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Maryland Legislative Wrap-Up


2021 MARYLAND GENERAL ASSEMBLY WRAP-UP

REPORT TO MEMBERS

 

In the era of COVID-19, social distancing and virtual hearings, the Maryland General Assembly was still able to introduce over 2,300 bills.  ABC identified a list of bills that were given a priority status in terms of supporting or opposing. Here is a synopsis of these bills including ABC’s position and the final disposition of the bills.

SB 486/HB 581 -- Maryland Essential Workers Protection Act

With the introduction of the Maryland Essential Workers' Protection Act, SB 486/HB 581, Senator Malcolm Augustine (D – Prince George’s County) and Delegate Dereck Davis (D – Prince George’s County) proposed the most discussed and debated bill of the session. As introduced, the bill would have required employers of essential workers to do the following when any state or local state of emergency was declared, including the current state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic:

  1. pay a hazard wage, prospectively for the State’s current emergency and from the beginning of all other emergencies, of no less than $3 per hour for each pay period actually worked during an emergency to employees making less than $100,000 per year;
  2. assist with healthcare costs for employees with or without health coverage, including reimbursement and payment of copays, insurance premiums, and out of pocket costs or assistance with obtaining and paying for health insurance coverage;
  3. permit an employee to refuse to fulfill a responsibility that is required or encouraged by an essential employer, relating to an unsafe work environment;
  4. develop and enforce a Health Emergency Preparedness Plan, which must be submitted to local and state officials by December 31st of each year; including paid leave for emergency-related reasons;
  5. provide three (3) days of bereavement leave and 14 days of health leave, separate and distinct from the State’s currently mandated sick and safe leave; and
  6. report all positive cases of infectious diseases to the Maryland Department of Health (MDH) and inform workers who may have been exposed.

The bill received significant pushback from businesses of all sizes, including ABC. The legislature, after calling a joint legislative workgroup that included select opponents and proponents, hammered out and ultimately passed a more streamlined bill that requires employers of essential workers. as defined in a Governor’s declaration of a catastrophic health emergency to do the following:

  1. provide working conditions that comply with state and local safety standards;
  2. provide no-cost “safety equipment,” not necessarily PPE, to essential workers;
  3. pay for testing for the communicable disease that is the subject of the catastrophic health emergency, if not covered by the essential worker’s insurance, and notify other employees who may have been exposed to said communicable disease and MDH of an essential worker’s positive test;
  4. If the federal government or State provide funding for such, provide paid “public health emergency leave” of 112 hours for full-time (40 hours/per week), non-teleworking, essential workers or an amount of hours equivalent to the average of a typical four week period of a part time essential worker; and
  5. limit public health emergency leave to use for the following purposes: (a) to isolate without an order to do so because the essential worker has been diagnosed with the communicable disease that is the subject of the emergency or is experiencing associated symptoms; (b) to care for a family member who is isolating for the same reason; or (c) for related and specified public health and safety reasons.

The bill is an emergency measure and awaits the Governor’s consideration and signature.

 

HB 67/SB 843 -- I-495 and I-270 Public-Private Partnership - Partnership Agreement - Requirements (Maryland Department of Transportation Promises Act of 2021)

Delegate Marc Korman (D – Montgomery County) and Senator Joanne Benson (D - Prince George’s County) proposed HB 67/SB 843. The bill would have prohibited the Board of Public Works from approving a public-private partnership agreement for the I-495 and I-270 Public-Private Partnership Program unless the agreement includes: at least 10% of the toll revenue remaining after construction costs be deposited in a special fund to be used only for transit projects in accordance with a certain memoranda, and authorizes the public-private partnership agreement to require a bidder to agree to initiate a community benefit agreement. During the committee process, the House included a union-only Project Labor Agreement (PLA) to the bill. 

Although the bill received a favorable vote out of the House with the PLA amendment, ABC effectively lobbied the bill in the Senate and the measure died.

 

HB 1210 – Corporate Diversity - Board, Executive Leadership, and Mission

Speaker Adrienne Jones introduced HB 1210 to expand equity and ensure corporate diversity in Maryland. This legislation requires a business in the State to demonstrate either (1) diversity in its board or executive leadership or (2) support for “underrepresented communities” in its mission to qualify for State capital grants, tax credits, or contracts worth more than $1 million. The bill also requires the Department of Commerce (DOC) and the Governor’s Office of Small, Minority, and Women Business Affairs (GOSBA) to develop a State equity scorecard containing diversity data relating to corporate boards, leadership, and missions. The data compiled for this scorecard must include: (1) the membership of underrepresented communities in the entity’s board or executive leadership and (2) the support of underrepresented communities in the entity’s mission.

The bill tasks the DOC and GOSBA with adopting regulations to carry out the bill’s requirements, including compliance directives for State agencies and other entities. Additionally, HB 1210 requires a person who submits an annual report to the State Department of Assessments and Taxation (SDAT) to include this diversity data. Given this legislation's proactive nature, its measures do not apply to any application or claim for a contract, grant, or tax credit submitted before the bill’s effective date. Following the support of various stakeholders and the adoption of clarifying amendments in the Senate, the bill passed and will take effect on July 1, 2022.

ABC opposed HB 1210 and vigorously lobbied for the following amendments:

  • increase the $1 million threshold;
  • the bill should apply to publicly-traded corporations, not private/family owned companies;
  • eliminate the state equity scorecard; and
  • allow for minority representation on a private business’ Advisory Board.

The bill amended out sole proprietors, LLCs owned by a single owner and privately held companies where 75 percent or more of the board is family.   

 

HB 583/SB 414 - Climate Solutions Now Act of 2021

Senator Paul Pinsky (D - Prince George’s County) and Delegate Dana Stein (D - Baltimore) introduced HB 583/SB 414. This bill would require the State to reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions by 60% from 2006 levels by 2030; requiring the State to achieve net-zero statewide greenhouse gas emissions by 2045; and requiring the Maryland Department of Labor to adopt regulations establishing certain energy conservation requirements for certain buildings by July 1, 2022. 

In addition, the legislation would have established the Just Transition Employment and Retraining Working Group. The workgroup would have represented a broad mix of backgrounds, experiences and perspectives which includes educators, labor, environmental groups and employers.  As the largest organization in Maryland to represent commercial builders, and the largest provider in the State of multi-craft training programs, ABC submitted testimony and lobbied the Senate for a seat as the registered apprenticeship sponsors on the working group.

Ultimately, the Senate and the House could not agree on certain terms of this legislation, and the bill failed. Portions of this legislation did survive, however, as they were added on to other bills which passed both chambers. The sponsors of this legislation are expected to reintroduce similar legislation in 2022 with additional elements.

 

HB 923/SB 728 - Worker Safety and Health – Injury and Illness Prevention Program

Delegate Joseline A. Pena-Melnyk (D – Prince George’s County) and Senator Brian J. Feldman (D – Montgomery County) introduced HB 923/SB 728. This bill would have required employers with 10 or more employees, or whose rate of work-related injury and illness exceeds the average incidence rate of all industries in the State, to develop and implement a health and safety committee to promote health and safety in the workplace; requiring that the committee maintain certain records and retain the records for a certain period of time; and requiring each employer to establish and maintain an injury and illness prevention program. The bill failed to receive a favorable vote out of both the House and the Senate. If passed, this bill would have effectively charged non-management employees with management responsibilities and would have required them to make decisions on complex issues. For this reason, ABC testified in opposition to the bill.

 

SB 95/HB 174 - Public Utilities – Investor–Owned Utilities – Prevailing Wage

SB 95/HB 174, introduced and passed by Senator Benjamin Kramer (D – Montgomery County) and Delegate Benjamin Brooks (D – Baltimore County), requires investor-owned gas and/or electric utilities to require contractors and subcontractors to pay their employees at least the applicable prevailing wage rate when working on projects involving the construction, reconstruction, installation, demolition, restoration, or alteration of any underground gas or electric infrastructure of the company, and any related traffic control activities. The fiscal note advised that though affected project costs will increase by between 2% and 5% overall, the bill is not anticipated to materially affect utility rates, although there is likely some upward pressure over time due to increased costs for underground utility projects. The bill takes effect October 1, 2021. ABC opposed HB 174.  

 

SB 461/HB 683 - Medical Cannabis - Compensation and Benefits

Senator Brian Feldman (D – Montgomery County) and Delegate Kris Valderrama (D – Prince George’s County) reintroduced SB 461/HB 683, which would have expressly authorized the Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission to require an employer or its insurer to provide medical cannabis to an injured employee receiving workers’ compensation benefits as part of the injured employee’s medical treatment. After substantial discussion in both the Senate Finance and House Economic Matters Committees, the bill received an unfavorable vote in the Senate, and the House failed to move forward. Similar legislation is likely to be reintroduced next session. ABC opposed SB 461/HB 683.

 

HB 894/SB746 - Community Colleges – Collective Bargaining

Delegate Keith Haynes (D – Baltimore City) and Senator Guy Guzzone (D – Howard County) introduced HB 894/SB 746. This bill would establish collective bargaining rights for certain community college employees; establish procedures for the selection and certification of an exclusive bargaining representative; establish a cap of four on the number of bargaining units in each community college; require certain contracts and agreements entered into before September 1, 2022, to remain in effect until the agreement or contract expires and require the Governor to include certain amounts in the annual budget bill for Baltimore City Community College. The bill passed favorably out of both chambers.  ABC opposed HB 894/SB 746.

 

HB 1321 - Right to Work

ABC testified in support of the Right to Work Bill that was sponsored by Delegate Reid Novotny (R – Howard and Carroll County).  The bill would prohibit an employer from requiring, as a condition of employment or continued employment, to join or remain a member of a labor organization, pay charges to a labor organization, or pay a certain amount to a third party; prohibit an employer from threatening an employee or a prospective employee with certain action; provide certain penalties for violation of the Act; and apply the Act prospectively. The bill failed to pass out of committee.

 

SB 372 - Surety Insurance - Failure to Act in Good Faith

For the second year in a row, ABC testified in support of the Surety Insurance – Failure to Act in Good Faith legislation. Senator Edward R. Reilly (R – Anne Arundel) introduced SB 372 and it would authorize the recovery of actual damages, expenses, litigation costs, and interest an obligee claims against surety insurance providers under certain circumstances; apply certain provisions of the law on unfair claim settlement practices to surety insurance; require an obligee to comply with certain procedures before bringing a claim against a surety insurance provider; and apply the Act prospectively. Despite ABC’s support, the Surety Insurance bill never received a vote out of committee and the measure failed.

 

HB 1199/SB 813 - Occupational Disease Presumptions – COVID–19

Delegate Kris Valderrama (D – Prince George’s County) and Senator Katherine Klausmeier (D – Baltimore) introduced HB 1199/SB 813. This bill would provide that certain covered employees who are suffering from the effects of severe acute respiratory syndrome COVID-19 are presumed, under certain circumstances, to have an occupational disease that was suffered in the line of duty or course of employment and is compensable in a certain manner.

ABC opposed the bill and had two essential concerns:

  1. work related injuries when the origins of the infection cannot be determined,   
  2. employees who may have contracted COVID-19 offsite due to unsafe behavior even when the employer has complied with or exceeded CDC guidelines. 

Ultimately the bill died in committee.

 

HB 1007/SB 810 - Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard and Geothermal Heating and Cooling Systems

After significant debate in both the Senate and the House, the Maryland General Assembly ultimately passed HB 1007/SB 810, sponsored by Senator Brian Feldman (D – Montgomery County) and Delegate Lorig Charkoudian (D - Montgomery County). The amended bill alters the renewable portfolio standard (RPS)to create a carve-out for post-2022 geothermal systems in Tier 1 of the RPS, beginning in 2023 at 0.05% and increasing each year until reaching 1.0% in 2028 and beyond, subject to specified requirements and alternative compliance payments. The Maryland Energy Administration must staff a related workgroup created by the bill and complete a technical study. The bill may not impair a presently existing obligation or contract right. ABC opposed the bill.

 

HB 1262/SB 762 Maryland Electricians Act – Revisions

Delegate Kevin Hornberger (R – Cecil County) and Senator Cory McCray (D – Baltimore City) introduced the Maryland Electricians Act – Revisions.  The bill would alter the powers and duties of the State Board of Master Electricians; changing the name of the Board to the State Board of Electricians; requiring the General Assembly by December 1, 2024, to consider legislation proposed by the Workgroup to Study Limited Energy Services necessary for the regulation and licensing of low-voltage electricians if certain legislation establishing a certain licensing program is not enacted by July 1, 2024; establishing the Workgroup to Study Limited Energy Services. The bill passed out of both chambers favorably.  ABC supported the legislation.