The Howard County Chamber is the preeminent voice for the business community in Howard County, advocating for pro-business policy and free enterprise. Each year, as part of its effort to ensure members are informed about the issues the Chamber will advocate for or against, the Legislative Affairs Committee puts together a detailed “Issues for Legislative Action Brief.”
The 2017 “Brief” was distributed to members at the Chamber’s annual Legislative Preview Breakfast in November 2016. The legislative category that the Chamber devoted the most time and energy to in 2017 was Labor, Employment and Health Care. Business owners have been inundated with workplace regulations that have costly penalties coupled with proposed legislation that potentially could lead to a decrease in jobs. The Chamber was concerned that implementing new legislation related to paid sick leave and mandated scheduling would cause labor costs to rise and lead to a decrease in jobs.
The Chamber was very active in 2017 fighting against HB-1, The Maryland Health Working Families Act, more commonly known as the Mandatory Paid Sick Leave Act. The Chamber was disappointed that, despite its efforts and the efforts of many other pro-business organizations, HB-1 was passed during the 2017 Legislative Session. However, the fight was not over, and the Chamber worked to make sure Gov. Hogan was aware that the Chamber opposed HB-1; ultimately, the governor vetoed the legislation.
In 2017 the Chamber hosted four successful events providing members the opportunity to hear about the legislative agenda, and equally importantly, offering the chance to speak directly with elected officials, at the annual Business Day in Annapolis and Elected Officials Meet & Greet.
Face Time With Elected Officials
Congressman John Sarbanes visited the Chamber offices in May of 2017 to meet with Chamber President Leonardo McClarty and Board Chair Jeff Agnor, Esq. Sarbanes gave an update on all the latest policy discussions on Capitol Hill and detailed some of the recent changes that would directly impact the Chamber’s members. Sarbanes also asked to hear what the Chamber had been hearing from its members.
McClarty and Agnor expressed concerns from the Chamber’s small business members about access to financing and uncertainty about what health care benefits they would be required to offer employees in the future. In addition, they shared the Chamber’s concerns regarding Mandatory Paid Sick Leave and the Chamber’s active advocacy against it.
Sarbanes also discussed his passion for apprenticeships and the ways he is pushing for their return to help fill vacancies for qualified potential employees in the information technology, cybersecurity and engineering fields.
Small Business Listening Session with Sen. Chris Van Hollen
Also in May of 2017, seven Chamber members representing local small businesses were invited to sit down for a listening session with Sen. Chris Van Hollen to share some of the concerns and issues facing small businesses.
Representatives from Howard Bank, Hamilton Bank, BTS Software, Placement Ready, Bay Bank, Cain Contracting and the Howard County Economic Development Authority were invited by McClarty, and each got a chance to address Van Hollen.
The senator heard concerns regarding the Dodd-Frank Wall Street and Consumer Protection Act and how the act has made it more difficult for small businesses to get access to capital.
The group also gave several examples of other areas where Van Hollen could aid small businesses by easing the regulatory burdens they face, including by raising the appraisal threshold for commercial real estate loans and simplifying the regulatory capital rules.