2019 GENERAL ASSEMBLY ADJOURNS- THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY
The Maryland General Assembly adjourned Monday night with a flurry of activity on legislation of interest to ABC and the merit construction industry. Below is a short list of some issues lobbied on by ABC. A more comprehensive report will be forthcoming. If you have any questions regarding these bill or any others introduced during the 2019 session, please contact Bob Zinsmeister at 301-595-9711.
MINIMUM WAGE- ENACTED
Maryland became the 6th state to approve a gradual minimum wage increase to $15 an hour. It will increase to $11 next January, followed by increases of 75 cents a year to $14 in 2024 before reaching $15 in 2025. The bill was vetoed by the Governor but the General Assembly overrode his veto. ABC opposed the bill with concerns about the difference in demographics across the state and how it would impact the industry in those jurisdictions outside the metropolitan areas. ABC also expressed concern about the impact it would have on the apprenticeship programs and their ability to establish rates based on a percentage of the journeyman’s rate.
RENEWABLE ENERGY- ENACTED
The state’s Renewal Energy Portfolio standard would increase from 25% by 2020 to 50% by 2030 with focus on off-shore wind and solar energy. ABC did not take a position on the legislation as drafted, but was dragged into the debate based on amendments added at the request of organized labor which provides for Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) on the off-shore wind projects. Despite a strong lobbying effort by ABC and other concerned business groups against the PLA language, it remained in the final bill. ABC is discussing whether or not to ask the Governor to veto the bill.
FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE INSURANCE PROGRAM- DEFEATED
The bill would have established a Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program which would have provided up to 12 weeks of benefits to an employee who is taking partially paid leave from employment due to caring for family members or the employee’s own health condition. The bill would impact all employers who would have to pay a portion of the contributions to fund the program and establish a mechanism to add the contributions to their payroll systems. ABC strongly opposed the bill which did not get out of committee. Unfortunately, it will be back next year.
PROCUREMENT- PUBLIC WORKS CONTRACTS- OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY/HEALTH REQUIREMENTS- DEFEATED
Safety is a major priority for ABC and the merit construction industry but this bill went way beyond the necessary safety information required when bidding on a state project. One of ABC’s major objections was a requirement that a questionnaire be completed and, based on the scores, the contractor could be prohibited from bidding on state work. ABC argues that several of the existing safety programs overseen by the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (soon to be renamed the Department of Labor) provide the necessary protections for workers and companies engaged in this work. ABC opposed the bill and was able to convince the committee that the legislation as drafted was too broad and punitive in nature.