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.

MACo Opposes Prevailing Wages on Public Construction TIF Bond Projects

MACo Associate Director Barbara Zektick testified in opposition of legislation (SB 870) which would require payment of prevailing wages on construction contracts receiving any funds from tax increment financing (TIF) bond proceeds. Counties are concerned that this bill will drive up costs of public infrastructure projects, stifle use of a demonstrably successful economic development tool, and squeeze out small businesses from participating in infrastructure construction projects.

MACo’s testimony states that the bill,

unfairly applies prevailing wage requirements to certain projects receiving TIF bond proceeds when those projects would not otherwise have to comply even if financed with other public funds.

…this bill will significantly raise costs for development projects funded with TIF bonds. If costs are raised over and above what the development will return in future tax revenues, the county will not issue the TIF because it is not economically viable. This generally prevents the development from occurring, sacrificing blight elimination, job creation, targeted economic development, and growth to the taxable base.

Under existing law, prevailing wages are required on public works contracts valued at $500,000 or more. However, the only threshold in SB 870 is the amount of the TIF bond, applying the wage requirements to any contract funded with a TIF bond valued at $500,000 or higher. It is extremely unlikely that a local government would issue a TIF bond of less than this amount. Therefore, the bill would require payment of prevailing wages for virtually any construction project receiving TIF funds, regardless of the size of the contract or scope of the project. This extremely broad scope unfairly applies higher-than-market wage requirements to projects in TIF districts where these terms would not apply to public works contracts in any other situations.

At the hearing, Senator Stephen Hershey asked why the state would establish a mandate for how TIF money must be spent, if counties created the TIF districts, constructed the deals, issued the bonds and financed the projects with county property tax revenues. MACo further emphasized that counties already have the ability to require prevailing wages in TIF projects on a case by case basis  – and it should remain this way.

This bill was heard by the Senate Finance committee on March 16.

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.

Allegany Commissioners Appoint Barclay to Lead Economic Development Department

On March 9, 2017, the Allegany County Commissioners formally appointed Jeffrey S. Barclay to serve as the next Director of the county’s Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD).

Jeffrey Barclay, Courtesy of Allegany County Government

According to the press release,

Barclay has been serving as the Acting Director of the department since November of 2016 following a re-organization of the department. “We are very excited for our county and Jeff,” commented Jake Shade, County Commission President. “He is a talented individual who has a proven track record of achieving results. This attribute is critically important for our community going forward,” continued Shade.

“Jeff not only has proven himself in the area of project development, but also has honed his problem-solving skills which is essential for a small department such as ours,” commented County Administrator David A. Eberly.

Barclay has been employed by Allegany County since May of 2001 and has been part of the DECD since 2007. In 2014, Barclay was promoted to the position of Economic Development Specialist, where he has served as a project ombudsman and facilitator for various private development projects. During the last two years, Barclay has been responsible for supporting the investment of 20 million dollars in economic development activity ranging from hotel to commercial retail redevelopment, to large scale product distribution. Barclay was named WCBC Person of the Year 2015 for his leadership role in overseeing the recent boom in economic development activities.

MACo Supports Business Tax Incentives; Concerned With Restrictive Jurisdiction Participation

MACo Associate Director, Barbara Zektick, submitted written testimony to amend legislation (SB 796) which creates a tax incentive program to encourage businesses to locate and expand in several jurisdictions suffering economic stresses. MACo is concerned with restricting jurisdictions from participation, along with the possibility that the program could result in businesses relocating inside the state.

MACo’s testimony provides suggestions for the bill’s amendments:

Expand Program Participation to “Distressed Areas” In Any Jurisdiction
Economic growth, regardless of the region of the state, has statewide benefits. Instead of limiting participation, program criteria should enable all local jurisdictions to participate. However, counties appreciate that incentives should be targeted in areas experiencing distress or otherwise necessitating investment. As such, MACo supports efforts to ensure that benefits under the program are provided in areas targeted for economic investment, as identified by the Department of Commerce in consultation with county governments.

Limit the Tax Incentives to Businesses Newly Moving Into or Expanding Within the State
The special incentives provided by this program are potentially lucrative, and could result in businesses relocating from one part of the state to another. To prohibit this from occurring, the program should apply only to businesses newly locating into Maryland, or to those launching substantial expansions in the state – not to those who may relocate intrastate.

SB 796 was heard by the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee on March 7, 2017.

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2017 Legislative Session here.

Maryland is #8 in Best States Rankings

U.S. News and World Report just announced that Maryland has ranked #8 of the best states in the nation to live. The report analyzed data in seven key areas – education, health care, infrastructure, economy, government, opportunity, and crime and corrections – to determine the state’s composite score.

A press release from Governor Larry Hogan noted,

In addition to ranking eighth overall, Maryland ranked among the top five states for education and opportunity, a metric that includes factors like income disparity and upward mobility, as well as having the second-lowest poverty rate in the nation, and the highest household income.

“Maryland has made tremendous strides in turning our economy around, improving education, and working to ensure that every single Marylander has the opportunity to succeed,” said Governor Larry Hogan. “We have made incredible progress over the past two years, but there is still more work to do to continue making Maryland the very best place to live, work, raise a family, and retire.”

Click here to read the report and view the complete list of rankings.

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.

Counties Support Increased Control Over Use of Local Roads

MACo Associate Director, Barbara Zektick, provided written testimony in support of Senate Bill 640, “Municipalities and Counties – Local Roads – Regulation of Travel by Heavy-Weight Vehicles,” before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on February 22, 2017.  MACo provided written testimony on cross-filed House Bill 930 to the Environment and Transportation Committee on February 21, 2017.

The bill would authorize certain counties to regulate and permit heavy-weight vehicles on their own roads. It amends existing law (Local Government Article, Section 12-527) which addresses Allegany, Baltimore, Calvert, Carroll, Cecil, Frederick, Garrett, Harford, Howard, Montgomery, Prince George’s, St. Mary’s and Washington Counties.

From MACo testimony:

As counties continue to suffer the repercussions of devastating cutbacks to their highway user revenues, it becomes increasingly important for local governments to have control over their roads to prevent them from falling into a state of irreversible disrepair. When heavy-weight vehicles continue to repeatedly use local roads instead of state and interstate highways, they compromise the integrity of infrastructure oftentimes not built to accommodate such traffic on a regular basis. When left unregulated, heavy-weight traffic can cause extraordinary damage to local roads and any utilities existing underneath or adjacent to them. This problem is only exacerbated by the fact that local governments lack access to any significant portion of transportation revenues to fund maintenance of their roadway networks.

Both House and Senate bill sponsors introduced amendments to make the bill applicable to Garrett County only. 

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

MACo Strongly Endorses Restoring Highway User Revenues

MACo Associate Director, Barbara Zektick, provided written testimony in support of House Bill 552, “Transportation – Motor Fuel Tax and Highway User Revenue – Increased Local Share,” to the House Environment and Transportation Committee on February 23, 2017.

This bill restores highway user revenues to local governments, ensures that new gas tax revenues resulting from Chapter 429 of 2013 are shared equitably with local governments, and amends the Maryland Constitution to prevent depletion of highway user revenues from local governments in the future. This bill will supply desperately needed revenue to repair and maintain local roads and bridges.

From MACo testimony:

It is unquestionable that local governments maintain the lion’s share of the roads and bridges in our state. Unlike most other states, in Maryland, local governments own and maintain 83% of the roads. Even recognizing that state arterials have more lanes than local roads do, local governments still own and maintain 77% of the lane miles in Maryland. Every resident depends on local roadways. Highway user revenues fund roads and bridges throughout our entire state, through an equitable, time-tested formula based on road mileage and vehicle registrations. This touches the roads our kids ride to school, the roads our first responders travel to keep us safe, and the roads where we all live.

Support MACo’s #Lift4MD initiative!

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

MACo Resists Effort to Limit Local Authority to Address Nuisances

MACo Associate Director, Natasha Mehu, provided testimony in opposition to Senate Bill 214, “Local Government – Public Nuisances – Restrictions on Padlock Laws,” before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on February 2, 2017.

Counties are concerned that SB 214 prohibits them from enacting or enforcing local padlock laws unless the local law provides a hearing before a circuit court judge without the owner of the premises being required to request one first. This limits local government’s ability to address public nuisances in a timely and efficient manner.

Local governments are in the best position to address public safety and health nuisances that threaten the residents of their communities. They have longstanding statutory authority to prevent, abate, and remove these nuisances in the public interest. Local padlock laws afford county governments the ability to address chronic public nuisances. But a temporary closure is typically the end of a substantial series of actions.

From MACo testimony:

Governments do not take this power lightly. Local laws contain notice, hearing, and appeals procedures. Hearings are often administrative in nature, but overall the process in some jurisdictions may involve public participation or the opportunity for judicial review. Action is not taken without thorough consideration and property owners are afforded an opportunity for appeal. Requiring the circuit court to review a nuisance complaint before any action can be taken can cause delays in responding to threats to community and removes the local knowledge and discretion in effectively addressing the concerns of their residents.

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