State legislators discuss 2015 Maryland General Assembly legislative session

Three high-ranking Maryland legislators told more than 350 Maryland business leaders that the spirit of bipartisanship is alive and well in Annapolis and discussed Governor Larry Hogan’s proposed budget and top priorities for the 2015 Maryland General Assembly legislative session.

“The voters sent a clear message to Annapolis and that was they’d like some budget restraint,” said Delegate Kathy Szeliga, Minority Whip of the Maryland House of Delegates. “I think that message was received.”

In addition to Delegate Szeliga, Delegate Adrienne A. Jones, Speaker Pro Tem of the Maryland House of Delegates, and Senator Catherine E. Pugh, Majority Leader of the Senate of Maryland, also spoke at the Greater Baltimore Committee’s 2015 Maryland General Assembly Legislative Forum on January 26. Jeff Salkin from Maryland Public Television served as moderator.

Delegate Szeliga said legislators seek “true bipartisanship.”

“Larry Hogan is bringing in a spirit of bipartisanship,” she said. “I’m happy to report to you that Annapolis is not like Washington. We get along very well. While we might disagree on some policy issues, we can disagree agreeably.

Senator Pugh echoed her colleague’s sentiments.

“We want to make sure this administration gets off to a good start and that we are cooperating with each other,” she said. “I thought it was great that the governor sat down very early with us to discuss his issues as it relates to the structural deficit of the state.

“I’m looking forward to working with the Republicans, the Democrats, the independent thinkers and those who are interested in moving Maryland forward,” Senator Pugh said.

Delegate Jones, who serves on the House Appropriations Committee, noted that lawmakers will be examining legislated spending formulas that impact almost 80 percent of Maryland’s operating budget.

“As we go through the budget, and the House (of Delegates) does have the budget first, we will be looking at all those formulas,” Delegate Jones said.

Senator Pugh highlighted some of the issues that are front and center this legislative session, including tackling Maryland’s heroin epidemic, funding for Medicare and Medicaid and the creation of an Angel Investment Tax Credit, legislation proposed by the GBC that would offer tax credits to angel investors in start-up businesses.

“We want to encourage that kind of investing in Maryland,” said Senator Pugh, a member of the Finance Committee and chairwoman of the Baltimore City Delegation, said of the proposed tax credit.

On the issue of proposed legislation for paid sick leave, Senator Pugh said “we’re not saying give sick leave, we’re saying allow people to earn sick leave.” She said that means for every 30 hours an employee works, they would earn one hour of sick leave. For full-time employees, that equates to seven days.

Delegate Jones urged business leaders to come to Annapolis and testify on budget issues.

“I’m asking to get input from many of you from all parts of the state in particular because we have a lot of new members on Appropriations,” Delegate Jones said. “I encourage you to come out to visit with us.”

“The business community and government leaders must partner together to achieve positive outcomes and to ensure our state’s competitiveness as a location for job creation and economic growth,” said Donald C. Fry, president and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee.

Business competitiveness, Fry said, remains the GBC’s “overriding top legislative priority.”

“With a governor whose campaign message strongly advocated a pro-business platform, and a legislative body of both Democrats and Republicans that almost universally campaigned on the theme of ‘jobs, jobs jobs,’” Fry said, “we’re optimistic that business competitiveness will be front and center. But, we must remain diligent to ensure that the campaign rhetoric of yesterday is matched by the policy decisions of today.”

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