Friday Five | October 14, 2022

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

1. Moore, Cox clash on crime, abortion and fitness for office 

On Wednesday, Maryland’s two major party candidates for governor, Delegate Dan Cox (R) and Wes Moore (D), participated in an hour-long debate highlighting their positions on a wide range of issues, including abortion, crime and election integrity. Moore focused on concerns about public safety and inequities in earning potential, especially between whites and minorities. Cox also addressed similar concerns but expressed support for individual liberties and parental rights before quickly focusing on what he said was Moore’s intention to “defund the police” and “centralize” education. With election day being less than 4 weeks away, it is likely the last time both nominees will share the stage to showcase their differences.

Read the full story here.

2. How ill OPEC+ cuts affect oil prices, inflation? 

Last week, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC+) announced they are slashing the amount of oil they deliver to the global economy by 2 million barrels a day starting next month. Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister Abdulaziz bin Salman said the alliance is being proactive in adjusting supply ahead of a possible downturn in demand due to a slowing global economy.

“We are going through a period of diverse uncertainties which could come our way, it’s a brewing cloud,” said Salman, and OPEC+ sought to remain “ahead of the curve.” He described the group’s role as “a moderating force, to bring about stability.”

If the law of supply and demand pans out, higher prices for crude, diesel fuel, gasoline and heating oil are inevitable. Senior Vice President at Rystad Energy Jorge Leon says brent crude should reach $100 per barrel in December, which is up from an earlier prediction of $89.

Read the full story here.

3. Labor proposal could upend rules for gig workers, companies

On Tuesday, the Biden administration proposed new standards that would make it more difficult for employers to classify employees as independent contractors, workers who are not protected by federal minimum wage laws or entitled to benefits, impacting millions of U.S. workers.

“While independent contractors have an important role in our economy, we have seen in many cases that employers misclassify their employees as independent contractors, particularly among our nation’s most vulnerable workers,” said Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh in a prepared statement.

The U.S. Department of Labor rule establishes new criteria for determining whether a worker is an employee or a contractor, including the degree of control by the employer, whether the work requires special skills, the degree of permanence of the relationship between worker and employer and the investment of a worker. The new rule, which has spurred much debate on both the employer and worker sides, is subject to a 45-day comment period ending Nov. 28 and may take many months to go into effect.

Read the full story here.

4. Newsom to call special legislative session over gas prices

Last Friday, California Governor Gavin Newsom said he is calling a special session in December to pass a new tax on oil company profits to prevent them from “rank price gouging.” While gas prices have been steadily declining nationwide, California has continued to see a spike in their prices, hitting an average of $6.39 per gallon last week. California has the second-highest gas tax in the country and other environmental rules that increase their cost of fuel. But Newsom argues that still doesn’t justify a price difference of more than $2.50 per gallon compared to other state gas prices.

The oil industry has pointed to California’s environmental laws and regulations to explain why the state usually has higher prices than the rest of the country. Kevin Slagle, vice president of the Western States Petroleum Association, said Newsom and state lawmakers should review their energy policies instead of proposing a new tax. Newsom said he is still working out the details of his proposal with legislative leaders, but the overall goal is to somehow return some of the money earned from this new tax to the state’s residents.

Read the full story here.

5. Supreme Court to hear case that could raise price of pork 

The Supreme Court will hear arguments over a California animal cruelty law that could raise the cost of bacon and other pork products nationwide. The case brought before the court on Tuesday involves California’s Proposition 12, passed in 2018, which states that pork sold in the state needs to come from pigs whose mothers were raised with at least 24 square feet of space, eliminating confined gestation crates that are common in the pork industry.

Two industry groups, the Iowa-based National Pork Producers Council and the American Farm Bureau Federation, sued over the proposition. They argue that while Californians consume 13% of the pork eaten in the U.S., nearly 100% comes from hogs raised outside the state under conditions that would not meet Proposition 12’s standards. The high court must now determine whether California has impermissibly burdened the nation’s $26-billion-a-year pork industry and improperly regulated it outside its borders.

Read the full story here.

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