From the halls: Push to the finish

(April 3, 2018–ANNAPOLIS, Md.)–With less than a week to go before the 2018 Maryland General Assembly is in the history books, the Maryland Chamber of Commerce’s Government Affairs team has been addressing the flurry of activity as legislators work to get their bills passed before Sine Die.

Good bills passed

HB 403 will create the Community College Facilities Renewal Grant program to provide grants for certain improvements, repairs, or deferred maintenance that cost under $1 million. We supported this bill because it will allow for needed improvements to community colleges across the state.

 HB 243 will extend the Task Force on Rural Internet, Broadband, Wireless, and Cellular Service by an additional year and add certain responsibilities under its purview. We supported this bill because economic development and community growth depend on access to broadband and other internet services. If workforce development and commerce are truly important to the state, we must continue increasing access to these services in unserved and underserved communities.

Testimony 

This past week we were at the table in support of the Senate version of the Small Business Relief Tax Credit, which would provide tax credits to small businesses that offer employees certain employer-sponsored benefits like educational assistance, HSA contributions, paid time off, etc. In its amended form, the bill offers credits up to $5 million in 2018, $15 million in 2019, $25 million in 2020, $35 million in 2021, and $40 million in 2022 and each subsequent year.

Bad bills defeated

We opposed HB 1611, which would, among other provisions, essentially invalidate any confidentiality agreements or court documents that contained information related to public hazards or sexual harassment. The definitions of public hazards were so broad, they would have prohibited virtually any confidentiality agreement in the state. The Senate Judiciary Committee reported unfavorably on this bill.

The House Economic Matters Committee reported unfavorably on HB 541, commonly known as “ban the box” legislation. The Maryland Chamber believes that employment is a critical component to reducing recidivism. However, we opposed this bill because, in most situations, it would have criminalized an employer for asking about a job candidate’s criminal history at any time before extending a conditional job offer. The Maryland Chamber talked with both the bill’s sponsor and the committee chair about this bill, and we look forward to other ways we can strengthen our returning workforce’s opportunities.

What’s coming

We’re in the Senate Finance Committee today, Tuesday, to oppose HB 180, which would require a train or light engine that is used to transport freight via railroad have at least two crew members while in the state. This would raise shipping costs through increased labor prices. It would make the Port of Baltimore less attractive for commerce and would hurt our competitive edge versus the ports in Pennsylvania and Virginia.

With six days to go in the legislative session, anything can happen. We can’t predict it, but if you hear from us with a request in the next week, please take the action we request. This is truly the crunch time to pass good bills and kill bad bills.

Thank you, as always, for sticking with us through session. One more week, and then you can come celebrate with us at our Open House & Sine Die celebration. In the meantime, if there’s something we can do for you, please let us know.

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