2016 Maryland General Assembly Session- Busy and Productive
One of the major reasons for being a member of ABC is the assurance that we are fighting for your best interests at all levels of government. This was never more true than this year’s Legislative session in Annapolis.
A number of potentially devastating bills were defeated; some would have impacted all segments of the business community; others, would have just had an impact on the construction industry.
It was clear early on that a united business front was going to be necessary in pushing back against several popular proposals. The first was the mandated sick and safe leave. The bill went way beyond just providing sick leave to employees. As originally introduced, the bill would have applied to any business with 10 or more employees. Employers with 9 or less employees would have been required to provide unpaid sick and safe leave to its’ employees. If unused, the employee would have been able to carry over 56 hours and use up to 80 hours of earned sick and safe leave during the year. The accrual of this leave would be applicable only for employees working in Maryland. Imagine the administrative nightmare of keeping track of how many hours employees worked in Maryland. This would have been compounded by the fact that our members have employees working in the District of Columbia which has its own law regulating this activity and Montgomery County just passed a law which goes into effect this fall. Three times the problems. Prince George’s County may be next. One interesting exemption in the bill was that construction workers covered by a collective bargaining agreement would not have been impacted by the bill. Obviously, if the bill were to pass, ABC was lobbying hard to have this exemption deleted.
The good news is that the bill died on the last day of the session. Rumor is that it got a push from the Obama Administration which created a last minute flurry of activity in the Senate. ABC expects the bill to return again next year. Each year it gets a little closer to enactment.
A second bill lobbied by ABC and the business community was a “predictive scheduling” proposal. This bill would have impacted all businesses, but probably none more so than the construction industry. It would have required employers to provide their employees with their work schedules three weeks in advance. There is no way the construction industry would have been able to comply with this requirement. Weather alone would be a factor in employers violating this proposal. If a change in schedule were to occur within the three week window, employers would have been required to pay the affected employees “predictability pay” as a penalty for changing the schedule. Fortunately for all concerned, this bill went nowhere for the second year in a row. A large majority of the members of the General Assembly understood the impact this would have on business and its ability to operate in Maryland.
The final bill to be discussed is the Prevailing Wage Reform Act of 2016. Obviously, this bill would have impacted only contractors doing state work. The bill had three major provisions:
1} Reduce the threshold for prevailing wage projects from $500,000 to $25,000. The end result being that just about all state projects would be subject to prevailing wage.
2}Eliminate the current survey process for determining prevailing wage rates and replace it with the existing collective bargaining agreement rates for each trade.
3}Increase the liquidated damage penalties for employers violating this section of the law from $50 per day per employee to a staggering $1,000 per day per employee. This legislation was introduced in both the House and Senate and failed to get out of the assigned committees dealing with the bills. The House Economic Matters Committee voted unanimously to oppose the bill which was ultimately withdrawn. The Senate version of the bill never came up for a vote. A major victory for ABC.
ABC’s advocacy does not end with the General Assembly adjourns. We continue to be involved at the local level with Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties as well as the District of Columbia. In addition, state activities continue as well. There are two significant commissions now working to make recommendations on the school construction process and an overhaul of the state procurement process. ABC, through its Joint Legislative Committee, will be making recommendations on these and any other issues that pop up during the interim.