Laws that impact tourism in Maryland

Blog post by Larry Richardson

Larry Richardson is the vice president of government affairs at the Maryland Chamber of Commerce. He is an attorney who brings over 25 years of lobbying experience to the Chamber where he advocates on behalf of the Maryland business community to grow jobs and reduce regulations.

 

There’s nothing like heading down to the shore for the weekend and cracking open a couple of crabs on a summer night. Or how about going to the Inner Harbor before catching an Orioles game at Camden Yards with my buddies? Deep Creek Lake in Western Maryland for some quiet time fishing? Count me in.

Maryland has so many great tourism spots that are so relatively close, it’s no wonder why millions of tourists make Maryland their destination every year. And there’s no question that tourism is good for business and economic development in the state.

Unfortunately, we must constantly be on guard against legislative efforts that if enacted, could hinder the growth and prosperity of tourism and the resultant economic benefit that comes with it. Over the past two legislative sessions, I have come across a number of bills that would be detrimental to the tourism industry that you should be aware of:

Paid Leave

The Healthy Working Families Act, or HB1, is having tremendous effect on business in Maryland. With the veto override, there have been many challenges with this new law. Check out my July blog post for more on how this can affect business or tell me yourself how it is affecting your business.

Restrictive scheduling

There are a lot of bills that we anticipate coming back in the 2019 legislative session. Among those is the Maryland Fair Scheduling, Wages, and Benefits Act, or as it is more appropriately referred to, restrictive scheduling. This legislation, as presented last year, would have required employers to provide their employees with a copy of their schedule three weeks prior to the schedule’s start and would have penalized employers who changed those schedules within those three weeks. The bill would also have prohibited employers from hiring more employees unless they offered more hours to current employees.

This would hit food service and retail businesses hard, many of which are cornerstones for tourism in the state and rely on students with complicated, ever-changing schedules—especially during the summer months.

$15 minimum wage

The “fight for fifteen” is expected to continue full force in 2019. The minimum wage in Maryland is already $10.10 an hour, one of the highest in the country. A minimum wage hike will ultimately increase the price of goods. Additionally, many employers will be pressured to adjust wages for those employees who already make above minimum wage, so there is an equal rise in pay across the board. With a $15 minimum wage, we may see a decrease in staff, as many smaller businesses will be forced to let their employees go instead of shutting down operation.

J-1 Visa

During the 2018 legislative session, we opposed a bill that would require businesses who employ Foreign Labor Contractors (FLCs) to be licensed before they could provide these contracting services in Maryland. These businesses are already vetted by the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. State Department. To impose additional requirements on the state level on top of the federal regulations would have been excessive. In addition, a lengthy contract between employer and employee would have to be drawn for each student. Any violation of that contract would result in liability on behalf of the local employer in addition to the FLC. It would make the hiring of those who came over on the visa risky.

With many businesses in Maryland relying on the J1-Visa Summer Work and Travel (SWT) program, notably in Baltimore City, Western Maryland, and the Eastern Shore, it would be a struggle to keep business afloat with these impositions. It is estimated that over 4,000 students head to Ocean City alone for this program, filling jobs for hundreds of seasonal businesses that would otherwise be vacant due to a lack of locals.

It would be such a shame to see a decline of tourism in a state that has so much to offer. We must fight against regulations that will hurt businesses that keep the state’s tourism industry alive. Legislators need to acknowledge how important tourism is for our economy and encourage growth and support for small businesses that keep the industry afloat.

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