From the Halls: 10 key bills of the 2019 legislative session

Sine Die has come and gone, but the work isn’t over. There have been some victories—and some defeats. See our curated ‘Top 10’ list of 2019 bills that your business needs to pay attention to:

1. HB 166/SB 280 – Labor and Employment – Minimum Wage (Fight for Fifteen) [as amended]

Passed; Policy Committee: Labor & Employment; Maryland Chamber Opposed

After an incredible effort by the business community and a veto by Governor Hogan, $15 minimum wage passed in Maryland. This was a huge loss for many of our members who opposed this issue. The bill will phase in the $15 minimum wage over a six year period at $0.75 per year for businesses with 15 or more employees. Businesses with less than 15 employees will phase in the wage increase over a 7.5 year period at $0.60 per year, until the minimum wage hits $14.60, and then it will go up $0.40 until the minimum wage hits $15. We were able to extend the implementation time longer than originally proposed, restore nearly all the existing exemptions taken out by the original bill, and remove an onerous tip credit elimination.

2. HB 440 – Pathways in Technology Early College High (P-TECH) Expansion Act of 2019 [as amended]

Passed; Policy Committee: Education & Workforce Development; Maryland Chamber Supported

Pathways in Technology Early College High School Expansion Act of 2019 has passed, allowing for three additional P-TECH planning grants in Maryland. This is a huge win for the Maryland Chamber, who has been a champion of P-TECH since the start in Maryland. With 10 members as business partners throughout the state, we hope to get more businesses on board with these additional grants to help strengthen workforce development and talent pipeline initiatives in Maryland. Read more on P-TECH’s expansion.

3. HB 654/SB 937 – Wireless Facilities – Installation and Regulation  (5G/Small Cell)

Defeated – Referred to Interim Study; Policy Committee: Cyber & Technology; Maryland Chamber Supported

The Maryland Chamber supported this bill in order to promote economic development in the state. This bill sought to modernize state law to make it faster for companies to invest in Maryland by installing new infrastructure to improve mobile broadband coverage and meet customer’s surging demands. Investment in 5G/Small Cell infrastructure is critical if Maryland is to remain the “cyber capital of America” and compete economically with our neighboring states of Delaware and Virginia, which have already passed similar legislation.

4. HB 503/SB 219 – Employers of Ex-Offenders – Liability for Negligent Hiring or Inadequate Supervision – Immunity

Defeated; Policy Committee: Labor & Employment; Maryland Chamber Supported

Employers make an incredibly difficult choice when they decide to hire an ex-offender. This choice is driven by the fact that, under current law, an employer can be held civilly liable for that ex-offender if they commit a negligent act while on the job. HB 503/SB 219 would have protected employers from liability lawsuits if an incident occurred while on the job.

5. HB 1139/SB 37 – Corporate Income Tax – Rate Reduction

Defeated; Policy Committee: Taxation; Maryland Chamber Supported 

This bill would have reduced Maryland’s corporate income tax rate over the next three years from its current 8.25 percent to its previous seven percent. The Maryland Chamber supported this legislation, as it would have made the state far more competitive on a national scale and would greatly improve Maryland’s business climate. The Augustine Commission recommended the reduction and stated that it would allow businesses to establish new—or expand existing—operations while preventing the continued out-migration of businesses and workers to more competitive states.

6. HB 729/ SB 591 – Income Tax – Subtraction Modification – Qualified Business Income

Defeated; Policy Committee: Taxation; Maryland Chamber Supported

This bill sought to create a subtraction modification against the state income tax equal to the amount of qualified business income under Section 199A of the Internal Revenue Code. Small businesses that claim subtraction modification will benefit from lower state and local income taxes. The Maryland Chamber supported this bill because it would have allowed small businesses to grow and provide more job opportunities, stimulating the economy.

7. HB 768/SB 759 – Health – Prescription Drug Affordability Board [as amended]

SB 759 Passed; Policy Committee: Health Care & Biopharma; Maryland Chamber Opposed

This bill was originally drafted to establish a review group that would have, in the Maryland Chamber’s opinion, placed artificial and potentially-unconstitutional price controls on prescription medications. As amended, this bill establishes a Prescription Drug Affordability Board and a Prescription Drug Affordability Stakeholder Council with the aim of protecting state residents and other stakeholders from the high costs of prescription drug products. The Board, with input from the Stakeholder Council, is to make specified determinations, collect data and identify prescription drug products that may cause affordability issues. It can also set “upper payment limits” on purchases by any unit of state or local government if the Board believes that the charged price “has led or will lead to an affordability challenge” based upon specified measuring criteria in the bill. By December 31, 2020, the board must submit a funding source to the General Assembly to continue its work.

8. HB 994/SB 839 – Labor and Employment – Criminal Record Screening Practices (Ban the Box) [as amended]

SB 839 Passed; Policy Committee: Labor & Employment; Maryland Chamber Opposed 

SB 839 will prohibit employers with 15 or more full-time employees from requiring a job applicant to disclose information regarding their criminal record until the first in-person interview. The Maryland Chamber and others were able to obtain modifications to the penalty provisions, including elimination of a criminal sanction against an employer for an inadvertent violation of the restrictions regarding inquiry of any previous criminal history (replaced with a more reasonable civil fine with the ability for the Commissioner of Labor to modify that penalty). Unfortunately, a provision was inserted that essentially allows any local jurisdiction to enact its own, stricter laws regarding criminal record screening practices. The Maryland Chamber supports initiatives to reintegrate ex-offenders into the workforce, but feels there are solutions that better protect businesses from liability. Read more about other states with second chance legislation in place.

9. SB 102 – Courts – Direct Action Against Automobile Insurer [as amended]

Defeated; Policy Committee: Civil Liability; Maryland Chamber Opposed

This bill would allow a third party claimant to bring direct litigation against an automobile insurer for damages, making that insurer directly liable. This also includes any automobile insurance policy issued, sold, or delivered in the state. This legislation would have allowed a plaintiff to bring forth a lawsuit in nearly any jurisdiction in Maryland that housed an office of the liability insurer. This would have created a substantial burden on defendant businesses and their employees, and created the potential for much higher liability insurance premium costs.

10. HB 1091 – Public-Private Partnerships – Reforms  

Defeated; Policy Committee: Transportation; Maryland Chamber Opposed

This bill sought to change the process and conditions for the approval of a public-private partnership valued at more than $500 million. This version would:

The work will continue during the interim to make sure detrimental bills don’t return and beneficial bills do. The Maryland Chamber will work with members and stakeholders to ensure your voices are heard and to create an even better business climate in the state.

It’s never too early to prepare for the 2020 legislative session. If you’re interested in the Maryland Chamber policy committees email Sam Schlaich for information and learn more about how you can influence legislation in Maryland’s leading industries.





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