January 10 marks the opening of the 2018 General Assembly session in Annapolis, and the Greater Baltimore Committee plans once again be very active promoting and supporting legislation that will strengthen Maryland’s business climate and competitive edge. The GBC also plans a special focus on promoting and supporting legislation and other initiatives to address violent crime and improve public safety in Baltimore City.
Key legislative priorities for the GBC this year will be:
- Creating a More Competitive Business Climate
- Building and Strengthening the Workforce
- Promoting Innovation and Entrepreneurship
- Ensuring Public Safety to Grow Jobs and Promote a Higher Quality of Life
- Building a Competitive, Predictable and Fair Tax System
- Advocating Growth-Oriented Transportation Policies
This is the final legislative session of Governor Larry Hogan and the Maryland General Assembly’s four-year term, so elected officials planning to run for reelection will be seeking to report to voters that positive actions have been taken on their behalf. The 90-day session will be complicated by the uncertainty and political polarization that exists in Washington, D.C. and the potential effect on Maryland’s revenues and budget, and legislators’ sights set on the election cycle.
The GBC has its eye on a number of likely hot issues for this year’s session. These include:
Paid Sick Leave: The first major policy battle of the legislative session will be the Governor’s veto of paid sick leave legislation. Both sides are actively working the issue; expect the key battleground to be in the Senate.
Budget: Between weak sales tax revenues and the potential impacts of federal changes to the tax code and health care, this year’s budget may be more challenging than expected. The GBC desires a responsible, thoughtful budget and tax structure that recognizes our changing economy and ensures that Maryland has stable revenue sources to finance the state’s priorities: education, public safety and economic growth.
Health Care: The GBC will urge the General Assembly to act quickly to address any federal changes in order to mitigate any impact on the Maryland health care system. Without a federal mandate requiring citizens to obtain health insurance, the General Assembly will need to move quickly to understand the consequences to Maryland’s health care system and insurance premiums.
Education: While the Kirwan Commission has delayed its final report with recommendations for school funding and statewide education improvements, the GBC is confident that the legislature will take the time this session to address fiscal problems in jurisdictions that haven’t received adequate State funding.
Business Tax Credits: Legislative analysts have recommended several business tax credits for repeal or overhaul. While the GBC supports a thoughtful review of tax credits, two credits in particular promote economic growth and should not be eliminated. The benefits of these programs far outweigh the costs, as they leverage small amounts of taxpayer dollars to increase opportunities for economic growth and activity.
Public Safety: Violent crime reduction and public safety proposals are likely to dominate legislative action this year and the GBC is hopeful the General Assembly will act quickly and decisively to provide the resources and policy changes needed to ensure the safety of residents of and visitors to the Baltimore region. Proposals being floated include: making a second firearm conviction a felony; requiring second-time violent offenders serve their full sentences and be denied parole; and strengthening Maryland’s anti-gang and Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) statutes by expanding the list of gang-related crimes that can be prosecuted across jurisdictional lines.
As always, the GBC stands ready to assist its members sort through the noise of the 2018 General Assembly session and tirelessly advocate for policies that promote a strong business climate that spurs economic growth and job creation.