Midnight, Day 90

(April 10, 2018—ANNAPOLIS, Md.)–The 2018 General Assembly legislative session is now a few hours behind us. Ahead stretch two months of primary campaigning and another five months of general election campaigns. Election years make legislative sessions more interesting. This session saw a record 3,127 bills. That’s an average of nearly 17 bills per legislator. It beats the last gubernatorial election-year count by more than 400.

You can see a wrap-up of six key legislative issues this year on another post. For now, let’s look at what we worked on in the closing days of the session.

Tax credits

As we start to close the book on this session, we have something to look forward to besides warmer weather (any day now…): $5 million in annual tax credits to help lessen the impact of mandates like mandatory leave on small businesses.

You’ll remember this as HB 99/SB 134, which we supported with testimony in both chambers. As we all know, small businesses are often the hardest-hit by increased mandates and regulations, so this measure can provide meaningful help.

The credits are part of a deal negotiated between the House and Senate on what to do with the state’s tax revenue in the wake of the state and local tax deduction alterations in the federal code. Other highlights include:
• Standard deduction increase for single filers from $2,000 to $2,250
• Standard deduction increase for joint filers from $4,000 to $4,500
• $6 million in additional funds for Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)
• $100 million in reserves
• $200 million for education (voted earlier in session)

Sign here

Gov. Larry Hogan has time before he must sign or veto certain bills, so the final count for this session is not yet in. For now, we’ll add two critical workforce measures to the running list of 2018 successes.

HB 372 provides $167 million annually in dedicated funding to the Washington Area Metro System. We supported this bill because we know that the Metro is vital to the success and growth of the region. Metro moves millions to work every day. If that slows, so do many other things: employment, productivity, the area’s livability and desirability, and more. Investing in this infrastructure and public transit is crucial, and we are happy to see the full requested amount fulfilled.

SB 43/HB 193 will allow current English-language learners in high school, under age 21, to earn their GED. Generally, only those who have already dropped out of high school can earn a GED. This bill lets English-language learning students with a history of interrupted education and comparably lower language proficiency to earn a GED without dropping out first. We supported this bill because it offers English-language learners more opportunity for certain high-skilled positions.

Fun facts for politics-lovers

Did you know there is a time on the Maryland legislative calendar when the governor can veto a bill and the legislature cannot override the veto?

In non-election years, bills vetoed in the days following a legislative session are returned to the General Assembly at the beginning of the next year’s session. But according to the Maryland Constitution, in election years, after the General Assembly has adjourned (Sine Die) and a new assembly is sworn in, no preceding year’s bill can be returned to the legislature, unless by Special Session at the governor’s request.

We’re not anticipating any concerns here. We just think it’s interesting.

Also, we need vacations. And hobbies.

That’s a wrap!

You can see our list of six top legislative issues of 2018 and how our advocacy affected them. We’ll keep you posted on any developments that might affect your business at this point. As a benefit of significant investment in the Maryland Chamber, some members will receive our full post-session report on every bill we addressed.

We’re not going away, of course—you’ll still receive legislative updates, but from now until the 2019 session, From the Halls will land in your inbox every other Tuesday. You are welcome to land in ours any time.

Thank you for your partnership this session. We cannot do this work without you, even as we do it on your behalf. Your passion, priorities, and participation are invaluable. Keep it coming, and let’s keep working together to move Maryland forward!

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