The 2021 Maryland General Assembly Legislative Session:
Dominated by COVID-19
Who We Are and What We Do: The Maryland State and District of Columbia AFL-CIO has more than 800 affiliated local unions, representing 340,000 union members in public sector, education, trades and construction, entertainment, manufacturing, transportation, health care, retail, hospitality, and other industries. We work for the freedom of every worker to form and join a union, for the right of all people to be free from employment discrimination, to be treated fairly, to earn family sustaining wages with secured retirement and affordable health care, and to be safe at work. Our focus includes: Investing taxpayer dollars in creating good jobs to build and repair our infrastructure and schools; creating good family-supporting jobs with benefits and job protections; maintaining and building good jobs at home by reindustrializing the Maryland economy and redoubling efforts for worker protections; ensuring fair tax policies, transparency, and accountability in spending public tax dollars; protecting public education and public service workers so that they can continue to provide the highest value and level of support to Marylanders; and ending wage theft through protecting and enforcing current labor laws.
The weekly Monday Night Labor Lobbyists meetings, which are normally held in-person, were conducted completely virtually, encouraging every affiliate to participate in the Monday Night Labor Lobbyists Meeting. The State Fed educated attendees and facilitated discussion on bills and issues impacting workers in Maryland. Individual unions presented legislation keeping the broader labor community educated and involved in issues impacting certain sectors of labor. Most legislation has some impact on a cross-section of workers. Lobby nights also engaged strategies for moving bills through committees and identifying legislators to target for direct lobbying in favor of labor’s position on the bills. The State Fed participated in several coalitions steering legislation, most notably the “End Medical Debt” coalition and the “Maryland Essential Workers” coalition.
During the 2021 Maryland General Assembly Legislative Session, we tracked 549 bills including the Operational Budget and the Capital Budget. We submitted testimony and/or testified before legislative committees on 125 bills including their cross-filed versions. Together, labor worked to get 47 bills passed for our unions and Maryland’s workers, we once again killed “Right to Work”, and we halted the passage of dozens of bills that would have hurt unions and working people.
COVID-19: Due to the ongoing pandemic, the 2021 Session was challenging on multiple fronts. Significant changes were made to how the General Assembly conducted business, creating access roadblocks to elected officials but also opportunities for greater engagement from union members and leaders.
All committee hearings were conducted virtually, and due to no in-person components to bill hearings, changes were made to testimony submission and live testimony. Whereas, in years past, a person needed to submit and sign up in-person at the committee room, a new online submission option was created through the MGA website, allowing anyone with an Internet connection the ability to submit written testimony and testify on a bill although each Legislative Committee Chair had discretion to choose and limit live testimonies. The State Fed used this to great effect by publicizing hearing dates and times and providing multiple trainings for union members to navigate the sign-up process.
A significant downside was the lack of direct access to legislators. All buildings were closed to the public, with limited meetings with legislators by appointment only. Moreover, due to the virtual nature of Session, a preponderance of legislators could work from home on any days where floor votes were not scheduled. This led to a significant lack of legislator presence in Annapolis, with the streets being mostly empty throughout Session. The personal contact that so many union leaders and members rely on to have direct – and sometimes spontaneous – conversations with legislators was severely lacking. Union advocates had to rely on email, phone calls, and texts more than ever before, and several opportunities to create “email actions” were taken by unions to pressure legislators with mass communications by their members. Moreover, several legislators remarked that not seeing hearing rooms packed by our union members during labor bill hearings gave them a false conclusion on the importance of certain bills.
2021 Session Statistics
During the 2021 regular session of the General Assembly legislators introduced a total of 2,344 bills and 13 resolutions. The Senate originated 964 bills and 7 resolutions, and the House originated 1380 bills and 6 resolutions. Of those introduced, 681 bills and 1 resolution were passed. Additionally, the General Assembly passed 411 bond initiatives, which were predominately for building projects in legislators’ districts.
The 441st session of the General Assembly of Maryland convened January 13, 2021, marking the thirdyear of the four-year 2019 – 2023 elected term for 47 Senators and 141 Delegates. During the interim and during Session, four members of the General Assembly resigned or passed away, and Gubernatorial appointees replaced them to fill the remainder of the terms.
House of Delegates Replacements
District 2B – Brenda Thiam replaced Paul Corderman, who was appointed to the Senate.
District 9A – Reid Novotny – who sponsored “Right to Work” – replaced Warren Miller, who resigned.
District 27B – On February 21, Rachel Jones replaced Michael Jackson, who was appointed to the Senate.
District 40 – Marlon Amprey replaced Nick Mosby who, was elected Baltimore City Council President in 2020.
District 2 – Paul Corderman replaced Andrew Serafini, who resigned.
District 27 – Michael Jackson replaced Thomas V. Mike Miller, who passed away in December.
Veto Overrides on 2020 Labor Legislation – After the 2020 Session, Governor Hogan issued an unprecedented 39 vetoes, and in his correspondence to the General Assembly, he grouped the vetoed bills into four categories of his justifications for vetoing them: “Excessive Spending”, “Increased Taxes and Fees”, “Crime”, and “Additional and Duplicative”. Bills affecting labor were vetoed, and they were overridden in the 2021 Session:
SB 1000 (HB 1300) The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future – Implementation) is a far-reaching bill that will fundamentally change education funding and implementation in the State of Maryland. The following points are some of those changes:
- Increase in per-pupil funding: When fully implemented, over 10 years, per-pupil funding will increase by $1 billion, and then will continue to adjust for inflation for each year, thereafter.
- Special Education Funding: State aid for students receiving special education will increase by over 80%. State aid for English Language Learners (ELL) will increase by $450 million.
- Community School Expansion: Any school where low-income students are 55% or more of the population will be converted into a community school, which comes with special funding for that status.
- Pre-K changes: The Blueprint makes free public pre-k available to all 3 and 4 year-old children whose families are below 300% of the federal poverty line. It also expands Judy Centers, Family Support Centers, and county “infant and toddler” programs.
- Better Pay: Teachers’ salaries will be improved – up to 10% by 2025 – and starting pay for new teachers is expected to be $60,000 per year by 2026. There will also be additional salary increases for National Board Certification.
- Career and Technical Education (CTE): The Blueprint sets a target of 45% of graduates achieving an industry approved occupational credential before they graduate, requiring a vast expansion of vocational and CTE training.
- Increased Accountability: The new Accountability and Implementation Board (AIB), comprised of 7 members appointed by the Governor and Leadership of the General Assembly will be responsible for ensuring that new programming under the Blueprint is implemented correctly and accurately measured for success.
Labor did not have unanimity on this bill. Teachers around the State were supportive of the legislation – while still having changes they wished to see amended into the bill – the support staff in Maryland’s schools, represented by AFSCME 2250, SEIU 400, AFSCME 67, and ASASP vocalized concerns that it did not fully address all staff that worked in schools.
HB 1658 (SB 1065) Economic Development - Baltimore Symphony Orchestra - Funding and Reporting requires the Governor to fund the BSO at $1.5 million in FY2022, with decreasing amounts annually, until a final appropriation of $700,000 in FY2026. In FY2020 Governor Hogan refused to release $1.6 million. Ironically, this refusal to release funds coincided with a labor dispute at the BSO, that resulted in musicians being locked out for months, until finally reaching a deal in negotiations with management in early fall of 2019. This would never have happened if the funding had been released.
In-Session Veto Overrides on 2021 Labor Legislation – The following bill was vetoed by the Governor within seven days of the end of Session, allowing the General Assembly to override his veto prior to Sine Die.
SB 35 (HB 37) Procurement - Prevailing Wage - Applicability reduces the 50% State Funding threshold on public works projects to 25%, and the contribution of State funds from $500,000 to $250,000 for Prevailing Wage to be applicable to the project. With a higher paid workforce, we can demand a higher skilled workforce. This will redound to the benefit of not only the workers, but also the taxpayers. With a better trained, highly skilled, and well compensated workforce, Maryland will receive higher quality craftsmanship in our public works. This will reduce future maintenance costs, as well as project overruns due to fixing initially shoddy workmanship. And, with a greater influx of revenue into the SATF, we can provide more resources to training the next generation of skilled tradesmen and women. Moreover, construction workers have been deemed as “essential workers” during the COVID-19 pandemic, and, therefore, deserve the respect and appreciation that we can provide for them through better wages through expanding Prevailing Wage. One issue with the bill is that it exempts Legislative bond initiatives (LBI) in the Capital Budget from this new threshold. An LBI is a request for funding to support specific local or non-state owned capital projects. These projects include various cultural, historic, health, educational, and economic development projects not funded by other state capital grant or loan projects. There are millions of dollars approved each year by the legislature for these projects that legislators pass for their districts.
Post-Session Gubernatorial Vetoes on 2021 Legislation – The following seven labor bills were passed by the Maryland General Assembly, and subsequently vetoed by Governor Hogan on May 28, 2021
SB 9 (HB 486) State Employees – Collective Bargaining – Applicability, Bargaining Processes, and Memorandums of Understanding(VETOED) unifies collective bargaining for higher education workers under the USM, instead of with each institution, individually. Under current law the president of any institution in the USM system does not get the final say on bargaining. USM, alone is the final arbiter for management, with the individual president’s acting as a barrier to workers bargaining directly with those who make decisions for management. SB 9 (HB 486) streamlines the process, eliminates duplicative efforts, and allows for workers to bargain directly with the University System, instead of wasting time and money going through an extra layer of management that lacks the authority to make a final decision.
HB 904 (SB 717) State Personnel – Collective Bargaining – Exclusive Representative Access to New Employees(VETOED) gives unions greater access to the workers they represent at the point of hiring. For any organization to be effective, it needs access to the people it represents. This is true of businesses, advocacy groups, and even informal social clubs. Unions, advocating on behalf of workers, should be no different. Without adequate and timely access to newly hired workers, an Exclusive Representative cannot serve them properly or educate them on their rights in the workplace. Access to the people that they must represent, by law, gives the Exclusive Representative a pathway to better protect all workers – be they members of the union, or not – and to provide critical information and assistance to union members and non-member, alike.
HB 894 (SB 746) Education – Community Colleges – Collective Bargaining(VETOED) is enabling legislation that gives the power of Community College workers the right to form and join a union. In a recent Executive Order, President Biden reaffirmed the position of the United States on collective bargaining rights by stating “It is also the policy of the United States to encourage union organizing and collective bargaining.” The State Fed believes that the State of Maryland should follow the lead of the United States and do the same.
HB 278 Economic Development – Job Creation Tax Credit – Qualified Position(VETOED) adds job standards to the JCTC that would require businesses to pay 150% of minimum wage, provide affordable health insurance, pay UI and WC on workers, provide career advancement, retirement benefits, and afford their workers the right to collectively bargain, to receive this tax credit for hiring workers. Maryland business tax credits should reflect our values. The State should not be simply giving money away without demanding certain criteria are met. No other investor in a business operates this way, and neither should the State of Maryland. The State Fed is committed to ensuring the State uses Job Creation Tax Credit policy to strengthen and build our middle class, by setting a higher standard for businesses to access these resources. If it does not, then workers – the investors – are paying taxes to create low-quality jobs for other workers.
HB 419 (SB 460) Economic Development – Advanced Clean Energy and Clean Energy Innovation Investments and Initiatives(VETOED) requires the Maryland Energy Innovation Institute (MEII) and the Maryland Clean Energy Center (MCEC) to implement an accelerator program for Maryland-based technology companies engaged in clean energy innovation. MCEC is designated as a green bank for the State and must work in conjunction with other local and private green banks, and the accelerator program must feature seed funding, training, developmental support for the companies, and pilot projects focused on on-site clean energy generation for buildings, the State Fed believes. It really digs into the next generation of clean energy development. Instead of banning certain forms of energy without having a back-up plan to produce enough clean energy for the needs of Marylanders, the bill attacks climate change, head-on, by addressing our current lack of clean energy solutions. From investing in fuel cell technology, to grid modernization; from tidal power to nuclear; from tackling transportation to energy storage and battery technology, this bill is a solid step in the right direction for addressing climate change through advanced clean energy technologies.
HB 114 (SB 199) Maryland Transit Administration – Funding (Transit Safety and Investment Act)(VETOED) mandates spending by the Governor on the repair needs of MTA, through FY2029, as well as setting minimum annual spending amounts for MTA. It also creates a Western Maryland MARC Rail Extension study to be completed by July 1, 2023, as well as creates a “Purple Line Construction Zone Grant Program” for small businesses impacted by the construction of the Purple Line. The State Federation strongly supports greater access and reliability for commuters, workers, businesses, and consumers, coupled with a cleaner environment through reduced carbon emissions, all while creating good family-sustaining jobs for thousands more Marylanders: These are the benefits that the Transit Safety Investment Act will bring to our State. The time to act is now. For the residents of Maryland, our environment, and the people who create value in our economy, the workers.
HB 174 (SB 95) Public Utilities – Investor-Owned Utilities – Prevailing Wage(VETOED) requires investor-owned gas and/or electric utilities to require contractors and subcontractors on underground projects to pay their employees at least the applicable prevailing wage rate. The bill applies to projects involving the construction, reconstruction, installation, demolition, restoration, or alteration of any underground gas or electric infrastructure of the company, and any related traffic control activities. Labor knows that Prevailing Wage brings multiple benefits to communities in the way of an increased tax base, higher quality workforces, and higher standard of living. On State and Local government projects, Prevailing Wage law ensures that the taxpayers are getting the highest quality product for the money while supporting family sustaining jobs. Prevailing Wage law ensures that the next generation of construction workers are receiving the gold-standard in construction training, by increased funding for Apprenticeship Training Programs through the Joint Apprenticeship Training Council.
HB 1322 Primary and Secondary Education – School Personnel – Prohibition on Retaliation for Not Returning to In-Person Instruction and Work (VETOED) requires, for the 2020-2021 school year during a state of emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the State Board of Education (SBE) and local boards of education to allow teachers, educational support professionals, and other professional school personnel to instruct or work remotely, if the individual has not received a COVID-19 vaccine or has not been fully vaccinated.
Bills that affect Labor that passed the Maryland General Assembly and will become law – The following labor bills passed the General Assembly, and were either signed into law by the Governor, or became law because he took no action on them.
HB 1002 Unemployment Insurance – Revisions and Required Study (ENACTED WITHOUT GOVERNOR) mandates that the Maryland Department of Labor (MDL) must take the following actions:
- Secure equal access for individuals by ensuring that an individual contacting MDL has adequate and timely access to language, interpretive, and translation services, incorporating specified accessibility features and providing notice of alternative accessibility options, and providing claimants with the option to select, at the beginning of the application for UI benefits, that paper-based notices of department action be sent by mail.
- Establish procedures that require an individual who has filed an initial claim for benefits to be provided with a status update on the claim by MDL staff or contractors through telephone or email, at least once every three weeks until the initial benefits are paid or the initial claim is denied, whichever occurs first,
- By July 1, 2021, and each July 1 thereafter, contract with an external customer service quality evaluation vendor to measure the clarity and organization of all public communications, including materials posted on MDL’s website or mobile application, the achievement of the customer service standards required under the bill and MDL’s plan to meet those requirements, and other customer service metrics that MDL and the vendor agree are important.
- Ensure that the application for UI benefits explicitly and conveniently provides applicants with the ability to select the method of payment.
- Establish systems, processes, and procedures that enable an individual filing a claim for benefits to track the status of a claim, including the anticipated timeline for the resolution of each claim.
- Establish and maintain a plan for ongoing investment in technology.
- Establish standards for the timely processing of claims for benefits, with 92% completed within 21 days after receipt of application and 97% of claims that require adjudication resolved within eight weeks after receipt of the initial application.
- Establish a single point of contact within MDL to oversee and prioritize the resolution of claims that have not been completed within eight weeks.
- Track the percentage of laid-off workers who file for UI benefits, establish a goal for a UI recipiency rate, and publish related information on the MDL website quarterly.
HB 1002 tackles the challenges of our current UI system, bringing greater accountability and higher customer service to the process. The consistent inadequate staffing numbers, due to the constant desire to “downsize” State Government, led directly to a bottleneck of claims processing at the precise time when we needed the system to flow freely and unencumbered. Ensuring adequate staffing levels is of paramount importance. When HB 1002 demands the increased staffing levels necessary to meet the needs of Marylanders, we need to ensure that new hires are front-line workers who are State Employees. It is important to guarantee that these workers have the benefits provided by the State Employee system, and that they are working directly with the public, instead of in managerial roles. The original draft of the bill mandated that MDL would hire an additional 300 workers to properly manage the UI program. That provision was stripped out of the final bill.
HB 1048 (SB 683) Election Law – Permanent Absentee Ballot List (ENACTED WITHOUT GOVERNOR) allows for a voter to request permanent absentee ballot status and be placed on a
permanent absentee ballot list. A local board of elections must send an absentee ballot to
each voter on the permanent absentee ballot list each time there is an election. It also requires that an absentee ballot application be sent to each eligible voter before the statewide primary election in 2022 and 2024, establishes provisions governing ballot drop boxes, and requires a report on the number of voters who vote in each precinct polling place in the State in 2018, 2020, and 2022. HB 1048 is a commonsense voting reform that creates a smooth and easy process for voters to vote by mail and provides an additional layer of consistency for our local boards of elections. Instead of having to request an absentee ballot, for every election – and needing to know the start and stop dates for making the request – voters could ask to be placed on a permanent list for all future elections to vote absentee. This simple action would free up resources for local boards of education, resulting in shorter lines on Election Day.
HB 1207 (SB 674) Environment – Commission on Environmental Justice and Sustainable communities – Reform (ENACTED WITHOUT GOVERNOR) changed the makeup of the Commission. Labor worked with the sponsors to add union representation on the Commission. Ensuring that affected communities are not ignored or given short shrift during a re-ordering of our energy economy is paramount to a successful transition. With this bill we can guarantee that the Commission accurately reflects the representation of all stakeholders, by adding the voices of Maryland’s workers.
HB 298 (SB 83) Utility Regulation – Consideration of Climate and Labor (ENACTED WITHOUT GOVERNOR) requires that energy generating companies submit information about their contracted workers on an annual basis, and, in turn, the PSC will then submit that information to the General Assembly. And the information collected will be granular in details: Trade classification, Apprentices working on projects, hourly wages for each contracted-out construction worker, health care benefits for each worker, Fringe benefits paid per worker, and total number of full-time and part-time workers on a project. With an accurate picture of which energy companies and, more importantly, energy sectors are honoring the labor of the workers, the PSC and policy makers can more easily use that information in considering future projects by these companies.
HB 363 (SB 4) Maryland Public Ethics Law – Retaliation for Reporting on Participating in Investigation – Prohibition (SIGNED BY GOVERNOR) prohibits an official or employee from retaliating against an individual for reporting or participating in an investigation of a potential violation of the Maryland Public Ethics Law. In addition, the bill generally prohibits an official or employee from knowingly accepting a gift from an entity that is engaged only in representing counties or municipal corporations. This provides greater accountability by prohibiting any retaliation against a state worker from reporting on unethical behavior or participating in an ethics investigation. Without this shield, workers are far less likely to report on potential corruption and rule breaking, having to weigh the option of doing the right thing and potentially losing their job. Instead of putting them in a no-win situation, we need to encourage them to speak up when they see something wrong, firm in the knowledge that we will have their backs in the fight.
HB 45 (SB 138) Education – Baltimore County Public Library – Collective Bargaining (ENACTED WITHOUT GOVERNOR) is enabling legislation that affords workers at Baltimore County Public Libraries the right to collectively bargain. The freedom to form and join a union is core to the U.N. Universal Declaration on Human Rights and is an “enabling” right—a fundamental right that ensures the ability to protect other rights. This bill opens the door to Baltimore County Librarians, allowing them to make their own decision as to whether they want to organize and form a union, or not. Fundamentally, this is enabling legislation. It does not mandate a union. It does not force any workers to join or oppose a union. It simply affirms the human rights of workers to chart their own path, make their own decisions, and determine their own futures.
HB 56 (SB 473) Labor and Employment – Leave with Pay – Bereavement Leave (ENACTED WITHOUT GOVERNOR) expands Maryland’s Flexible Leave Act by authorizing employees of companies with at least 15 employees to use earned paid leave for bereavement leave. Workers might hesitate to breach the topic about taking leave from work, unsure of how their employer might respond, and unclear whether they will be able to make ends meet without pay. There is no federal bereavement law, but, with HB 56, we can ensure that Maryland’s workers have the flexibility to attend to one of the most important things in life, without fearing for their own economic security in the process.
HB 565 (SB 514) Health Facilities – Hospitals – Medical Debt Protection (ENACTED WITHOUT GOVERNOR) as it was originally introduced, barred hospitals from garnishing wages of those who qualify for free or reduced-cost care, prohibited hospitals from placing a lien on a patient’s home or car, required hospitals to off monthly payment plans and limiting payments to 5% of gross monthly income with a 1.5% annual interest rate cap, prohibited hospitals from filing lawsuits to collect on debts of $1000 or less, and required hospitals to submit annual reports the HSCRC. The final version saw the lawsuit provision stripped out – the biggest goal of the Maryland Hospital Association - while mandating payment plans for low-income patients. Barring liens against primary residences stayed in the final bill as well as ending the practice of wage garnishment for those who qualify for free or reduced-cost care. The bill is expansive in its protections for working Marylanders, but in no way is it hard for hospitals to implement. Maryland’s “not-for-profit” hospitals recorded $5.6 billion in profits over the ten-year period from 2009 to 2018, while demanding payment of nearly $269 million in medical debt from patients. Through generous State and Local tax exemptions, hospitals are thriving businesses, paid once by the patients and secondly by Maryland taxpayers. It is time to take care of struggling Marylanders by providing them with an avenue to pay their debt without the fear of being sued, losing their homes, or having their wages garnished.
HB 685 (SB 107) Labor and Employment – Secure Maryland Wage Act (ENACTED WITHOUT GOVERNOR) sets higher minimum wages for workers at BWI and Penn Station in Baltimore, places considered to be heightened security interest locations. Fundamentally, workers that must pass a background check and receive special training deserve to be paid more. We value their expertise on the job, but we must also value the force-multiplying effect that increased wages and benefits have on keeping these dedicated workers above the poverty line and able to focus on potential security threats at Maryland’s largest ports of entry. This bill is good for workers and good for the security of our State.
HB 85 (SB 651) Baltimore County – Workers’ Compensation – Permanent Partial Disability – Detention and Correctional Officers (SIGNED BY GOVERNOR) adds Baltimore County Detention and Correctional Officers to the list of local government workers already covered for permanent partial disability. We cannot truly fathom the work that these COs do for the public, day in and day out. However, we can listen to their requests, and honor their service, by passing SB 651. We can provide these essential workers with a level of security that already exists in other jurisdictions in the State.
SB 244 (HB 251) Maryland Funding Accountability and Transparency Act – Nonbudgeted State Agencies (ENACTED WITHOUT GOVERNOR) requires the Department of Information Technology (DoIT) to update payment data on the Portal on a monthly – instead of an annual – basis and it requires nonbudgeted state agencies to submit their payment data for inclusion into the website. These changes will allow taxpayers to observe, monthly, payments greater than $25,000 from all State agencies, and the entities that receive those payments. Greater transparency in government is paramount to maintaining an educated citizenry that can make informed decisions about our priorities moving forward.
SB 455 (HB 290) Employment Discrimination – Time for Filing Complaints (SIGNED BY GOVERNOR) extends from 6 months to 300 days the ability to file a complaint for an unlawful business practice. Bad businesses or bad leadership at a business will do whatever they can to avoid a worker from knowing that they were denied advancement or employment due to discrimination, so it is incumbent that we create a longer period to file for the victims of discrimination. We cannot have a system that allows bad actors to simply ‘wait it out’ to avoid consequences for their bad actions.
SB 556 (HB 837) Collective Bargaining –Maryland School for the Deaf – Application and Separate Bargaining Unit (ENACTED WITHOUT GOVERNOR) is enabling legislation that affords all workers at the Maryland School for the Deaf the right to collectively bargain. It is time to grant these same workers the right to collectively bargain for their pay and benefits, just like State Employees and Employees of the State Board of Education.
SB 762 (HB 1262) Maryland Electricians Act – Revisions (ENACTED WITHOUT GOVERNOR) repeals local authority to license master, journeyperson, and apprentice electricians beginning July 1, 2021, and instead requires a State license for each of those classifications. However, a local jurisdiction may continue to issue or begin issuing local registrations for those classifications. requires at least one licensed master electrician or journeyperson electrician to be present at each job site in which electrical services are provided. We need higher standards for licensing electricians for the safety and reliability of electricity in Maryland. We should demand a highly skilled and trained workforce in installing, repairing, and maintaining electrical systems. Our current standards are insufficient and in dire need of updating.
HB 1007 (SB 810) Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard and Geothermal Heating and Cooling Systems (SIGNED BY GOVERNOR) creates a carve-out for post-2022 geothermal systems in Tier 1 of the State’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS), beginning in 2023 at 0.05% and increasing each year until reaching 1.0% in 2028 and later. But, most importantly to labor, this is the first RPS tax credit that applies job standards to receive money from the state including: the right to collectively bargain, family-sustaining wages, employer provided health care, career advancement training, fair scheduling, employer-paid UI and WC, a retirement plan, and paid time off. The Terms and Conditions in this bill encourages ‘High Road Contractors’ to lead the way in the expansion of green energy options and discourages suspect low road contractors from procuring these contracts. Taxpayer dollars should be spent on contractors that pay family-sustaining wages and benefits including apprenticeship programs and safety training. Good wages and the taxes generated from them provides the much needed revenue to stimulate Maryland’s economy.
HB 13 Influence on Collective Bargaining – Prohibition on Use of Public Funds (ENACTED WITHOUT GOVERNOR) as originally introduced, prohibited tax dollars to be spent on discouraging unionization in public-sector workplaces and prevented private-sector businesses from writing off the cost of union-busting tactics from their State taxes. The final bill amended out the private-sector piece, altogether, but preserved the prohibition on tax money to be used against state and local workers in their attempt to organize and unionize.
HB 581 (SB 486) Labor and Employment – Employment Standards During an Emergency (Maryland Essential Workers’ Protection Act) (ENACTED WITHOUT GOVERNOR) as originally introduced, mandated safe and hygienic working conditions, with employer provided PPE and written safety and health protocols. It mandated hazard pay for low-income workers in tough jobs as well as financial assistance for health care costs and re-opening the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange Program for enrollment during an emergency. It also mandated the following:
- 14 days of paid health leave and 3 days of paid bereavement leave.
- The right to refuse dangerous work.
- Notification and reporting of positive test results on the jobsite.
- Employer paid testing costs.
- Whistleblower protections for workers
- Prohibition on misclassification of essential workers, to avoid following the rules.
- Expanded legal recourse for workers whose employers have violated these provisions.
Honoring essential workers for their grit and determination in the face of global pandemic is admirable and welcomed, but to truly express our appreciation, we need to change public policy in Maryland so that our deeds reflect our words. It is not enough to praise Essential Workers, verbally or in print, while doing nothing to provide them with the support they need to continue their work. HB581 provided tangible support for Maryland’s Essential Workers in myriad ways. The bill was amended, heavily, throughout the legislative process. Most notably, and to the chagrin of labor, Hazard Pay and open enrollment in the health benefit exchange were stripped out, completely. In addition, the bill is only prospective, and should another state of emergency be declared related to COVID 19, employers only have to provide public health emergency leave when they receive federal or state funding.
HB 658 (SB 444) Transforming Manufacturing in a Digital Economy Workgroup (Making It in Maryland) (ENACTED WITHOUT GOVERNOR) establishes the Workgroup to Study the Transformation of Manufacturing in Maryland’s Emerging Digital Economy, staffed by the Department of Commerce. The workgroup is charged with a wide variety of issues to examine and on which to make recommendations, such as relevant professional research, public-private partnerships, State funding levels, new tax credits, and the State’s current statutory and regulatory authority over manufacturing. Most importantly, labor has a seat on this workgroup. Creating new manufacturing jobs has a significant impact on the creation of good secondary and tertiary jobs that support the manufacturing effort. "The Multiplier Effect: There Are More Manufacturing Related Jobs Than You Think", by Keith D. Nosbusch and John A. Bernaden of Rockwell Automation, demonstrates the importance of manufacturing is to our economy. An airliner for example may have 3 million components and an ordinary car as many as 10,000 coming from a vast array of suppliers. As manufactured products and processes become more complex and productive in our increasingly digitized economy, they give rise to a host of skilled paraprofessional and professionals in nonmanufacturing jobs such as logistics and transportation, customer service, technical support, regulatory and safety specialists, distribution employees trained in use of information driven tools for receiving, storing, and picking, and the list goes on and on. In some manufacturing sectors, the multiplier effect can be as high as 16 to one, or 16x, meaning that every manufacturing job supports 15 other jobs.
SB 307 Labor and Employment – Direct Care Workforce Innovation Program (PASSED) is a grant program designed to help companies to create and expand on successful recruitment strategies to hire and train more direct care workers - home health aides, personal aides, nursing assistants, psychiatric aides, and geriatric nursing assistants – with the goal of ensuring availability of trained direct care workers across the State. The Governor must appropriate $250,000 per year for this program.
SB 546 (HB 636) School Buildings – Drinking Water Outlets – Elevated Level of Lead (Safe School Drinking Water Act) (SIGNED BY GOVERNOR) redefines “elevated level of lead” to mean a lead concentration in drinking water that exceeds 5 parts per billion (ppb) for the purposes of required lead water testing and remedial measures in public and nonpublic schools. If a water test sample for a drinking water outlet was analyzed on or before June 1, 2021, and the analysis indicated a concentration of lead that was more than 5 ppb but less than 20 ppb, a school must take appropriate remedial measures by August 1, 2022.
HB 173 (SB 433) Institutions of Higher Education – State Funding – Revision (ENACTED WITHOUT GOVERNOR) as introduced, requires non-capital appropriations, regardless of where or how they are budgeted, to be included in the annual calculation of community college aid – including Baltimore City Community College – under the State’s Senator John A. Cade Funding Formula. It was amended to include language about the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and mandates that the Governor appropriate $5,000,000 to them for FY23 to FY25, as well as an additional $2,000,000 per year, over the same period, for UMSM to provide specialized clinical care at rural hospitals.
HB 222 (SB 224) Value My Vote Act (ENACTED WITHOUT GOVERNOR) requires the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services to provide individuals released from a correctional facility with a voter registration application and to inform individuals who are no longer incarcerated that they have the right to vote. The bill also requires the State Board of Elections to establish a program to facilitate voter registration and voting by individuals incarcerated in a correctional facility who have the right to vote and to report annually on the program.
HB 73 (SB 710) State and Local Government and Public Institutions of Higher Education – Teleworking (ENACTED WITHOUT GOVERNOR) establishes the Office of Telework Assistance (OTA) and the Business Telework Assistance Grant Program in the Department of Commerce. It stipulates that the Governor must include $1.0 million annually in the State budget for the program. The bill also requires the Judicial and Legislative branches of State government to each maintain a telework program, alters the statewide telework program that must be maintained by the Executive Branch of State government, and – because of AFSCME Council 3’s amendments – it requires public institutions of higher education to comply with the statewide telework program. Each local government entity must also maintain a similar telework program.
HB 922 (SB 642) State Retirement and Pension System – COVID-19 Related Death Benefits – Clarification (ENACTED WITHOUT GOVERNOR) makes members of the State Retirement and Pension System (SRPS) who die while employed before July 1, 2022, and for whom COVID-19 caused or contributed to their death, eligible for a line-of-duty death benefit.
SB 326 Baltimore City Community College – Procurement Authority (ENACTED WITHOUT GOVERNOR) exempts BCCC from State procurement law, allowing them to set their own policy on procurement. This also exempts them from Prevailing Wage (PW) and Living Wage (LW) requirements.
Bills that affect Labor that were voted down in Committee – The following bills received an unfavorable report in their respective committees. Unions supported some of them and opposed others.
HB 168 (SB 552) Motor Vehicle Insurance Use of Credit History Rating Policy (UNFAVORABLE) prohibits a private passenger motor vehicle insurer from rating a risk (insurance policy) using the credit history of an applicant. The cross-filed bill in the Senate was withdrawn by the sponsor. Low-income workers have enough roadblocks, without being forced to pay more for auto insurance based on their credit history. We need to craft policies that help lift people out of poverty, by removing more barriers to success.
HB 613 Prince George’s County - Coal- and Gas-Fired Generating Stations - Prohibitions (Prince George’s County Stop Environmentally Unjust Coal and Gas Plants Act of 2021) PG 410-21 (UNFAVORABLE) bans the operation of a coal or gas-fired power plant in Prince George’s County. On average, Natural Gas accounts for 31% of energy usage and coal accounts for 27%. All renewable energy sources (Hydro, Solar, Wind, etc.), combined, only fill 10% of energy needs. The path forward for a clean energy future is through the expansion of renewable energy sources, first, before we turn off the base-load sources that we currently depend on. HB 613 denies current sources of energy before strengthening and growing renewables in a way that can offset fossil fuels. This bill puts the cart firmly before the horse.
HB 1012 Labor and Employment - Reinstatement of Employment - Employees at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI-Thurgood Marshall Workers’ Right to Reinstatement Act) (UNFAVORABLE) requires employers providing airline catering and airport food, beverage, or retail or other consumer goods services at the Baltimore-Washington
International Thurgood Marshall Airport to offer workers – who were laid-off due to COVID-19 – their own jobs, before filling those positions with new workers. HB 1012 provides a level of future job security for those workers at BWI who have been displaced from their current job, by putting them first in line for reinstatement. This is crucial to maintaining the livelihoods of workers and their families, as well as the economic stability of communities. Temporarily displaced workers need the peace of mind of knowing that their jobs are coming back. Not allowing for reinstatement is also a de facto method for unscrupulous businesses to simply lay-off workers whenever they are deemed “too expensive”, with the intent to bring in lower-skilled and lower-paid workers to fill those positions. A lack of reinstatement policy can potentially be the “camel’s nose under the tent” for bad businesses to mistreat their workers.
HB 841 (SB 502) Labor and Employment - Maryland Wage and Hour Law - Agricultural Stands, Retail Farms, and Farmers' Markets (UNFAVORABLE) exempts workers at Agricultural Stands, Retail Farms, and Farmers’ Markets from State minimum wage law. No action was taken on the cross-filed bill. There are, currently, fourteen exemptions to minimum wage law in Maryland. From workers at drive-in theaters, to workers at a drug store that sells food for on-site consumption and has a gross income of $400,000 per year, or less. At least four of the exemptions to paying workers minimum wage relate directly to agriculture, with a fifth one being regularly enjoyed by the industry via the exemption on immediate family members. We raised the wage in Maryland, and a full phase-in is still five years away. This is no time to take a step backwards and deny more workers the minimum wage.
HB 1321 Labor and Employment - Right to Work (UNFAVORABLE) repeals various provisions of State law that authorize an employer to require an employee pay a fee (service, maintenance, or representative fee) to a labor organization. Unions from throughout the State came together and voiced unified opposition. The State Federation submitted testimony from 34 unions and President Edwards and Secretary-Treasurer Jackson testified orally against HB 1321, in a strong unified message of solidarity. The bill was voted down in the Economic Matters Committee, on a strict Party-line vote. Delegate Reid Novotny (District 9A) introduced the bill, and he was appointed to his seat after the resignation of Warren Miller, who submitted the same bill, nine years in a row. There is ample evidence that Right to Work laws hurt all workers, union and nonunion, and our communities. The false claims that supporters give for right to work laws are an attempt to deceive people from the real reasons they want to pass these bills – to rig the laws against working people, and rake in profits for large businesses and corporate CEO’s by securing a pathway for them to pay workers less, provide less benefits, work us more and prevent us from doing anything about it at the worksite or with elected officials and legislatures.
Bills that affect Labor that received a vote of some kind but did not pass – The following bills either passed one chamber or the other or they received committee votes within one chamber or the other. Ultimately, they did not pass the full General Assembly.
HB 262 (SB 113) Opportunity Zone Tax Deduction Reform Act of 2021 (FAILED). requires a person to add back to Maryland adjusted gross income or Maryland income the amount of capital gains excluded under the federal Qualified Opportunity Zones Program. It passed the House and was sent to the Senate on February 16th. The bill never received a vote in Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, and they took no action on the Senate version of the bill, either. The Opportunity Zone Program is spurring relatively little job creation, while disproportionately helping high-profit real estate projects and not small businesses. So many questions have arisen from this program, that earlier in 2020, the Treasury Department’s inspector general opened an inquiry into the program, at the request of three Federal lawmakers. We do not need to continue subsidizing this program in the State of Maryland, by keeping our wagon hitched to a potentially problematic Federal program. Passing SB 113 will decouple Maryland tax law from Federal tax law, allowing us to continue to collect the Capital Gains taxes at the state level.
HB 398 (SB 158) Election Law - Time Off for Employee Voting (FAILED) expands the instances that employers must grant 2 hours off to workers to vote in an Election to include Early Voting and Vote-By-Mail. It passed the House and was sent to the Senate on February 17th. It passed the House, but the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs took no vote on it, nor did they take any action on the Senate version of the bill. This commonsense measure brings election law into harmony with the new and expanded forms of voting we now have available in the State. It costs the taxpayers nothing for this change and provides workers in Maryland with more opportunities to participate in our elections.
SB 414 (HB 583) Climate Solutions Now Act of 2021 (FAILED) is a broad-reaching bill that addresses climate change. Affected unions opposed the original version of this bill because it was focused solely on the environment, with little regard for workers that it would displace and no consideration for creating good union jobs in a clean-energy economy. A meeting was held between the sponsor, Senator Pinsky, and union leaders to discuss labor’s concerns. The sponsor asked for amendments that would ameliorate the bill and adopted all of labor’s proposed amendments, and the amended bill passed the Senate. The House, however, amended the bill in different ways, so a conference committee was appointed. The two chambers could not reach a consensus bill that both could support.
HB 492 Railroad Company - Movement of Freight - Required Crew (FAILED) requires that freight trains in Maryland that operate on tracks shared by commuter trains must have two crewmembers aboard during operations. The bill sailed through the House and was sent to the Senate on February 17th. The Senate had almost two months to act on the bill, and they refused to take it up for a vote in committee. The General Assembly has failed to pass this bill, and successfully override a gubernatorial veto, over the past six legislative Sessions. The legislature has recognized the importance of this legislation, which was evident with the Senate passing it 33-13 and the House passing it 102-30, during the 2019 Legislative Session. This safety bill is extremely popular and has already been shown to receive wide support in the Maryland General Assembly.
HB 656 Election Law - Early Voting Centers - Accessibility by Public Transportation (FAILED) requires that – if an early voting center is located within one-half mile of a fixed local bus route – buses operating on that route must allow passengers to embark and disembark at the entrance of the early voting center during the times the center is open for voting. The bill applies only to a fixed local bus route funded by a county or municipal corporation and operated by the local government or a contractor or in Baltimore City and Baltimore County funded and operated by the Maryland Transit Administration. This ensures that voters who are dependent on public transportation, have the accessibility they need to exercise their franchise to vote. If they do not want to vote-by-mail, or they cannot take time off from work on Election Day, they now have an expanded opportunity to cast their vote during the Early Voting period, at an EV Center that will be located within walking distance of a transit stop. The bill passed the House and was sent to the Senate on March 5th. The Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee held a hearing on March 18th, but no further action was taken.
HB 26 Action to Collect a Private Education Loan - Required Documents (FAILED) prohibits a private education lender or a private education loan collector from initiating a private education loan collection action, except under specified conditions. The bill passed the House and was sent to the Senate on March 17th. The Senate held a hearing on March 30th but took no further action.
HB 1047 Mail-In Voting Enhancement Act (FAILED) establishes set procedures and policies that govern voting drop boxes in Maryland, increases access to vote-by-mail, and clarifies provisions on how a voter can correct their vote-by-mail ballot. It passed the House and an amended version was passed in the Senate. A conference committee was appointed, but they could not agree on a final version of the bill.
HB 485 (SB 361) Public-Private Partnerships - Process and Oversight (FAILED) establishes the Public-Private Partnership Oversight Board that would become part of the approval process for public-private partnerships in Maryland, for any projects of $500 million or greater. The House version passed and was sent to the Senate. The Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs committee took no action on the bill or its cross-file.
HB 221 Motor Vehicle Insurance - Use of Credit History in Rating Policies (FAILED). This bill is nearly identical to HB 168 in that it prohibits insurance companies from using credit history in determining monthly premiums. Unions supported the bill, as introduced. However, during the committee process in Economic Matters, it was significantly amended to appease the insurance companies, creating a bad bill that would have done nothing to help low-income motorists. The bill passed the House and made it to 3rd Reader in the Senate. Unions made calls to Senators to ask them to kill the bill, and no further action was taken on it.
Labor Bills that received no votes in Committee – The following bills received no vote in their respective committees, either by being withdrawn by the sponsor or the committee chair did not bring them up for a vote.
HB 40 Maryland Energy Administration Study on Geothermal Heating and Cooling Systems and Geothermal Energy Workgroup (WITHDRAWN) is a workgroup bill designed to get the conversation started on increasing geothermal energy sources in Maryland. The charge of the workgroup is focused on the correct questions to ask, for the environment, for our communities, and, most importantly for Maryland workers, “the potential for family–sustaining job creation resulting from the expansion of geothermal heating and cooling systems in the State”. If we are to craft effective and substantive environmental policy in Maryland, we must stay laser focused on workers and their families – and the enormous economic contribution that they make to Maryland – while avoiding the pitfalls of unintended consequences rising from poorly thought-out legislation that will do more harm than good. The bill was withdrawn by the sponsor because the much more comprehensive bill – HB 1007 – passed, which increased the amounts of geothermal energy eligible for Renewable Energy Credits that added labor provisions for it.
HB 124 Occupational Safety and Health Standards to Protect Employees - Aerosol Transmissible Diseases and COVID-19 (WITHDRAWN) mandates that Maryland Occupational Safety and Health promulgates regulations to create an Emergency Temporary Standard for all workplaces in Maryland. In addition to creating an ETS for the COVID-19 pandemic, the bill directs the Commissioner to establish a permanent occupational safety and health standard to protect employees from occupation exposure to aerosol transmissible diseases. Not only will we have consistency during these trying times, we will ensure that we plan appropriately for any public health-related emergencies due to infections disease in the future. The bill was withdrawn by the sponsor because most of details within it were incorporated into the Maryland Essential Workers Protection Act.
HB 1237 (SB 908) Budget Bill - Appropriations Statement - Memorandum of Understanding for State Personnel (WITHDRAWN) proposes a constitutional amendment, if approved by the voters at the next general election, that requires the annual budget bill submitted by the Governor to be accompanied by a statement showing the appropriations necessary to implement and fund each memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the next ensuing fiscal year, whether reached through negotiations or binding arbitration, that is binding on the State. Ten unions and CLCs submitted support testimony for this legislation. Workers deserve balance and timely decisions. Establishing a binding arbitration process where both the union representative and management representative are participating in the arbitration provides relatively equal bargaining power and provides an incentive for both parties to reach an agreement without invoking binding arbitration. This bill is a fair and balanced approach to providing effective and efficient negotiations for our state employees. The bill was withdrawn by the sponsor and no action was taken on the cross-filed bill.
HB 350 and SB 594Labor and Employment - Maryland Healthy Working Families Act – Verification (WITHDRAWN) changes provisions in the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act that relate to notification to employers. Under existing law, verification of the use of Earned Sick Leave is based on mutually agreed upon terms between the employer and the employee. This bill nullifies that, completely, allowing the employer to unilaterally implement their own verification method and to deny a request for Earned Sick Leave. Verification of the use of Earned Sick Leave is based on mutually agreed upon terms between the employer and the employee. This bill nullifies that, completely, allowing the employer to unilaterally implement their own verification method and to deny a request for Earned Sick Leave. Moreover, the Fiscal and Policy Note of this identical bill from last Session notes the logical inconsistency in a worker providing “insufficient” verification – after taking the leave – but still allowing an employer to deny it. No action was taken on the bill.
SB 148 (HB 66) Electric Generation - Transition From Fossil Fuels - Carbon Dioxide Emissions Rate and Transition Plan and Fund (Maryland Coal Community Transition Act of 2021) (WITHDRAWN) will end coal-fired power plants in the State of Maryland. Labor cannot support any bill that, by legislative fiat, ends a good-paying, family-sustaining job in the State of Maryland. Every time that we have spoken with the proponents of this bill, recently, and in the past, we have made it abundantly clear that a date-certain ending of a job is a non-starter for labor. Moreover, ending these jobs while demanding nothing of the employers in the way of transitioning their own workers, either through retirement and pension benefits or re-training, is bad policy. It sets the State up for being 100% on the hook for a just transition, while businesses are afforded the opportunity to simply move on, unfazed by the decision to terminate hundreds and perhaps thousands of workers. The bill and its cross-file were withdrawn.
HB 913 Board of Community College Trustees for Baltimore County - Collective Bargaining – Faculty (WITHDRAWN) is enabling legislation that gives CCBC workers the right to collectively bargain. The bill was withdrawn by the sponsor due to the passage of HB 894 (SB 746) which expanded the right to all community colleges in the State.
HB 64 Labor and Employment - Occupational Safety and Health - Handwashing Facilities on Construction Sites (WITHDRAWN) mandates that construction worksites have handwashing facilities on-site. From the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen how essential proper hand washing is to limiting the spread of the virus. While most workplaces have clean running water available for workers to wash their hands, that is not the case for construction sites in Maryland.
HB 996 (SB 763) Alcoholic Beverages - Class A Licenses - Retail Grocery Establishments (Healthy Food Accountability Act of 2021) (WITHDRAWN) authorizes and requires local alcoholic beverages licensing boards in the State to issue Class A beer or Class A beer and wine licenses to grocery stores across the State. Maryland consumers benefit from the convenience of one-stop shopping. Currently, trips to the grocery store can require a second trip to a beer or wine store, as an “add on” trip, for no discernible reason other than our existing law. And it is unclear how Marylanders are being served by requiring this distinction. We are only 1 of 3 States that prohibit beer in chain stores and one 1 of 10 states that prohibit wine sales in chain stores. Every state, and D.C., that surrounds us allows for beer and wine sales in chain grocery stores. Maryland stands as an extreme outlier when it comes to our retail beer and wine sales. The bill was withdrawn by the sponsor, and no action was taken on the cross-filed bill.
SB 91 Criminal Law - Assault of a Public Transportation Operator – Penalties (FAILED) expands the prohibition on felony second-degree assault to include the intentional causing of physical injury to another person by a person who knows or has reason to know that the victim is a bus operator, a train operator, a light rail operator, or any other individual engaged in providing public transportation services. Violators are guilty of a felony and subject to the existing statutory penalties of imprisonment for up to 10 years and/or a $5,000 maximum fine. Transportation workers interact with the public daily, and are, oftentimes, the subject of assault. These workers are the face of our transportation system – providing top-notch service to everyone who utilizes public transportation – and they deserve the same respect and protection afforded to other public employees who are at risk of being assaulted on the job. With several high profile assaults on transportation workers in Maryland in recent months, it is imperative that we act sooner, rather than later, on imposing stiffer penalties against those who would bring harm on our bus drivers and train operators. No action was taken on this bill in committee.
HB 165 Maryland Estate Tax - Unified Credit (FAILED) changes the amount exclusion of inherited wealth that is subject to taxation. Currently, only Estates over $5 million are subject to the Estate Tax and this bill drops the exclusion down to Estates more than $1 million. HB 165 is not a new concept. In 2004, a $1 million exclusion was State law. We know this has worked in the past and provided the revenue necessary to service the needs of the citizens of Maryland and will help to fix our structural deficit. No action was taken on the bill.
HB 215 (SB 288) Income Tax - Carried Interest - Additional Tax (FAILED) applies a 17% state income surtax on the pass-through income that is attributable to investment management services provided in Maryland. The bill attempted to address the enormous tax disparity between workers and those who derive their income through investments. Hedge fund and investment managers pay a lower tax rate than restaurant servers, state and county workers, nurses, bus operators, teachers, and everyone else in Maryland that works for a living. Carried interest income is taxed much lower than income derived from wages. This special treatment for those who make money by investing the income of others undermines the value of all our labor. No action was taken on the bill or its cross-file.
HB 201 Income Tax Rates - Capital Gains Income (FAILED) adds a 1% surtax on capital gains income for State taxes. This would increase based on income level, from 2% to 3% at the lowest end, up to 6.75% (from 5.75%) for income greater than $250,000 ($300,000 if filing jointly). Considering that capital gains income is taxed at nearly half of working income at the Federal level, a 1% surtax at the State level is a very modest tax increase for the wealthiest among us, but, last year it was estimated that this would increase state revenues between $120 million to $151 million, annually. No action was taken on the bill.
HB 229 Corporate Income Tax - Throwback Rule (FAILED) closes a corporate loophole (throwback rule) that allows companies to pay no taxes by selling over state lines by ensuring that each dollar of corporate income in Maryland is subject to taxation by a single state – without double taxation on the profits – by assigning income to Maryland for the purpose of calculating the company’s tax bill. States as varied as West Virginia and California follow this same procedure for taxing interstate business transactions. HB 229 puts Maryland small businesses on an equal footing with their large competitors, ensuring every entity is paying taxes on income earned. By not closing this loophole, Maryland is being shorted tens of millions of dollars in revenue on an annual basis. That shortfall in tax revenue must be picked up by the workers of Maryland, and it is time to provide them with relief by holding multi-state corporations accountable. This bill has been introduced multiple times, but never garners support in the General Assembly.
HB 330 Effective Corporate Tax Rate Transparency Act of 2021 (FAILED) requires a publicly traded corporation required to file a Maryland corporate income tax return to include a confidential statement that identifies the corporation’s effective tax rate. The statement must provide an itemized explanation of how the effective tax rate was calculated and a comparison of the effective tax rate of the corporation both before and after the application of any credits, deductions, subtraction modifications, or other adjustments. It was never brought up for a vote in the House Ways and Means Committee.
HB 357 Income Tax - Pass-Through Entity - Additional Tax (FAILED) applies a 4% tax directly on the profits – more than $1 million per year – of the Pass-through-entity (PTE) distributive share to business owners, to recoup some of this lost revenue through existing PTE tax avoidance schemes. Not only is this the right thing to do – ensuring large businesses do not benefit in ways that small businesses cannot – but it would be incredibly beneficial to the State of Maryland, re-capturing lost revenues to the tune of $350 million per year. Closing this loophole demonstrates to the taxpaying workers of Maryland that their labor is valued and that we will not allow large corporations to use tax avoidance schemes to pay less than they do for the services that we all enjoy. It was never brought up for a vote in the House Ways and Means Committee.
SB 511 Corporate Tax Fairness Act of 2021 (FAILED) requires combined reporting and implementation of the corporate “throwback rule” to address corporate income that is not taxable in any state. Twenty-four states and the District of Columbia use combined reporting, and, according to an analysis by the Maryland Center on Economic Policy, it would bring in $120 million, annually, in state revenues. We are facing a structural budget deficit that must be addressed and cannot be balanced with spending cuts. More budget cuts cost the jobs of Maryland workers in public and private sectors, while eliminating the investments in education and transportation that we need to prosper in the future. With increased revenue through combined reporting, we can start to close our budget gap without having to sacrifice services to the people of Maryland. The Senate Budget and Taxation Committee took no action on the bill.
HB 435 State Individual Income Tax - Millionaires’ Tax (FAILED) imposing an income tax rate of 7.0% on net taxable income more than $1 million. It is time for a new tax bracket on the wealthy. It is time to fully fund the services of our State. With the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc on the economy, and workers losing their jobs, our State budget has been hit hard. We cannot continue to force working Marylanders to shoulder the burden of the costs to run our State. It is time to ask that the wealthiest among us to pay a little more on their income over $1,000,000 per year. We cannot allow supply-side economic theory to trump the reality we all know is true: When the rich pay a little more in taxes, all of communities and our State benefit. The House Ways and Means Committee took no action on the bill.
HB 172 Corporate Income Tax - Combined Reporting and Subtraction Modification for Combined Groups of Corporations (FAILED) requires a multi-state corporation to add together the profits of all its subsidiaries, regardless of their location, into one report, for the purposes of calculating Maryland taxes. Combined reporting allows Maryland owned small businesses to compete on an even playing field with multi-state and multi-national corporations. It removes the unfair advantage that currently exists for big corporations to engage in tax-evasion, at the expense of small businesses and Maryland’s economy. Businesses that operate solely within the state cannot duplicate the tax avoidance strategies of large, multi-state corporations, and, therefore, are at a competitive disadvantage against companies with near limitless resources. This bill has been introduced every Session for decades, and it never receives enough support to pass. No action was taken on the bill.
HB 176 Earned Income Tax Credit - Individuals Without Qualifying Children - Calculation and Refundability (FAILED) raises the income threshold for the EITC for workers without children, allowing more low-income workers to take advantage of the credit, providing more relief, and allowing more breathing room for working families, trying to make ends meet. This expansion is good for every Marylander, because with more money available to spend, workers will spur consumer demand, helping Maryland’s small businesses, as well as leading to more jobs. HB 176 is good for low-income workers, Maryland businesses, and our economy. No action was taken on the bill.
HB 179 Income Tax - Subtraction Modification - Union Dues (FAILED) creates a subtraction modification against the State income tax for union dues, by decoupling State tax law from Federal tax law that took away this tax break for union members when the 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by Donald Trump. Unionized workers are our teachers, firefighters, and our police and corrections officers. They are our transportation workers, social workers, nurses, paraprofessionals, skilled construction workers, and the essential workers that have kept our state afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic. They build and maintain our State and educate and care for our residents. When we can help mitigate the damages done by the Federal government, we should. HB 179 will allow for a subtraction modification of union dues subtracted from federal adjusted gross income, at the State level, therefore lessening the tax burden for Maryland’s union members, and, ultimately, reversing, in part, the damage done by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.
HB 153 and HB 274 Election Law - Elections by Mail (FAILED) mandates that all registered voters are mailed a ballot for upcoming elections. Both bills, HB 153 and HB 274, set our election policy going forward, to provide a vote-by-mail ballot to every registered voter in Maryland. There are details that differ between them, but the overall point remains the same: We need to change our election law to provide for universal vote-by-mail, while still providing in-person voting options for those voters who choose to do so. Neither bill received any action in committee.
HB 374 Collective Bargaining - Baltimore City Community College – Faculty (FAILED)is enabling legislation that gives BCCC workers the right to collectively bargain. No action was taken on the bill due to the passage of HB 894 (SB 746) which expanded the right to all community colleges in the State.
SB 171 Income Tax - Theatrical Production Tax Credit (FAILED) creates the Theatrical Production Tax Credit, structured in the same way as the highly successful Film Activity Tax Credit, with the same level of transparency, accountability, and benefit to Maryland workers and their families. SB 171 sets up the path for theatrical productions to be one of Maryland’s permanent economic engines by providing stability and predictability to an industry whose contributions to the economy are a trifecta – and the winners are small businesses, family-sustaining careers, and local and state economies. This is critical to ensuring a solid business climate, and one that assures continued investment by the theatrical industry in Maryland to create good jobs and grow our economy. No action was taken on the bill.
HB 20 Maryland Stadium Authority - Applicability of Prevailing Wage (FAILED) removes the existing exemption in State procurement law that the Maryland Stadium Authority (MSA) has pertaining to prevailing wage. Currently, the MSA voluntarily complies with the requirements of the prevailing wage law, so this bill should be non-controversial as it codifies into law the existing practices of the MSA. However, “voluntary” adherence produces the potential to revert to paying substandard wages in the future, making it incumbent to ensure that MSA continues to conform with the requirements of the prevailing wage law. No action was taken on the bill.
SB 29 Election Law - Voting - Elections by Mail, Polling Places, and Early Voting Centers (FAILED) requires that a vote-by-mail ballot be mailed to each registered voter before each election held under State election law and establishes provisions governing the casting and
counting of vote-by-mail ballots. The bill never received a vote in committee.
SB 504 Discrimination in Employment - Use of Medical Cannabis – Prohibition (FAILED) prohibits an employer from discriminating in employment against an individual who has received a written certification for the use of medical cannabis. We cannot support medical uses for cannabis while simultaneously allowing employers to discriminate based on its usage. With the proper protections in place for businesses, SB 504 gives stability for workers and Maryland’s businesses. The bill never received a vote in committee.
HB 509 9-1-1 Specialists - Classification as First Responders (FAILED) adds 9-1-1 operators to the list of first responders for the purpose of covering them under workers’ compensation law. By definition, Maryland’s 9-1-1 Specialists are the very first people to respond in a crisis. They receive the calls from very distressed residents, looking for immediate help in dangerous situations. They move quickly to see that the appropriate help is dispatched, immediately. Our 9-1-1 Specialists put the “First” in First Responder, and we need to treat them as such. The House Health and Government Operations Committee took no action on the bill.
SB 813 (HB 1199), SB 756, and HB 1247 (SB 725) Workers' Compensation - Occupational Disease Presumptions - COVID-19 (FAILED) creates a presumption for workers who contract COVID-19 for the purposes of coverage by Workers’ Compensation. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), 17 states and Puerto Rico have taken action to extend workers compensation coverage to include COVID-19 as a work-related illness. Nine states have enacted legislation creating a presumption of coverage for various types of workers. This pandemic is truly global in scope, and States are taking action to protect our essential workers. The House Economic Matters Committee took no action on any of the bills, and the Senate Finance Committee took no action on the cross-filed bills.
SB 521 State Personnel - Collective Bargaining (FAILED) is enabling legislation that grants collective bargaining right to graduate students within the University of Maryland System. The Senate Finance Committee never even bothered to take a vote on allowing these workers to collectively bargain. Collective bargaining for graduate assistants is not new, unique, or different. Currently, 30 universities, including the University of Wisconsin, University of Michigan, University of Illinois, and the University of California at Berkley have collective bargaining for graduate assistants. These are universities that – in the case of Wisconsin – have had collective bargaining rights for student workers for decades. Far from seeing any ill effects that are constantly promulgated by those who oppose collective bargaining, these universities are thriving, and the student workers on their campuses have the additional protections afforded them through speaking with one voice at the bargaining table.
HB 32 Cannabis - Legalization and Regulation (Inclusion, Restoration, and Rehabilitation Act of 2021) (FAILED) legalizes marijuana for recreational use, applies regulations to the sale, use and distribution, and addresses the rights of those who were previously convicted of cannabis-related charges. The sponsor added Labor Peace language to the bill which would have created a level playing field had the bill passed. With legalization and regulation of a brand new industry, businesses will fill the market need for cannabis products, bringing new jobs to fulfill demand. It is imperative that, whenever we have the opportunity to create new jobs, that we ensure workers have a voice in that process. Those who create the entirety of the value of any business should have a say in their own future. It never received a vote in either the House Judiciary or House Health and Government Operations Committees.
HB 1204 Equity in Transportation Sector - Guidelines and Analyses (Transportation Equity Analyses and Assurances Act of 2021) (FAILED) establishes the Commission on Transportation Equity within MDOT. The bill also expands the goals of the Maryland Transportation Plan, the factors that must be included in the annual State Report on Transportation, and the membership of the advisory committee that advises MDOT on State transportation goals, benchmarks, and indicators to include a greater focus on transportation equity and racial disparities. Additionally, before announcing or proposing any service change that would exceed any thresholds set by the commission, MDOT, in collaboration with MTA, must conduct a transit equity analysis, perform a cost-benefit analysis, and consult with members and leaders of affected communities. The sponsor added labor members to the commission at the request of the State Federation. No action was taken on the bill.
SB 165 (HB 909) Maryland Healthy Working Families Act – Applicability (FAILED) takes away earned sick leave from substitute teachers. In Maryland, we have roughly 8,700 substitute teachers currently employed. Many substitute teachers work full-time and rely on their job for their primary source of income. Exacerbating this is the fact that the median wage for substitutes is $32,360/year, according to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistic information from 2018. Therefore, the people affected by SB 165 already earn a lower wage and would suffer a greater negative impact by having to choose between paying the bills and their health. No action was taken on bill or its cross-file.
SB 210 (HB 508) COVID-19 Claim - Civil Immunity (FAILED)
HB 1084 Catastrophic Health Emergencies - Immunity From Civil Liability (FAILED)
HB 1106 Civil Actions - Immunity From Liability - COVID-19 Exposure (FAILED)
All three bills create immunity from lawsuits for businesses whose workers contract COVID-19. Ultimately, this comes down to fairness and balance. If businesses want some form of immunity, then there needs to be an ETS in place, that will provide consistent and uniform protections for workers. In the absence of any real protections, there should be no immunity of any kind. We simply cannot have a system wherein we tell workers to choose between a paycheck and their health. None of bills received a vote in their committees.
HB 923 (SB 728) Labor and Employment - Worker Safety and Health - Injury and Illness Prevention Program (FAILED) requires each employer in the State with 10 or more employees to develop and implement a health and safety committee to promote health and safety in the workplace, with workers serving on the committees. The bill also requires each employer in the State, regardless of size, to establish, implement, and maintain an injury and illness prevention program. Those who are most affected by the decisions of industry should have a seat at the table when it comes to defining a safe vs. unsafe work environment or policy. Workplace injuries are preventable, and those who can best define where the problems exist are the ones who work every day creating the value for any business: The Worker. No action was taken on the bill or its cross-file.
HB 375 (SB 211) Labor and Employment - Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program - Establishment (Time to Care Act of 2021) (FAILED) establishes the Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FAMLI) program and FAMLI Fund to provide up to 12 weeks of benefits to a covered individual taking leave from employment due to personal and family circumstances. The FAMLI fund is paid for through employer and worker contributions. No action was taken on the bill or its cross-file.
SB 44 Correctional Officers - Age Requirement (FAILED) lowers the eligible age for someone to become a State Correctional Officer from 21 to 19. The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee did not bring this up for a vote.
HB 665 Education - Public Charter Schools - Virtual Learning Programs (FAILED) creates a statewide virtual charter school in Maryland. It received no vote in the House Ways and Means Committee.
HB 1326 (SB 727) Maryland Healthy Working Families Act - Revisions and Public Health Emergency Leave (WITHDRAWN) requires employers in the State to provide additional sick and safe leave to employees during public health emergencies, including the current and ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The bill also applies the requirements of the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act to additional employees in the State and expands the definition of “family member” in reference to MHWFA, thereby allowing employees to use sick and safe leave earned under the act to provide care and/or legal services to more people in their family. The bill was withdrawn by the sponsor and the Senate cross-file received no vote.
HB 24 State Holidays - Primary Election Day (FAILED) mandates a state holiday for state primary elections. No action was taken on the bill.
HB 1088 (SB 768) Nondiscrimination and LGBTQ+ Individuals (FAILED) expresses that it is the policy of the State to provide equal access to justice to all and prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ+ citizens, with respect to the State’s court, child welfare, housing and community development, human services, and juvenile services systems. The bill also extends prohibitions against discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations by a unit, officer, or employee of the State or a county or municipal corporation to a contractor, grantee, or other program or entity receiving public funds, and requires adding “creed” and “gender identity” to a list of protected factors in a residential childcare program provider’s Residents’ Bill of Rights. No action was taken on the bill or its cross-file.
HB 1170 (SB 941) Primary and Secondary Education - Virtual Schools – Alterations (FAILED) authorizes the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE), a local board of education, or a public institution of higher education to establish a statewide virtual public school without approval from the State Superintendent of Schools. A statewide virtual public school is exempt from specified State policies and regulations, most notably labor regulations. No action was taken on the cross-filed bill, either.
Resolutions that affect Labor – The following resolutions were introduced in the 2021 Legislative Session that would have had an impact on unions and workers. However, they received no votes in their respective Rules committees.
HJ 4 (SJ 0006) Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission - Atlantic Menhaden - Population Evaluation and Prohibition on Commercial Reduction Fishing (FAILED) attempts to reduce the amount of commercial fishing of Atlantic menhaden – done with union labor – with the express purpose placating sport fishermen. No action was taken on either resolution.
HJ 5 United States of America - District of Columbia – Statehood (FAILED) is a resolution that urges Congress to enact federal legislation granting statehood to the District of Columbia. The unions of Maryland and D.C. stand united in our support of the citizens of the District of Columbia to be able to fully execute their Constitutional right to fair representation and enjoy the full freedom of statehood. The current travesty on no representation has been allowed to continue for far too long, silencing the voices of nearly 700,000 Americans in, ironically, America’s capital city. The House Rules and Executive Nominations Committee took no action on the resolution.
SJ 7 United States Constitution - Amendments Convention - Democracy Amendment (FAILED) proposes an Article V Convention of States to re-write the Constitution with the purpose of getting money out of politics. While the State Federation fully supports the goal of SJ 7 – to bring our Democracy to the people and out of the hands of wealthy corporate donors – an Article V Constitutional Convention would inject chaos and uncertainty into our government, and, ironically, would allow those corporate donors to run rough-shod over our Democracy. A convention opens the door to massive changes to our Constitution, without any clear direction or understanding of the consequences of those changes. There is no precedent for an Article V Convention. No judicial, legislative, or executive body would have clear authority to settle disputes, should any arise. We have no idea how the rules would even be set for the proceedings of a convention, or who would ultimately be in charge. An Article V Convention opens the field for special interests to involve themselves in the process. Wealthy lobbyists could, quite literally, create amendments to the Constitution that benefits them at the detriment of the citizenry. Our civil liberties would be open to debate and change; citizenship, civil rights, privacy rights, etc. These could all be open for massive negative changes. Our right to Free Speech, Assembly, and Freedom of Religion would all be fair game during a convention. This resolution is put in every year, and it has, so far, received no action in the House Rules Committee.
HJ 6 United States Constitution - Amendments Convention - Limitations on Federal Power (FAILED) proposes an Article V Convention of States to re-write the Constitution with the purpose of limiting the power of the Federal government. An Article V Constitutional Convention would inject chaos and uncertainty into our government, and, ironically, would allow those corporate donors to run rough-shod over our Democracy. A convention opens the door to massive changes to our Constitution, without any clear direction or understanding of the consequences of those changes.