Register Now: Maryland Governor’s Business Summit 17 on May 18

Join Governor Hogan for the first Maryland Governor’s Business Summit on May 18, 2017 from 8am until 4pm. Explore topics on human capital, global trends and business strategy. Connect with a wide array of Maryland’s business leaders. The Summit will be at the Hilton Baltimore – Key Ballroom: 401 W Pratt Street Baltimore, MD 21201.

Governor Larry Hogan said,

“Great things are happening in Maryland. Our economic climate has gone from 49th in the nation to number 11 – the largest jump among states. Our companies are adding thousands of new jobs to our communities, more than 73,000 since January 2015.  We are making meaningful progress for business.  Let’s capture this momentum!”

Breakout Topics Include:

  • Redefining urban centers across Maryland
  • Entrepreneurship and innovation
  • Future of manufacturing in Maryland
  • Next generation learning environments
  • Top education leaders discuss innovation through partnerships
  • Maryland on the front lines of global threats

Tickets are currently available for $150. Click here to register.

Stay up-to-date with the Maryland Department of Commerce by subscribing to the Maryland Business Pulse newsletter.

Local Electrical Licensing Repeal Bill Dies in Committee

A bill that would remove all electrical licensing authority from local jurisdictions by 2020 and would establish a statewide licensing framework for master electricians received an unfavorable report by the House Economic Matters Committee this week.

MACo opposed HB 1368 as journeymen and other local classes of electricians would effectively lose their local ability to perform services. Counties also believe their local electrical boards are best situated to oversee and discipline electricians working within their jurisdictions.

Prior coverage on Conduit Street: MACo: Don’t Remove Local Electrical Licensing Authority

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2017 legislative session here.

 

MACo: Allow Maryland-Based Breweries at OCCC Tasting Events

MACo Policy Associate Kevin Kinnally testified in favor of legislation (SB 1102) that would authorize a limited-scope license for beer and wine tastings at the Ocean City Convention Center, for certain events that promote Maryland-based products.

MACo’s testimony states,

For the last four years, MACo has offered a “Taste of Maryland” reception as part of its annual summer conference in Ocean City. The event has grown to nearly 1,000 guests, and has gained popularity as a venue for our jurisdictions to showcase their many food and drink options. The event is a “sampling” event, where small portions of food, snacks, and wine have proven very popular with attendees who may not otherwise learn about the many offerings from across Maryland.

Current liquor laws apparently do not allow this event to feature Maryland-brewed beer in the same fashion as wine, and this has kept local breweries from participating in this once-a-year event. SB 1102 does not seek to upend the overall balance the General Assembly has struck regarding the two industries, but simply seeks to afford the same opportunity to showcase beer and wine at this limited type of event. SB 1102 only applies to events at the Ocean City Convention Center (itself a license holder), and only for events promoting Maryland products for “tasting” purposes.

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2017 legislative session here.

‘Airbnb’ Regulation Bill Snagged in Senate Committee

A bill to require short term rentals, such as Airbnb, and individuals who hosts on those platforms to be registered with the Comptroller and regulated hit a road block in the Senate Finance Committee on Friday. It is unlikely to make it out of committee.

The Baltimore Sun reports:

Members of the Senate Finance Committee expressed little interest in passing a bill during a work group meeting on the issue Friday afternoon.

They’re considering a bill that would require short-term rentals posted on websites like Airbnb, HomeAway and FlipKey to file paperwork with the state, pay state sales taxes and pay local hotel taxes.

After a couple hours of discussion, committee chairman Sen. Thomas “Mac” Middleton said it seems that the General Assembly may best be suited only to deal with the issue of state sales taxes. The state Comptroller’s Office already has taken the position that short-term property rentals through websites are subject to the state sales tax.

Local governments are better suited to deal with making sure their local hotel taxes are collected, Middleton said. Local hotel taxes range from 3 percent to 9.5 percent.

MACo participated in Friday’s work group and had supported the bill in question, SB 463, with amendments.

Read The Baltimore Sun for more information.

Prior coverage on Conduit Street:

MACo Backs Regulation of Short Term Rentals Protects Local Autonomy

Airbnb Bill Ignites Debate Between Old Regulations and New Economies

MACo testimony on SB 463.

MACo Opposes Local Permitting & Registration Restrictions for Security Systems

MACo Associate Director, Natasha Mehu, recently testified in opposition to legislation (HB 1271 and SB 952) that would severely restrict a local government’s ability to regulate security system and monitoring companies. These restrictions weaken compliance with local codes, erode public safety protections, and overburden local resources

MACo’s testimony states,

PERMITTING
HB 1271 requires local governments to follow a universal permitting and notification system for low-voltage security systems. It also requires that these permits be available for bulk purchase without specifying the project. Currently, companies must comply with any local low-voltage electrical permitting requirements. These permits help to ensure that for each project the work to be performed is up to local code and performed by individuals properly licensed to do so within the jurisdiction.

REGISTRATIONS
HB 1271 also prohibits a local government from requiring a security system contractor or a monitoring agency to register customers and sets limits on the ability to penalize companies that fail to do so. Accurate registration is an important safety and resource management tool for local governments. It is the only way for a county to know who the customers are, which companies are servicing them, and whether all parties are complying with the local laws. As the company contracts directly with the customer, they are in the best position to ensure that the customer is properly registered. Counties do not have the ability to track down who the customer is to enforce registration. Failure of a customer to be registered often only comes to light once an alarm has been set off and local police are notified.

FALSE ALARMS
Because of the crucial role contractors and monitoring agencies play in the registration and enforcement process, local governments would almost certainly suffer an increase in false alarm calls under this bill. False alarms are a significant drain on local law enforcement resources. Each false alarm call takes officers away from addressing true public safety needs. When customers are properly registered with the county, police are quickly able to get into contact with them so that any problems can be fixed before there are more false alarms and resources drained responding to them.

Meredith Wivell, Mid Atlantic Chapter President from the False Alarm Reduction Association and Alberto Hook, Director of the False Alarm Reduction Section in Montgomery County, joined Ms. Mehu on a panel in opposition to this bill. HB 1271 was heard by the House Economic Matters Committee on March 6 and SB 952 was heard by the Senate Finance Committee on March 9, 2017.

Joining Ms. Mehu to testify on SB 952:

  • Meredith Wivell, Mid Atlantic Chapter President, False Alarm Reduction Association
  • Steve Thomas, Division Chief Commercial Building Construction, Montgomery County
  • Alberto Hook, Director, False Alarm Reduction Section, Montgomery County Police Department
  • Steven Heggemann, Manager, Alarm Reduction Section, Baltimore County
  • Thomas Waugh, Chief of Special Investigations Unit, Baltimore City Housing
  • Brad Shipp, False Alarm Reduction Association

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2017 legislative session here.

MACo: Don’t Remove Local Electrical Licensing Authority

MACo Associate Director, Natasha Mehu, recently testified in opposition to legislation (HB 1368) that would remove all electrical licensing authority from local jurisdictions by 2020 and would establish a statewide licensing framework for master electricians. By doing this, journeymen and other local classes of electricians would effectively lose their local ability to perform services.

MACo’s testimony states,

While all but two counties (Allegany and Garrett) license master electricians, there are five counties (Calvert, Charles, Harford, Montgomery, and Prince George’s) that license journeyman electricians. There are also a number of other local licensed classes of electricians including general, limited or restricted, and apprenticeships. As the bill removes all licensing authority for local jurisdictions, journeymen and other local classes of electricians would effectively lose their local ability to perform services. The bill contains no comparable state license system or exemptions for these other classes of electricians. These electricians would now have to meet the more rigorous standards necessary to obtain a statewide master electricians license in order to continue to provide their limited level of services.

Furthermore, local electrical boards are best situated to oversee and discipline electricians working within their jurisdictions. Counties appreciate that the bill retains some ability for local boards to regulate electricians through a registration systems. However, for proper enforcement action it is important for counties to be able to restrict, suspend, or revoke a state license holder’s right to perform electrical services in that jurisdiction.

Brad Shipp from the Maryland Burglar & Firearm Association and Steve Thomas, from Montgomery County’s Division of Commercial Building Construction joined Ms. Mehu on a panel in opposition to this bill.

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2017 legislative session here.

MACo Supports Streamlining Store License Fees

MACo’s Associate Director, Barbara Zektick, testified in the House Economic Matters committee on February 28 in favor of HB 859, streamlining trader’s and chain store license fees with a flat fee. MACo suggested two amendments: one to make the fees equal in all counties, and one to help out small businesses which may see an increase in fees under the bill.

From MACo’s testimony:

MACo supports this bill, which streamlines a dated fee structure and relieves businesses of the requirement to undertake burdensome processes to determine applicability of the appropriate license fee.

While Baltimore City and Baltimore County have successfully updated their fee structures in recent years, most counties have not changed their trader’s fees to accommodate for inflation in several decades. As such, MACo respectfully requests that the Committee amend this bill to set one fee for all counties and municipalities, making the fee $325 in all jurisdictions. This further simplifies the bill and ensures that businesses are treated equally in all areas of the state.

Counties would support an additional amendment which sought to hold harmless small businesses which pay lower fees than $325 under existing law. Should a small business opt to conduct an inventory of its stock-in-trade to affirmatively prove that its fee should remain the same as it has been under existing law, counties would be willing to accept the lower fee in an effort to ensure that those smaller businesses did not have to shoulder the burden of paying higher fees as a result of the improvements made under this bill.

Airbnb Bill Ignites Debate Between Old Regulations and New Economies

The general assembly is grappling with a bill intended to tax and regulate short-term rental companies, such as Airbnb, in a manner similar to that of traditional hotels and bed and breakfasts.

This bill is but one of many that lawmakers across the nation are considering that challenge whether old regulations can be imposed on businesses within the burgeoning sharing economy or whether new approaches are necessary.

The Baltimore Sun reports:

As state lawmakers debate how to regulate short-term rentals, the mismatched portraits underscore one of the challenges that regulators face: how to make the old tools, long used to regulate traditional enterprises, fit new business models.

Maryland lawmakers have passed bills in recent years to clarify rules for online travel sites and the rideshare app Uber. They’re looking at Airbnb and a more aggressive online sales tax collection this year. The state’s Office of Food Protection is looking into questions around new meal and food delivery services. Federal authorities are studying online lending.

Airbnb, like Uber and other firms in the so-called sharing economy, is powered by a shifting crowd of independent contractors, such as the people who testified last week. They use online platforms to connect to consumers — in the case of Airbnb, travelers looking for accommodations — and the corporation takes a piece of any transaction.

Michael Sanderson, the executive director of the Maryland Association of Counties, sees the back-and-forth over Airbnb in the tradition of wrangling over corporate regulations to keep up with technology.

But he said the dynamics of Uber and Airbnb — which have not been shy about mobilizing users to their side — have changed the flavor of debates.

Earlier changes were “sort of corporate versus corporate,” he said. “A lot of this is individual- and small-business- and citizen-driven.”

MACo supported the bill in question, SB 463, with amendments. Counties support reasonable regulation of short-term rentals in the interest of protecting the safety and welfare of their communities. However, they also wish to ensure that any regulatory scheme is developed without unintended consequences that may undermine the benefits and prevent the industry from continuing to thrive.

For more information read the full article in The Baltimore Sun

MACo Backs Regulation of Short-Term Rentals, Protects Local Autonomy

MACo Associate Director Natasha Mehu and MML Director of Government Relations Candace Donoho jointly testified in support with amendments on Senate Bill 463, “Business Regulation – Limited Residential Lodging,” before the Senate Finance and Budget and Taxation Committees on February 22, 2017.

The bill is an effort to regulate the burgeoning market of short-term residential rental arrangements through online intermediaries.  Counties support regulation of the limited residential lodging industry to protect the safety and welfare of their communities, but wish to ensure that any regulatory scheme is developed without unintended consequences that may undermine the benefits.

Specifically, the bill should be amended to ensure that the regulations are not overly burdensome on residents that serve as hosts. The record-keeping obligations and penalties are onerous and could prevent residents from hosting. This may be particularly acute for casual hosts who do not rent out their properties or rooms on a frequent basis. Likewise, the sprinkler requirement, which has been a controversial issue for rural counties in recent years, presents an additional hurdle for hosts.

From MACo testimony:

Counties across the state are currently studying and grappling with how to regulate short-term rentals in the best interest of their diverse and distinct communities. Local governments are best situated to address the specific needs of their communities – particularly in regards to public health, public safety, and zoning matters that have long been within their purview. Accordingly, the bill should be amended to expressly protect the authority of local governments to enact local laws concerning the regulation of short-term rentals and to prevent against state preemption.

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2017 legislative session here.

The Next Generation of the Apprentice

Apprenticeships have always been a way to provide on-the-job training for people who want to work in the skilled trades; like a carpenter or electrician.

Not so much for IT, until now.

According to WYPR,

Steve Grega, for example, has bounced around a lot of jobs in the IT industry, including computer retail, for more than 20 years. Now he has an apprenticeship with UTX, a tech company based in Cockeysville. He says he went for it because he was tired of hopping from one contract to another.

“You have a contract, it can be one week at company ‘X’ and not have anything for three or four weeks before they put you in for six months at company ‘Y,’” he said. “I’ve gotten to the point that jumping around is not really conducive to what I want to do any more.”

Grega’s apprenticeship is a full-time job with a lot of training – at least 144 hours of classroom time – and mentorship. He will even get a raise if he meets certain goals.

One recent morning Grega was listening to Iris Gold – an event designer with Zeffert and Gold Catering in Woodlawn – describe a problem she was having with her machine. Not a furnace, but the computer on her desk.

“It was kind of like a gasping out of the back; like it was trying to play catch up,” Gold said.

It was one of the rare times that he had to fix a problem on site. Most of the time; he’s solves problems over the internet.

Grega’s apprenticeship was arranged through Northeast Baltimore-based TranZed Apprentice Services, a company modeled after 3aaa, an outfit based in the United Kingdom that provides non-traditional apprenticeships.

TranZed grew out of President Obama’s call for expanding apprenticeships into non-traditional fields like IT and cyber-security.

The company partnered with The Children’s Guild after the guild expressed an interest in expanding its educational mission.

Kimberly Neal, president of TranZed, says they were able to take their first apprentices in November after a change in state regulations.

“We’ve had to work with the government and the legal system to actually amend COMAR to expand apprenticeships and allow us to bring forth this offering,” she said.

State Labor Secretary Kelly Schulz says the change in law began in 2015 when the legislature approved creating pilot youth apprenticeships for STEM careers.

“We took that opportunity with the youth apprenticeship program to really start to talk and advocate for those types of non-traditional apprenticeship programs in the registered apprenticeship program in what we would consider more of an adult traditional style program,” she said.

Schulz says the possibilities for non-traditional apprenticeships are endless. Based on her department’s website, you can start apprenticeships in Maryland for illustrator, medical assistant; even journalism.

“It really is what the industries, the businesses, the workforce system is craving is that combination between your academic and your learning environment and the on the job training.”

For companies like UTX, apprentice services offered by TransZed save time.

UTX President Ed Podowski says he was able to hire his first apprentice – Steve Grega – in two to three hours; calling the process easy compared to what he did before.

“If I’m hiring one person, I’m going to spend 10 to 20 hours going through interviews. I get 50 applications; 50 resumes,” he says. “I have to look through all of those. I have to have either myself or have someone call references; I have to do the first interviews.”

Read the full article for more information.