Session season

Blog post by Whitney Harmel

Whitney Harmel is the director of strategic partnerships at the Maryland Chamber of Commerce. Through her career history and past role as chair of the Emerging Leaders United Council, she has over a decade of sales, leadership, and relationship-building experience.


Session season.

Session has begun. The capital is bustling with suits and black SUVs, and our government affairs team has kicked into full gear. It’s a great time of year. It’s an exciting time of year. While we have all begun and potentially abandoned our new year’s resolutions, we now get to witness our policy makers make resolutions, so to speak, to shape our economy.

Whether well-versed in legislation or not, it’s important for business professionals of any level to be up-to-date on what’s happening in the state house. Being aware of anticipated and passed legislation will not only benefit your business directly, but also has the added bonus of heightening your level of expertise and in so, elevating your conversations when network building. My area of expertise is not in legislation, it is however, in building lasting, mutually beneficial relationships and helping clients solve business-related challenges. So, as the director of strategic partnerships here are my tips and tricks on what you should be looking out for this legislative session and how you can leverage it in your everyday business relations.

Key issues.

There’s a reason why our labor and employment policy committee is one of our most engaged groups. This year we’re geared to prioritize issues such as mandatory paid sick leave and the ever-controversial Fight for Fifteen, $15 minimum wage bill. Take time to educate yourself on fair scheduling and second chance employment legislation as well. Separately all of these issues will have a major effect on businesses, especially our SMBs, but together, they could be catastrophic for our small business, which are the life blood of Maryland. Small businesses make up 92 percent of the businesses in Maryland and we need to protect their interests.

Cyber is a hot topic. Net neutrality and 5G/small cell are the two I recommend doing homework on. Net neutrality operates on the basis that all data be treated equally by internet service providers. The concern with this is that regulation of the internet on a state-by-state basis could result in a slew of laws and regulations that pose to potentially have a negative impact on the business community.

If I were to pick the top legislative priority to be aware of, it’s legislation surrounding taxation. Various taxation bills are being presented that will affect businesses of all sizes. Small business should be interested in legislation focused on income tax, specifically, pass-through entities, while businesses of all sizes should pay close attention to legislation regarding the reduction of the corporate income tax rate.

Network building during session.

 As session season dictates, most events will likely be geared toward the general assembly in the coming months. Once you have your legislative jargon down, utilizing your policy knowledge at business events will prove to be extremely fruitful for network building. Remember, these issues have a direct effect on the businesses, owners and executives you’re meeting with.

When meeting someone, think outside of the box when it comes to the conversation. Don’t be afraid to bring legislation into it. If you’re speaking to a small business owner, for example, ask them about how the Fight for Fifteen could affect their bottom line. This will bring depth to the interaction and in turn, to the quality of the relationship you’re building.

 Get involved.

Reach out to your local and statewide representatives. They represent you and your voice. You can also attend events, where you can utilize their expertise. For example, the Maryland Chamber of Commerce is hosting Meet the State. A day where you can come to the Capitol and meet with your legislators, harness their knowledge and powers, tackle issues that affect your business and community, and take advantage of that one-on-one face-time.

82 days to go. Don’t miss out.


For more information on key legislative priorities for the 2019 legislative session, click here.

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