The segments below provide a brief overview of MACo’s work in the area of employee benefits and employee relations in the 2021 General Assembly.
MACo advocates for fair state laws governing employment practices, labor representation, and employer-employee relationships. MACo becomes particularly engaged when a proposal has a disproportionate or unique effect on public sector employees – frequently those affecting public safety employees or other public workers who engage in sensitive and essential functions.
This year the Maryland General Assembly conducted a legislative session unlike any other due to the enduring COVID-19 pandemic. The unique circumstances surrounding the 442nd legislative session, including necessary health and safety measures, posed a challenge for lawmakers and advocates alike. Despite the unusual circumstances, MACo’s advocacy still led to more positive outcomes for its members.
For more information on Maryland’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic visit MACo’s COVID-19 resource page.
MACo opposed legislation that expanded the application of the State’s prevailing wage law to projects where even the smallest share of funds are from the State, instead of the current 50% applicability. The bill was amended to apply to public work projects for which the State constitutes at least 25% of the construction costs and passed both chambers. Governor Hogan vetoed the legislation during the 2021 Session, therefore allowing the General Assembly to override the veto.
Labor and Employment
MACo opposed numerous pieces of legislation that would have created several new programs and employer mandates on counties due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
MACo opposed the Labor and Employment – Employment Standards During an Emergency (Maryland Essential Workers’ Protection Act), which as introduced would have required counties to pay additional hazard pay, implement a new program for bereavement and health leave, reimburse employee healthcare costs, and allow employees the right to refuse to work. The bill was heavily amended – strongly easing county concerns – to eliminate hazard pay provisions, ensure health leave only applies prospectively and includes verification, narrowing the scope of who/what an essential worker is, and conforming the right to refuse provision to existing language under law. The Labor and Employment – Employment Standards During an Emergency (Maryland Essential Workers’ Protection Act) passed the General Assembly and awaits the Governor’s signature.
MACo opposed legislation that would have prohibited employers from asking standard questions of education in their job application and during the job interview process. If applied to the public sector, counties feared this law would eliminate promotion opportunities that allow local government employees a career path forward based on continued educational success. Labor and Employment – Hiring – Education Requirements (Give Me a Chance Act) did not advance in the 2021 General Assembly following its public hearing.
MACo opposed legislation that would have created and implemented a Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FAMLI) Program funded through shared employee and employer contributions, providing up to 24 weeks of benefits to covered individuals. Local jurisdictions would have incurred significant costs as a result of paying half of the FAMLI contribution rate as well as incur programming costs to their payroll systems. Labor and Employment – Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program – Establishment (Time to Care Act of 2021) did not advance in the 2021 General Assembly following its public hearing.
MACo supported legislation that would have provided a tool for county governments, as reimbursable employers, to delay their remittances by a year during a COVID-19 state of emergency. The legislation would have added a provision allowing quarterly billings to be paid within one year after the date on which the state of emergency was declared by the Governor due to the COVID-19 pandemic, simply giving reimbursing employers a comparable cushion as to what rate-paying employers are already allowed for COVID-related layoffs. Unemployment Insurance – Reimbursing Employers – Deferral of Payment During a State of Emergency for COVID-19 did not advance in the 2021 General Assembly following its public hearing, however language to accomplish this goal was added to HB 908, which passed the General Assembly.
MACo opposed multiple pieces of legislation that would have dramatically expanded the scope of presumption for workers’ compensation claims, therefore placing significant costs on local jurisdictions. None of the workers compensation bills advanced in the 2021 General Assembly following public hearings.
For more on employee benefits and employee relations legislation tracked by MACo during the 2021 legislative session, click here.