While many are enjoying spring break and time away with their kids, the Howard County Chamber and members of the General Assembly were having a robust discussion on the 2019 legislative session. Led by Howard County House Delegation Chair, Dr. Terri Hill, the panel consisted of Delegates Warren Miller and Courtney Watson along with Maryland Chamber of Commerce Legislative Vice President Larry Richardson and NFIB State Director Mike O’Halloran.
The Chamber paid homage to House Speaker Michael Busch who passed recently and then quickly turned its attention to session highlights. Noted session highlights by General Assembly members included legislation that limited the Maryland Comptroller’s Office enforcement powers of alcohol, tobacco and gas industries, Historic Ellicott City funding, and legislation assisting Marylander’s with the purchase of healthcare insurance. Business representatives commented that the Minimum Wage issue was both a disappointment and a highlight. Overall, the fact that the minimum wage was increased was a stated downer, yet Maryland Chamber and NFIB representatives noted that the final bill was far better than what was originally introduced. Opening statements alone, demonstrated that it wouldn’t take long for attendees to see the differences of opinions between the Democratic and Republican parties, and the business community.
BizMonthly Publisher, Dan Medinger steered the five member panel through a myriad of topics ranging from local education funding, minimum wage, healthcare, and Maryland’s corporate tax structure. As one might expect, the minimum wage debate was cordial, yet firm, with differing opinions based upon party affiliation and employment sector. Attendees were able to get a behind the scenes view of how the legislation was amended and subsequently passed. Delegate Watson shared the back and forth that took place within the Economic Matter Committee work group and the Senate Finance Committee. Delegate Warren Miller ultimately noted, “this was one of the most highly amended bills I have ever seen.” Of great concern to business was future job creation, regional economic competitiveness, and the stacking that will take place when one adds this bill on top of previous labor and employment bills that have been passed in recent years.
The breakfast ultimately concluded with an education discussion that showcased the emotionally and highly complex world of creating policy that balances growth, development, and school construction. Delegate Hill provided historical context of the impact fee debate beginning with APFO, while Delegates Miller and Watson shared the challenges faced by the school system in generating construction funds and limited sources of data and expertise held by delegation members. Thus, the decision to allow the County Council the authority to address the matter.