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Local lawmakers ready for next session


Delegate Michael Jackson, left, chats with local high school students who attended the Monday, Jan. 8 Calvert County Chamber of Commerce’s State Pre-Legislative Breakfast at the Rod 'N' Reel Restaurant.

Chesapeake Beach, MD - The 2018 session of the Maryland General Assembly begins Wednesday, Jan. 10 and Calvert County’s five-man delegation to Annapolis expects an item left over from the previous session to be the subject of considerable debate. On Monday, Jan. 8, four of the five delegation members (Delegate Michael Jackson [D - District 27B was a late arrival due to traffic issues] were on hand to discuss numerous issues related to business at the Calvert County Chamber of Commerce’s State Pre-Legislative Breakfast. The event was hosted by Chesapeake Beach Resort and Spa and held at the Rod ‘N’ Reel Restaurant.

The legislation that led off the discussion was the controversial paid-sick-leave bill passed by the Maryland General Assembly but vetoed by Governor Larry Hogan. The measure would have required employers with 15 or more workers to let those who put in at least 12 hours a week earn up to five days a year of paid leave when they or a member of their family is sick. Hogan has promised to introduce a compromise measure. Democratic legislative leaders have assured the governor that they have the votes needed to override the veto.

“Seven states have this [sick leave bill],” said Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. [D – District 27]. “Overwhelmingly, people feel this is needed.”
The delegation’s three Republican members stated they will vote to sustain the veto.

“Businesses aren’t the only ones who are going to be hurt,” said Senator Steve Waugh [R – District 29], who predicted employees working for small companies would lose jobs so that the company can remain under 15.

“It’s going to hurt the employees,” said Delegate Jerry Clark [R-District 29C]. “I am theoretically opposed to government telling me how to treat employees. It all has to do with individual employers and how they treat their employees.”

Delegate Mark Fisher [R – District 27C] said the mandated paid sick leave is but another example of the “cumulative effects” of laws that are prompting potential businesses to locate somewhere other than Maryland. “There are so many innovative businesses that want to come to Maryland,” said Fisher. The delegate added that the law would also require employees to “verify” their illnesses, meaning they would have to divulge sensitive details to their employers.

In his closing statement, Miller affirmed that the aim of the legislation is to get large companies, such as big box retailers, to provide benefits to employees. “You need benefits,” said Miller, who indicated the measure does not specifically target any of the Southern Maryland region’s small businesses. “We’re trying to legislate for the whole state of Maryland,” he said.

Other topics that came up during the question and answer session included the county commissioners’ request for a “reciprocal procurement preference.” This process would grant a preference to county-based vendors over out-of-county vendors equal to the preference given by the county in which a non-resident bidder is a resident. The maximum amount of preference would be limited to $25,000. The bill, which was requested by the Calvert County Government’s Department of Finance and Budget, has the unanimous support of the county commissioners. A synopsis of the request stated that the measure has been prompted by the fact that some Calvert County-based vendors are penalized when competing for contracts in other jurisdictions by the preference laws of that other jurisdiction.

Clark, who once raised the question of establishing a procurement preference policy for local vendors when he was a county commissioner, admitted that sometimes the cost of the contract to a local bidder is not advantageous to the county. However, Clark added he does not oppose giving the commissioners the authority to establish such a policy.

As for the county government’s recommendation for $57.5 million in bonding authority for seven capital projects—including $41.9 million for a county office building, Miller and Waugh indicated they supported the request. Clark stated he supported the request “on the surface” but added he does not favor construction of the government office facility in the area of Armory Square in Prince Frederick. “I haven’t made up my mind,” was Fisher’s response to the bonding authority request.

On the issue of budget and taxation, Miller repeated his previously stated concerns about the impact the recently passed federal tax reform will have on Maryland. Touting Maryland’s balanced budget and Triple A bond rating, Miller warned that Maryland’s economy is bolstered by the proximity of the federal government. “You want to drain the swamp? We’re part of the swamp,” said Miller. The senate president added that state lawmakers won’t be able to make any tax policy until it understands the full ramifications of the federal measure.

“We have some real fundamental structural problems,” said Waugh, who indicated that the legislature needed to tackle Maryland’s “mandated spending.”  As for the federal tax bill, Waugh told attendees, “when you dig into this thing you are going to see benefits for you and your businesses.”

“Maryland has traditionally been a greedy state,” said Fisher, adding that as a result of the federal bill “you get to keep more of your money. It’s high time we had tax reform. Fisher vowed to again submit legislation to do away with Maryland’s personal property tax. “It’s anti-business,” he stated.

Clark said that in addition to tax reform, Maryland’s lawmakers need to look at environmental regulation reform. “All these regulations have cost,” Clark said.
In closing remarks, Jackson stated that he regards the 90-day session in Annapolis “as an opportunity to get things right.”

Of Hogan’s leadership, Fisher said, “he has governed pragmatically.”

Clark told the audience in his closing comments that, “I know I’ll learn a lot every day.”
“Stay engaged,” Waugh told the audience. “We have actually cut a few taxes and put the lid on spending.”

Contact Marty Madden at marty.madden@thebaynet.com

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