CHAM­BER

2019 ses­sion pre­dic­tions made at cham­ber break­fast

The Calvert Recorder - - Front Page - By TA­MARA WARD [email protected]­news.com

Calvert County’s state leg­is­la­tors broached pri­or­i­ties and made predictions for the up­com­ing Mary­land Gen­eral As­sem­bly ses­sion at the Calvert County Cham­ber of Com­merce’s pre-leg­isla­tive break­fast Mon­day.

The law­mak­ers were also pep­pered with a bar­rage of ques­tions from Calvert’s busi­ness com­mu­nity on is­sues to in­clude re­duc­ing the cor­po­rate tax rate, im­ple­ment­ing sports bet­ting and rais­ing the state min­i­mum wage to $15 an hour.

“To man­date wages, to

me, is just to­tally wrong — the govern­ment does not be­long in telling small busi­ness peo­ple what they should pay their em­ploy­ees,” Del. Ger­ald W. “Jerry” Clark (R-Calvert, St. Mary’s) said at the event, held at the Rod ‘N’ Reel Restau­rant.

Clark said the govern­ment does not help him pay his busi­ness’ elec­tric bill, and that man­dat­ing a pay rate gives gov­ern- ment a “lit­tle bit of own­er­ship in your busi­ness,” and stressed it’s the busi­nesses that are tak­ing the risk to cre­ate the jobs.

Clark said he treats his em­ploy­ees well, but did ac­knowl­edge some busi­ness own­ers are bad and do not take care of their em­ploy­ees with re­gard to pay and ben­e­fits.

“But let’s not throw the baby out with the bath wa­ter,” Clark said. “Let’s give small busi­ness peo­ple credit at be­ing smart enough to adapt and keep their em­ploy­ees and give ben­e­fits to their em­ploy- ees to keep them work­ing for them for [a long] time.”

Freshman Sen. Jack Bai­ley (R-Calvert, St. Mary’s) said the $15 min­i­mum will be a bur­den on small busi­nesses and rec­om­mended pos­si­bly im­ple­ment­ing small in­cre­men­tal in­creases, pos­si­bly a dol­lar a year, so it does not im­pact busi­nesses at one time.

“I sup­port the min­i­mum,” Del. Michael Jack­son (D-Calvert, Prince Ge­orge’s) said, ad­ding that he is open to step in­creases over a num­ber of years. “I think it is high time that we make sure that our cit­i­zens can take care of their fam­i­lies.”

Se­nate Pres­i­dent Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert, Charles, Prince Ge­orge’s), who owns a law prac­tice, said all his em­ploy­ees make over $15 an hour, even though the fed­eral min­i­mum is $7.25.

Miller said he caught a lot of grief for de­feat­ing the wage hike pro­posal last year, not­ing that Mary­land leg­is­la­tors needed more time to study how it was go­ing to work, us­ing data from any of the 10 states that have al­ready im­ple­mented it.

“My pre­dic­tion is that Mary­land will move for­ward in this re­gard,” Miller said, not­ing the im­ple­men­ta­tion may be sim­i­lar to that of New York, where the wage in­crease is tied to the cost of liv­ing or con­sumer price in­dex. “It’s go­ing to hap­pen. It’s go­ing to be de­layed and hope­fully as busi­ness friendly as pos­si­ble.”

The law­mak­ers were of one ac­cord in their sup­port of as­so­ci­a­tion health plans, such as the cham­ber pool­ing to­gether to of­fer health care plans to its mem­bers. They were also in agree­ment in per­mit­ting sports bet­ting in the state.

“I am a fan of sports bet­ting, but I do un­der­stand that there are a lot of things we need to do to make sure it is prop­erly reg­u­lated and it’s in the right places,” Bai­ley said, re­call­ing when slot ma­chines came to St. Mary’s County when he was a boy.

Miller said sports bet­ting raises very lit­tle money, $25 mil­lion to $30 mil­lion, and that race tracks and casi­nos are com­pet­ing for it, but the mat­ter will not be set­tled un­til there is a ref­er­en­dum vote. He pre­dicts it will hap­pen next year when voters go to the polls. Jack­son said he sup­ports the ini­tia­tive for race tracks and casi­nos.

“I have no prob­lem with sports bet­ting — I prob­a­bly did it legally and il­le­gally,” Clark said, draw­ing laugh­ter and ap­plause from the crowd. “It sort of com­pletes the cy­cle for the casi­nos.”

There was di­vi­sion among party lines on the is­sue of an in­di­vid­ual payer health care man­date, which could in­clude a penalty of up to 2.5 per­cent of to­tal house­hold in­come, if im­ple­mented.

Miller and Jack­son were in sup­port of the plan for those who earn too much to qual­ify for Med­i­caid, with Miller not­ing the mea­sure was part of the fed­eral Af­ford­able Care Act. Miller thinks Gov. Larry Ho­gan (R), who he says sees it as a tax, will veto it.

“Be­ing a Repub­li­can, ob­vi­ously we do look at it as a tax and we’ll prob­a­bly be op­posed to it,” Bai­ley said, but promised to at least have a look at and eval­u­ate it.

“As soon as you say man­date, it throws up my radar,” Clark said. “On the sur­face, the in­di­vid­ual man­date, I’m not a fan, but I do un­der­stand we need some an­swers to health care.”

Clark said the health in­sur­ance mar­ket­place is “bru­tal” and peo­ple are pay­ing more for health care than the mort­gage on their homes in some cases. “We need to fix that. We’ll be putting a lot of time in that to make health care af­ford­able to ev­ery­one,” he said.

Del. Mark Fisher (R-Calvert) was un­able to at­tend due to prior com­mit­ments.

STAFF PHOTO BY TA­MARA WARD

Se­nate Pres­i­dent Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert, Charles, Prince Ge­orge’s) fields ques­tions at the Calvert County Cham­ber of Com­merce’s pre-leg­isla­tive break­fast Mon­day at the Rod ‘N’ Reel Restau­rant.

STAFF PHO­TOS BY TA­MARA WARD

Above left, Sen. Jack Bai­ley (R-Calvert, St. Mary’s) speaks with Calvert High School Eq­uity Team mem­bers Kelsey Snow­den, Sier­rah Han­way, Neil Chap­man (not pic­tured) and Zhane Nor­ris at the Calvert County Cham­ber of Com­merce’s pre-leg­isla­tive break­fast Mon­day at the Rod ‘N’ Reel Restau­rant. Above right, Del. Ger­ald W. “Jerry” Clark (R-Calvert, St. Mary’s), cen­ter, speaks at the break­fast while Bai­ley, left, and Del. Michael Jack­son (D-Calvert, Prince Ge­orge’s) lis­ten.

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