loses 500 jobs in April; unemployment drops to 4.2%

According to data released last Friday by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Maryland’s unemployment rate dropped to its lowest point (4.2%) since the beginning of the pandemic. The data also showed that the state lost 500 jobs in April. But, compared with April 2021, Maryland jobs are up by 77,800, an increase of 3% over the last year. The professional and business sector experienced the most growth, with 2,300 jobs added. Contrarily, the leisure and hospitality sector lost 3,600 jobs from the accommodation and food service (2,200) and arts, entertainment and recreation sub-sectors (1,400).

Read the full story here.


3. Economy shrank 1.5% in Q1 but customers kept spending 

A report released by the government yesterday indicated the U.S. economy shrank in the first three months of the year even though consumers and businesses kept spending at a solid pace. Last quarter’s drop in the U.S. domestic product, the broadest gauge of economic output, was due to a wider trade gap. The nation spent more on imports than other countries did on U.S. exports, slashing the first quarter’s GDP by 3.2 percentage points. Another 1.1 percentage points was knocked off by a slower restock of goods in stores and warehouses that had built up their inventories in the previous quarter for the 2021 holiday shopping season. However, analysts say the economy has likely resumed growing in the current April-June quarter.

Read the full story here.


4. COVID-related business loss is not ‘property damage,’ Maryland appeals court says 

In a defeat for a Frederick bar, the Maryland appeals court ruled on Tuesday that an insurance policy’s standard coverage for lost business due to property damage does not apply to a restaurant’s loss of revenue after Governor Larry Hogan ordered eateries closed to in-house dining in 2020 to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Although costly to Anchor Bar and its owner GPL Enterprise LLC, the court ruled the pandemic-compelled closure resulted from neither a “direct physical loss” nor “damage to property” as stated in the bar’s policy agreement with its insurer.

“The main purpose of such a policy is to insure the property … against direct physical loss or damage as a result (for example) of a fire, an earthquake, a tornado, an ice storm, a hail storm, a meteor strike, theft, vandalism, etc.,” Judge Kevin F. Arthur wrote for the Court of Special Appeals.

The appeals court also held that the policy’s absence of an exclusion for virus-related losses “does not imply the existence of coverage” for the COVID-19 emergency closure. As a result, the ruling applies not only to the Anchor Bar but to other businesses covered by a similar commercial insurance policy.

Read the full story here.


5. Anne Arundel County program seeks to get teens engaged in Election Day 

According to the Anne Arundel County Board of Elections, a program designed to get young teens involved in elections is coming to Anne Arundel County this year. The program will allow students ages 14 – 15 to work four-hour shifts on Election Day and earn service-learning credit for school. Students 16 and older will be encouraged to register as election judges. The goal is to pique the interest of younger generations to vote once they are eligible by getting them involved in the process and increasing their civic knowledge. Interested students can sign up on the State Board of Elections website now.

Read the full story here.


Congressional Roundup 2022: September 14 in Washington D.C. 

Seize the opportunity to meet with policymakers and top business leaders on Capitol Hill! Attendees will receive a front-row seat at a program tailored specifically to their primary business priorities. This event offers business leaders the opportunity to deliver their federal policy priorities and concerns directly to lawmakers.

Access Early Bird rates and enter this code at checkout: EB22

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