Garrett County Government - Department of Business Development

Chamber of Commerce Presents Legislative Agenda

Last Updated on Jan 8, 2020 at 10:49am | Garrett County Economic Development

Article courtesy of NCWV Media - The Republican. Staff Writer: Renee Shreve.
 
 
The Garrett County Chamber of Commerce recently announced its 2020 legislative agenda for the 441st Maryland General Assembly session, which convenes in Annapolis on Wednesday.
 
“As the voice of business, we will advocate for these priorities, monitor legislative activities of the Maryland General Assembly and keep our members informed of issues that may impact them,” the chamber notes in its published agenda.
 
It focuses on such issues as business climate, tourism, economic and community development, education, healthcare and infrastructure.
 
The agenda was adopted by the chamber’s elected board of directors, following much input from the Legislative Affairs Committee.
 
“The chamber’s Legislative Affairs Committee spends several months discussing what issues to include in the agenda and which ones to make our top priorities,” Chairman Steve Green said in a press release.
 
The chamber’s top five priorities this year are:
 

Participation in association health plans:

 
“The Garrett County Chamber supports small business participation in association health plans to lower costs of health insurance and requests that the legislature amend the Maryland Healthcare Access Act of 2018 to remove language prohibiting small businesses from including their owners, employees and families as part of the larger pool of employees in an AHP,” the chamber notes in its agenda.
 
The issue was also a chamber priority during the 2019 General Assembly.
 
“The whole reasoning behind an association health plan is it does lower the cost for those businesses,” chamber President/CEO Nicole Christian said during a local prelegislative meeting last year. “It spreads out the risk over lots of employees, and it’s not limited to just that small business.”
 
According to the local chamber, at least 12 states allow associations to offer AHPs: Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
 
In addition, an estimated 400,000 individuals who lack insurance will join an AHP by 2023.
 

Unnecessary workplace regulation:

 
“The General Assembly should oppose any new unnecessary business regulations that impede business growth and interfere with legitimate business operations,” the chamber’s agenda states.
 
The group wants to preserve employers’ abilities to manage their workers and create environments to expand through fewer regulations, including the Family and Medical Leave Act and creation of an FMLA insurance fund.
 
“For Maryland to be competitive in the global economy, we need to create a world class business climate that supports business instead of placing unnecessary regulations on employers,” the chamber notes.
 
The group also plans to oppose additional increases in the minimum wage and sales tax expansion.
 

Appropriation for Deep Creek Lake dredging:

 
“The state, as the owner of Deep Creek Lake, must fulfill its responsibilities to preserve and maintain the largest inland body of water in Maryland,” the chamber agenda notes. “That includes dredging the coves that have silted in and are reducing the recreational use of the lake.”
 
The chamber plans to request that $1 million in the state’s fiscal year 2021 operating budget be allocated to fund a pilot dredging project at Arrowhead Cove.
 
The chamber also plans to advocate for continuation of the county cooperative marketing grant program, maintaining tourism promotion and Heritage Areas funding and support for Mountain Maryland recreational trails.
 

Additional funding to the State Lakes Protection and Restoration Fund:

 
During the 2018 legislative session, lawmakers approved an annual allocation of $1 for a three-year period for the fund. The local chamber contends this is a “grossly inadequate” amount in order for Maryland to uphold its responsibilities to all 16 state-owned lakes.
 
“As the owner of these lakes, the state must allocate funding for the protection programs, restoration and remediation projects to sustain these important natural resources for future generations,” the chamber states in its agenda.
 

Oppose mandated increases of local-share education funding:

 
“The Garrett County Chamber of Commerce supports a quality education for all Maryland students but implores the legislature to not increase the mandated local share of funding to public schools as recommended by the Kirwan Commission, and to fully vet the Kirwan recommendations before implementation,” the chamber states.
 
The group notes Garrett County would have to implement a 25% property tax increase to cover the commission’s current recommendations.
“That is absolutely not feasible and completely unreasonable,” the chamber states.
 
The group also voiced support for equity in capital project funding for local schools, support for community colleges and expansion of open education resources funding.
 
“The legislature will consider more than 2,000 pieces of legislation, and our local business do not have time to review every bill,” Christian said. “The chamber will track legislation and provide periodic updates on bills and hearings throughout the session via our General Assembly Update electronic newsletter.”
 
The chamber’s complete 2020 legislative agenda is available online at visitdeepcreek.com/pages/Legislative.