The Maryland Tech Council is ready to stand behind bills that support the innovation economy this legislative session, and oppose those that might make it harder for drug companies to do business.
The organization, which represents over 450 life sciences and technology companies in the state, closely monitors the activities of the Maryland General Assembly each year and advocates on behalf of its members’ interests. This year, CEO Marty Rosendale said his chief priority is to make sure he does everything he can at the state level to help tech companies succeed in Maryland. He noted the state’s recent ranking as the third-best environment in the U.S. for tech and science companies and employees, by the Milken Institute.
“It’s great to see that, but it’s a delicate thing. We have to be careful we don’t pass legislation that will make it more difficult to continue down that path,” Rosendale said.
Legislators are only three days into the session and many of the bills that could be considered this session have yet to be filed. But Rosendale pointed to some general topic areas he believes could be addressed this year.
“We are really focused on supporting things to build up the innovation economy — so anything that expands [research and development] tax credits, or the investment tax credits like for cyber and biotech companies, for example,” he said. “We want our companies to do well, and keep growing. And we want to help make sure they have the right environment to do that.”
Along those lines, Rosendale said the Tech Council would back measures to make Maryland’s tax environment more competitive on a regional scale, and to strengthen internship and apprenticeships programs in the state. Rosendale noted that many of his member companies have faced hiring difficulties, as the demand for high-tech workers continues to outstrip supply in the state. Some CEOs have admitted needing to resort to poaching employees from other local firms. The Tech Council hopes to have a hand in continuing to grow workforce development opportunities in Maryland, like through the “inMD” platform, which was launched last year and aims to connect tech firms looking to fill internship positions with interested student applicants across the state.
Last year, the Tech Council was also involved in an legislative effort calling for the implementation of 5G, or or fifth-generation wireless broadband, across the state. Rosendale said he hopes to see a similar effort introduced this year. Such a measure could improve the capabilities of local tech companies that rely on advanced connectivity, and support the implementation of things like smart cities technologies, which jurisdictions like Baltimore have been focused on in the last few years.
There are also some issues that don’t have a specific tech focus that the Tech Council will likely wish to weigh in on should they arise this legislative session, Rosendale said. For example, any considered increase or adjustment to the state minimum wage, and any proposal to improve transportation infrastructure especially in and among urban area. These are issues that could affect all Maryland businesses, and Rosendale said he wants to make sure Maryland’s tech voices are heard in those discussions.
There is one item, however, that the Tech Council is already gearing up to fight — and it’s something the organization has opposed in the last two legislative sessions as well. A new bill around drug pricing transparency will be discussed by lawmakers this year. A piece of legislation will once again call for the creation of a Prescription Drug Affordability Board, which will be tasked with determining the best path for making high-cost medicines more accessible for Marylanders, including establishing maximum payment rates in the state for especially expensive drugs. The legislature will also likely hear other measures aimed at requiring prescription drug or medical device manufacturers to adjust the way they price or sell their products, as it has in the past.
But Rosendale said the Tech Council had long viewed such approaches as “misguided.” He said measures that take aim at drug makers could have adverse impacts on the many biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies operating in Maryland, and interfere with sales pattens or hinder competition in the local market.
“Everyone agrees there is a fundamental problem that the health care system is too expansive, and we need to find ways to control what patients pay,” he said. “But the solutions presented is where we get into disagreement. I think we have to be careful of things that seem like good solutions, but could actually have a negative impact on our local businesses. We want to work with people to come up better options.”