On June 29, 2022, the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors held a virtual forum for the three major candidates running for the Montgomery County Executive.
On June 16, 2022, the MCCC Legislative Affairs Committee and the MCCC Economic Development Committee, meeting jointly, received an economic development and business climate briefing from Montgomery County Council Vice President Evan Glass.
Council Vice President Glass, who is finished his second term as an At-Large Councilmember, talked about a number of issues relevant to the business community in Montgomery County. They included his support for Thrive Montgomery 2050, which is an update to the County’s planning policy document. Council Vice President Glass also discussed issues such as transit oriented development, housing diversity, and climate change policies.
On Tuesday, June 14, 2022, the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce’s Infrastructure and Land Use Committee met with Delegate Marc Korman. Delegate Korman represents District 16 in Montgomery County and is Chair of the Montgomery County House Delegation of the Maryland General Assembly. He is also Chair of the House Appropriations Committee’s Transportation & the Environment Subcommittee, giving him a great deal of responsibility for infrastructure and transportation policy for the State of Maryland.
Delegate Korman shared his expertise on a variety of issues, including the federal infrastructure bill and what is means for Maryland. He also discussed priority transportation legislation during the recently completed 2022 Legislative Session, including legislation that requires the Maryland Transit Administration to establish individual investment programs to advance the Maryland Area Regional Commuter (MARC) Cornerstone Plan and other MARC improvements.
MCCC's Economic Development Committee Receives Tax Season Briefing by Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot
On March 2, 2022, MCCC's Economic Development Committee received a briefing from Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot. Comptroller Franchot, a former Montgomery County member of the House of Delegates, told MCCC members that Maryland's tax filing deadline was moved 90 days to July 15, 2022. The Comptroller said moving the date helps small businesses by essentially providing a short-term loan to taxpayers.
Comptroller Franchot also discussed the State of Maryland's budget surplus. He urged policymakers to commit $2B to the Rainy Day Fund to buffer the State from future economic downturns. He also suggested that $1B be committed to infrastructure projects, $2B for low-wage Marylanders, $500 million for childcare, and $500 million to small businesses.
Infrastructure and Land Use Committee Briefing: Briefing by Paul Wiedefeld, General Manager and Chief Executive Officer of the Washington Area Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA)
On February 8, 2022, the MCCC Infrastructure and Land Use Committee was joined by Paul Wiedefeld, General Manager and Chief Executive Officer of the Washington Area Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA). Mr. Wiedefeld, who has led WMATA since 2015, announced he is retiring in July.
Committee Co-Chairs Gus Bauman (Beveridge & Diamond PC) and Bob Elliott (Lantian Development) wished him well in his future endeavors. Mr. Wiedefeld does not know what comes next, but he plans to continue contributing in some capacity.
In his briefing to the Committee, Mr. Wiedefeld said that a top priority over the last two years is keeping Metro’s workforce safe, including vaccination or proof of testing for all Metro employees. Metro has a 93% vaccination rate and nearly 100% compliance with Metro’s requirements. Regarding ridership, Metro has seen a gradual return, but not to pre-pandemic levels. Ridership has also been disrupted by service interruptions. Metro will continue to encourage a return to ridership and is considering new fare initiatives as an incentive.
Mr. Wiedefeld closed his remarks by discussing several challenges and opportunities facing Metro, including the acknowledgement that the pandemic has changed travel patterns and the current financial model is no longer sustainable. Metro also needs to grapple with equity issues and their relation to quality transit services, including the delivery of an affordable and seamless network of bus and rail transit services that benefits all.
Economic Development Committee Briefing by Maryland Labor & Industry Commissioner Matthew S. Helminiak
MCCC’s Economic Development Committee met on February 2, 2022 and received a briefing from the Maryland Department of Labor’s Commissioner of Labor and Industry, Matthew S. Helminiak. Commissioner Helminiak has oversight over the division that plays the vital role of providing and protecting a healthy, safe, and equitable workplace for Maryland businesses.
The presentation covered:
He also provided a review of legislation his division is following during the 2022 legislation session of the Maryland General Assembly, including a bill to increase the minimum wage. The minimum wage in Maryland, following an increase on January 1, 2022, rises to $12.50 per hour for employers with 15 or more employees and $12.20 for employers with less than 15 employees.
Finally, Commissioner Helminiak provided an overview of the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act, which went into effect February 11, 2018 and requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide one hour of paid sick and safe leave for every 30 hours that an employee works. For smaller employers, the requirement is one hour of unpaid sick and safe leave for every 30 hours that an employee works.
MCCC’s Legislative Affairs Committee held a meeting on October 14, 2021, where they were joined by Maryland Delegate Kathleen Dumais. Delegate Dumais represents District 15 in Montgomery County and is the Vice-Chair of the House Economic Matters Committee.
Delegate Dumais, a member of the House Cannabis Referendum and Legalization Workgroup, provided a briefing on the expected efforts by the Maryland General Assembly to legalize the use of recreational cannabis. This topic is one of the issues that will dominate the news cycle during the upcoming 2022 Legislative Session.