Week Ending February 12, 2021

There were three hearings of interest to the Maryland Tech Council this past week. Senate Bill 66: Department of Housing and Community Development – Office of Digital Inclusion – Established (Digital Connectivity Act of 2021), which establishes the Office of Digital Inclusion in the Department of Housing and Community Development. This newly created Office is essentially the renaming of the current Office of Rural Broadband coupled with a comprehensive enhancement of the Office’s goals, objectives, and responsibilities and reflects a commitment to provide Internet access and connectivity to all residents of the State. The House crossfile was previously heard but no action has been taken to date.
Senate Bill 357: Joint Committee on Workforce Development establishes a Joint Committee on Workforce Development and was heard jointly by the Senate Finance and Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee. The proposed workgroup is charged with (1) evaluating the condition of Maryland’s public- and private-sector workforces; (2) monitoring workforce skills shortages; (3) identifying strategies to expand employment opportunities and increase income for Marylanders through workforce skills policies; (4) monitoring workforce educational training; and (5) reviewing and evaluating the effectiveness of relevant programs, policies, and practices, including career and technology education (CTE) programs and apprenticeship programs.
Senate Bill 486: Labor and Employment – Employment Standards During and Emergency (Maryland Essential Workers’ Protection Act) was heard by the Senate Finance Committee. As noted in last week’s report on the House crossfile hearing, the legislation creates a broad range of significant new employer mandates that would apply during a declared State of Emergency. MTC will be working in concert with the business community and other stakeholders to address the onerous and poorly defined provisions of the legislation. Also, as noted last week, the bill will not advance, as introduced, but will be the subject of intense work as the sponsors, one of whom is the House Committee Chair, want to pass legislation that addresses essential workers during the pandemic. A work in progress.
In addition to the hearings referenced above, this week the Senate and House completed their veto overrides of 2020 legislation. Two bills of interest to MTC were overridden. Senate Bill 398/House Bill 514: Maryland Small Business Innovation Research and Technology Transfer Incentive Program, which MTC supported last year and Senate Bill 669/House Bill 1096: Public Health – Prescription Drug Affordability Board and Fund.
Finally, two bills supported by MTC have passed second reading in the Senate. Senate Bill 19: Economic Development – Biotechnology Investment Incentive Tax Credit Program – Alterations was passed with a clarifying amendment and Senate Bill 160: Economic Development – Cybersecurity Investment Tax Credit Program – Expansion and Extension was passed as introduced.