John Stierhoff Introduces the 2013 Legislative Session

Posted Date: 
January 7, 2013

 

John Stierhoff Meets with Josh Bokee, Gigi Godwin, and Chamber Members

Legistlative Affairs Committee Vice-Chair Josh Bokee welcomed MCCC members and introduced guest John Stierhoff from Venable, LLP to discuss key issues being addressed during the coming legislative session.

Mr. Stierhoff covered a wide range of issues facing the state legislature in the coming 90 days of session. He began with a summary of the status of the economy and the facts facing the general assembly as they prepare to draft a state budget for the next fiscal year. The budget, which is estimated at being set around $37 billion, was being considered through optimistic lens up until the federal “fiscal cliff” issue. Given Maryland’s proximity to the nation’s capital and close business connection with the federal government there are concerns about how spending cuts can affect job growth in Montgomery County and throughout the state. He touched on other topics concerning the Maryland economy such as a proposed increase in the minimum wage and corporate tax decreases designed to keep the state a competitive business location.

One of the predicted focal points of this Governor O’Malley’s agenda for this legislative session is addressing transportation needs in the state. The governor hopes to achieve improved roadways and infrastructure to raise county government highway usage revenue and invest further in Maryland business ventures such as the attractive purple line addition to the Washington, D.C. metro and improved transportation around the newly approved casinos. There is also the pressing concern of maintenance, as 15% of bridges in the state are categorized as being in “critical condition.” Mr. Stierhoff shared his concern with the likelihood of big changes actually occurring due to finances; he explained that because of the lack of the required knowledgable leadership to advocate for Maryland transportation reform, as well as the general stigma against raising taxes, the issues facing infrastructure may persist through the year. Related to the topic of transportation is a proposed law requiring public works contractors to use “made in America” products for their projects.

Another big issue to be discussed during this session is the state health benefit exchange coming into effect under the new national healthcare reform. Mr. Stierhoff estimated that the state needs to find $35 million in additional funds to finance such a program, and solutions proposed include an increased tobacco tax or a 1% overall sales tax increase. Governor O’Malley seems to prefer the latter, but again because of the political fears of being spotlighted as a proponent of increased taxes, such proposals are unlikely to generate popular support. Also being discussed with regards to the topic of health benefits are an institutionalization of paid sick leave, which had been pioneered by San Francisco in 2007 and adopted by Connecticut this year.

Mr. Stierhoff addressed a number of social issues that will likely make their way to the floor of the general assembly, among which are the efforts to repeal the death penalty in the state; tightened gun control and increased investment in mental healthcare in the wake of recent gun violence, including whether police have the right to remove guns from an individual deemed “dangerous”; environmental ambitions by the governor including a reintroduction of the Wind Energy Bill, an expansion of the Montgomery County plastic bag tax, a ban on the sale of shark fins, and the status of the de facto moratorium on hydraulic fracturing operations in the state; and the Baltimore County Public School system’s request for long-term financial commitment from the general assembly to improve Maryland’s schools.

Mr. Stierhoff concluded by fielding questions on a number of issues facing the state legislature this coming season.   

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