Business community lays out legislative priorities for upcoming Md. General Assembly session
MARYLAND – The 2022 Maryland General Assembly session is quickly approaching, and legislators are busy preparing. The business community also has some priorities going into the session. Business leaders say there are multiple factors playing into their continued success and expansion.
President of the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce Bill Chambers says as we’re still in the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic, the business community needs support from lawmakers. “Workforce, broadband, new employer mandates. Let’s take a time out right now in the 2022 General Assembly session, and stop chasing businesses out of Maryland,” he said.
Expanding Internet Access
Chambers says he’s hoping to see legislation that would strengthen broadband infrastructure in rural communities. “Let’s take advantage of these opportunities where companies are looking for places to do business that are away from urban centers. But, they need infrastructure,” he said.
Local lawmakers say they’re planning on tackling broadband in Annapolis. Delegate Wayne Hartman says the issue has been, and continues to be a big ticket item in the State House. “We learned a lot about the need and importance of it through the pandemic. That’s certainly a top priority for the entire delegation,” he said.
Keeping Up With Energy Goals
Business leaders say they’re also worried about the planned phase-out of certain types of energy, like fossil fuels and natural gas. “That would unbelievably painful for a lot of businesses, homeowners, and individuals. Is it something we can do over time? Yes. But, in the time frame they’re talking about? Probably not,” said president of the Dorchester Chamber of Commerce Bill Christopher.
Delegate Carl Anderton says he’s also keeping close tabs on the shift toward renewable energy, and how it might financially impact Marylanders. “Whatever we can do to make costs lower, not only for homeowners, but for businesses when it comes to generation of electricity, those savings can be passed on,” he said.
Preparing For Paid Leave
Christopher says another key item is making sure businesses are prepared for any passage of paid family medical leave legislation. “It would create a lot of spending for administration and overhead that won’t really help anybody,” he said.
That legislation could involve requiring employers and their workers to contribute to a pool of money provided on leave. “It’s another burden on employers. This would be a pay cut to employees because now they’re taking a piece of their check and putting it into a larger pool,” said Chambers.
Some lawmakers also share concerns over paid family medical leave. “It’s not always about legislation that we’re going to be introducing for the business community. Sometimes it’s about legislation that we’re able to fight or make better,” said Del. Hartman. “I just think right now, with COVID-19 and everything, to put any additional strain on our businesses just wouldn’t make sense. It wouldn’t be fair to them.”
Something else Christopher wants to see addressed is expanding access to child care. “We need day care for the kids to get those parents back to work. We need to be looking at incentives for getting people to go into programs and providing it,” he said.
Getting People Back To Work
Perhaps the most pressing issue is getting people back on the job. “The workforce is changing. Record numbers of people quit their jobs in November. We need to adjust, and we need the state and the Department of Commerce to make these adjustments,” said Chambers.
Chambers adds that an important component of that would be getting students prepared for the workforce through training programs. “The community colleges are nimble enough to turn on a dime and adapt to whatever workforce challenges we have region by region through Maryland,” he said.
Bolstering job creation amid the COVID-19 pandemic will be a big ticket item on the House floor, according to Del. Hartman. “I think we need to be advocates for career and technology, help funding that training to get people back to the workforce, and well-paying jobs. I think there’s a ton of opportunity to that,” he said.
Del. Anderton adds that the steps people take after obtaining employment are equally as important. He says that’s why he’s hoping to work on legislation that would require financial literacy for high school graduation. “Not only is getting a job important, it’s what you do with your money when you get it. That’s where financial literacy plays a big role in this,” said Del. Anderton.