Week ending March 19, 2021

Hearings were held in the Senate on two bills that propose to create a Technology Infrastructure Pilot Program within TEDCO to expand opportunities for technology validation, entrepreneurial development, and industry engagement at State Universities.  Senate Bill 732:  Economic Development – Maryland Innovation Initiative University Partnership Pilot Program – Establishment, focused on Bowie State and Salisbury University, was heard and voted favorably by the Senate Finance Committee.  The Committee amended the bill to include Frostburg State which, was reflected in Senate Bill 802:  Economic Development – Maryland Innovation Initiative University Expansion Pilot Program – Establishment which also was heard by Senate Finance.  The crossfile for Senate Bill 802 has been heard in the House but no action has been taken to date.

Focused on Western Maryland, Senate Bill 709:  Economic Development – Maryland Technology Infrastructure Pilot Program – Establishment proposes to establish a Technology Infrastructure Pilot Program in TEDCO.  The purpose of the program would be to support and incentivize advanced industry infrastructure and resources that build on the existing strengths of the Western Maryland economy.  The House crossfile has been voted favorably with amendments by the Ways and Means Committee and will be considered by the full House.

Also heard by the Senate, Senate Bill 902:  Economic Development – Cyber Workforce Program and Fund – Established proposes to establish the Cyber Workforce Program in the Maryland Department of Commerce’s Partnership for Workforce Quality Program.  The Program is to support cyber careers, provide educational and training scholarships in cyber-related fields, and provide funding for cyber-related activities, including cyber-related workforce development and apprenticeship programs.  The legislation creates a Fund for the Program and provides that the State dedicate $25 million in funding from federal pandemic relief aid to the extent it is allowable.  There is no House crossfile for the legislation.

Finally, with respect to hearings, House Bill 1323:  Algorithmic Decision Systems – Procurement and Discriminatory Acts was heard by the House Health and Government Operations Committee.  MTC registered its concern that artificial intelligence and algorithmic decision systems are emerging technologies that cannot be appropriately regulated for discriminatory acts at this time.  Proponents, MTC, and other stakeholders, such as Amazon, met with the sponsor following the hearing and it was decided that the issue would be further discussed over the interim and that there would not be an effort to move the bill forward at this time.

Given that crossover is Monday March 22nd, both Chambers have been holding long floor Sessions to move the bills they want to be considered by the opposite Chamber.  They will meet throughout the weekend and Monday to complete consideration of the bills that have been acted upon by the various Committees.  The bills of interest to MTC were acted upon this week include:

Senate Bill 639:  Maryland Technology Development Corporation – Inclusion Fund – Establishment was voted favorably with amendments by the Senate Finance Committee and will be considered by the full Senate.

House Bill 1342:  Economic Development – Partnership for Workforce Quality Program – Alterations was passed by the House and will now be considered by the Senate.

Senate Bill 66:  Department of Housing and Community Development – Office of Digital Inclusion – Established (Digital Connectivity Act of 2021) was passed by the Senate with a number of amendments.  The House has not yet taken any action on the crossfile.

Senate Bill 444:  Transforming Manufacturing in a Digital Economy Workgroup (Making It in Maryland) was passed by the Senate with amendments that added members to the Workgroup in addition to changing the staff responsibilities to the Department of Commerce.  The House and Senate will need to resolve their workgroup membership differences but that should not be difficult, thereby virtually guaranteeing the legislation will be enacted.

Senate Bill 459:  Economic Development – Maryland Small Business Innovation Research Technical Assistance Program – Alterations passed the Senate with amendments that put it in the same posture as House Bill 987 with one additional provision.  The House has not yet acted on House Bill 987.