Harford County Legislators Discuss Supporting Business at 2020 Pre-Legislative Forum
November 19, 2020
Bel Air, MD – On Tuesday, November 10th, The Harford County Chamber of Commerce hosted a virtual Pre-Legislative Forum to keep members informed on key issues. Sponsored by Harford Community College, The Harford County Office of Community and Economic Development, and The Greater Harford Committee, the event brought together local business representatives with their elected officials. The panel of legislators included Delegates Lauren Arikan, Kathy Szeliga, Steve Johnson, Mike Griffith, Susan McComas, Mary Ann Lisanti, Teresa Reilly, and Senators Bob Cassilly, Jason Gallion, and J.B. Jennings.
Angela Rose, President and CEO of the Harford County Chamber welcomed attendees. Trevor Jackson, Vice President for Finance & Administration at Harford Community College offered an update on successful new programs in the Edgewood area, including computer basics and forklift training.
Bart Kennedy gave on update on behalf of Senator Chris Van Hollen. He welcomed attendees to contact him if they have legislative priorities for the upcoming session. Mr. Kennedy said that his office is pushing for additional appropriations for broadband in areas of the county without service. Expanded service is vital for online learning and telework. CARES Act funding is set to expire at the end of December, but there is action underway to extend the deadline. Harford County is prepared to use the balance of their funds if the deadline is not extended.
Len Parrish, Director of the Harford County Office of Community and Economic Development, echoed that Harford County is prepared to spend remaining CARES Act funding before the deadline. 5 grant opportunities are currently offered to Harford County businesses through CARES funding, geared towards small businesses, farms, business owners, restaurants, and child care facilities.
Mrs. Rose presented relevant issues discussed by the Harford County Business Resiliency Task Force, including liability protections for businesses at the state level, unemployment, 2021 experience ratings, and general restriction and safety concerns for the business community. She opened up the floor for discussion, asking legislators how the pandemic will impact the upcoming session.
Delegate Arikan said that the move to a mostly virtual format will change how issues are discussed, with more controversial issues likely to be avoided. On the pandemic, she said decision-makers should focus on the hospital bed and death rate numbers rather than the infection rates alone. Arikan is of support of legislation that stops the ability to extend orders before the legislation has a chance to step in.
Delegate Johnson emphasized that we must support businesses because they provide jobs for our communities. “We must scrutinize any legislation putting our businesses at risk.” He also encouraged members of the business community to communicate to legislators about anything that could assist them during this time.
Delegate Kathy Szeliga expressed concern about tax increases, with the possibility of an added alcohol or e-cigarette tax. On pandemic restrictions, she will be advocating for flexibility for all jurisdictions along with the Maryland House Republican Caucus and Governor. Szeliga reiterated the importance of personal responsibility and small businesses being open to the fullest extent possible.
Speaking on the budget, Delegate Mary Ann Lisanti noted that we must prepare for the worst and not plan for additional stimulus funds that may not come through. Lisanti said that the business community has led the way with their ingenuity, and the legislation must be flexible in the way that policies and procedures are examined.
Delegate Mike Griffith, who is a part of the Harford County Business Resiliency Task Force, is alarmed by lost jobs and the damage done to local businesses. It can help some businesses to more accurately re-classify themselves, as in the case of a local special needs facility that was formerly classified as a gym. Griffith said he will continue to communicate with Governor Hogan and advocate for business. Harford County Executive Barry Glassman has allowed businesses to operate at the fullest extent possible.
Senator J.B. Jennings commented on the recently passed constitutional amendment (Maryland Question 1, Legislative Authority over State Budget Amendment 2020), which allows the legislation to now move funds between agencies after the budget is set by the governor. He believes this gives legislators too much power to alter the budget in later stages, and they may act on emotion.
Also in opposition of the amendment, Senator Jason Gallion predicts that it may negatively impact more rural areas. On Maryland Question 2, the Sports Betting Measure, which supports authorizing sports/events wagering at certain licensed facilities with state revenue intended to fund public education, both Gallion and Delegate Susan McComas said that we must be vigilant on how the funds are distributed.
Delegate McComas said she was against Question 2 out of concern for gambling addiction. She believes in more diversity of education, with charter and religious schools also receiving assistance.
Business liability has become an issue, according to both Delegate McComas and Senator Bob Cassilly. Cassilly sited the example of small landlords who have provided tenants with housing for months at this point, who will likely not get those funds back. He continued to say that issues like this must be addressed this session.
Echoing many of her colleagues, Delegate Reilly expressed a need for balance between health safety and economic survival. Moving into winter, mental health issues are likely to rise with the added pressure of the pandemic. It will also become increasingly difficult for businesses such as restaurants who rely on seasonal business but will now need costly tents, heaters, or other additions.
To learn more about the Harford County Chamber of Commerce and stay up-to-date on their advocacy efforts, visit HarfordChamber.org.
About the Harford County Chamber of Commerce: The Harford County Chamber of Commerce has worked continually as the recognized voice of business in Harford County since 1976. The Harford Chamber is the premier business advocate in the county, helping members connect and thrive to create a vibrant economy across all sectors.
For more information, please contact Kate Rodriguez at Kate@HarfordChamber.org.Share This Post