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Maryland General Assembly Session Preview

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The Maryland General Assembly opens its 2015 session on Jan. 14 with a 40 percent turnover in House membership and a 20 percent turnover in the Senate. With all those new members, two new committee chairs and a new Republican Governor, the early days of the session will be devoted to new players settling into their roles. Governor-elect Larry Hogan will be inaugurated on Jan. 21.

AOBA maintains an Annapolis office year round to support its lobbying efforts. AOBA’s Maryland Legislative and Regulatory Issues Committee will meet frequently during the session to take positions on important bills. Here are some of the significant issues for AOBA members that will likely be considered before the General Assembly adjourns on April 13.

· State Budget – Governor-elect Hogan will present his first budget for fiscal year 2016 on Jan. 23, facing a significant budget gap for the current and upcoming fiscal years. The legislature’s Spending Affordability Committee has recommended that the FY 2016 State budget resolve on an ongoing basis at least $350 million of the projected budget gap. The Governor’s capital budget, funded largely by State bonds, should also be introduced on Jan. 23 and will indicate the Governor’s plans for State construction projects such as the Purple Line.

· Taxes – Tax increases are off the table for four years, but discussion may begin on ways to alter the existing State tax system in order to promote economic development.

· Environment – Legislation will likely be considered to repeal the mandate on certain counties to impose stormwater management fees on property owners. However, even if the State mandate is repealed, it is unlikely that many counties would significantly alter the stormwater management fees that they have enacted by local law. Numerous bills to alter aspects of Maryland’s lead-based paint remediation program will also be considered.

· Employer Mandates – Although Montgomery and Prince George’s counties have already enacted local legislation to limit the ability of employers to perform criminal background checks, statewide legislation on this issue is also likely to be considered. How such a statewide bill would impact the local legislation is uncertain. Also look for bills to be filed that would impose other mandates on employers, including legislation to require the provision of paid sick leave.

· Property Owner/Tenant – AOBA will support legislation with other business allies to resolve ambiguities in the security deposit interest legislation enacted last year. We will also likely again see “source of income” bills filed to mandate providers of multifamily housing to participate in federal Section 8 programs, and various proposals to constrain evictions and impose rent control.