An overview of MACo’s advocacy on business affairs legislation in the 2020 General Assembly.
Through business affairs advocacy, MACo seeks to protect local regulatory and licensing authority, enhance citizens’ safety, and improve access to regulated services.
This year, for the first time in since the Civil War, the General Assembly closed session early on March 18, due to precautionary social distancing measures taken to curb the spread of COVID-19. Consequently, many bills did not have hearings or did not move forward due to time constraints to meet the new deadline. For more information on Maryland’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic visit MACo’s COVID-19 Resource Page.
Follow links for more coverage on Conduit Street and MACo’s Legislative Tracking Database.
E-Cigarette Tax and Regulation
MACo strongly supported legislation that would increase the tobacco tax rate on cigarettes and other tobacco products, impost a tax on electronic smoking devise, and remove the prohibition on local governments impose similar taxes. The expanded authority would have provided resources and tools to support local public health efforts to address tobacco use and related deaths, disease, and disparities.
However, the bill was amended in the Senate to retain the prohibition on local governments from imposing a tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products with a notable exception – any county that imposed a tax on electronic as of January 1, 2020 may continue to impose that tax at the same rate. This amendment grandfathers Montgomery County who imposed such as tax last year. Additionally, the bill now includes a tax on digital advertising. Funds from new electronic smoking device and digital advertising taxes are to be used to support education under the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future fund.
Taxation – Tobacco Tax, Sales and Use Tax, and Digital Advertising Gross Revenues Tax passed out of House and Senate committees with amendments on the last day of the Session, but was unable to advance further before the Session concluded.
MACo supported another bill that would increase the tobacco tax rate on cigarettes, impose a tax on electronic smoking devices, and remove the prohibition from local governments imposing a tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products — enabling counties to access an additional tool for use in their own anti-tobacco strategies. Electronic Smoking Devices, Other Tobacco Products, and Cigarettes – Taxation and Regulation did not move forward out of the Senate Budget and taxation Committee following its hearing.
This legislation would have imposed stricter standards for animal shelters to achieve a 90% save rate, effectively converting government run shelters into no-kill operations. Although well-intentioned, counties argued that this legislation would have strained limited local budgets and shelter resources and led to reduced acceptance rates. This bill did not have a hearing before the end of session.
Electric Fence Permitting
MACo strongly opposed cross-filed legislation that would have restricted local permitting authority and oversight over battery-charged fence security systems by regulating them under the state framework for wireless security systems. This was a bill supported by private businesses attempting to avoid local permitting, zoning, installation, or operational requirements, including in counties that ban the fences altogether. Counties objected to the statewide change that completely usurped local authority and preempted local decision-making meant to protect the safety and interests of their communities. Business Regulation – Security Systems – Battery-Charged Fences did not move forward out of committee in either chamber following its hearings.
Underground Facilities Damage Prevention
MACo strongly supported legislation that makes numerous changes to the Maryland Underground Damage Prevention Authority (the Authority) and the procedures governing the protection of underground facilities (e.g. sewer and storm drains, pipes, manholes, etc.). The bill was the result of a two-year workgroup spearheaded by the Authority, on which MACo staff participated as a member. The legislation strengthen provisions for responding to an emergency excavation or demolition in a time sensitive manner, requires the appropriate parties to respond and be on site no later than three hours from the transmission of an emergency ticket, and retains underground storm drain exemption with the compromise that newly installed, renovated, or restored underground facilities are required to be detectable or locatable beginning October 1, 2021. Underground Facilities Damage Prevention – Revision passed through the the House and Senate committees on the last day of session with minor amendments and was sent to the Governor for his signature.