Small business notches a number of wins
The General Assembly finished their annual legislative session this past week amidst a flurry of last minute maneuvering and deal making. Many of the major issues – pandemic relief, police reform, juvenile justice, early voting, and sports betting – were resolved by the time the gavel fell at midnight on Monday. Others came up short of crossing the finish line. Namely climate legislation and tenant rights fell victim to disagreements between House and Senate leaders.
There were also a number of bills that passed – and didn’t pass – that were very important to the small business community. Below is a list and brief explainer of the legislation that will have (or could have had) an impact on small businesses and their ultimate fate.
- Senate Bill 496 – RELIEF Act: Governor Hogan’s centerpiece for economic recovery, this wide ranging bill grants a waiver for any charges against an employer’s experience rating for unemployment insurance tax purposes, provides $200 million in tax credits for businesses that collect and remit the state’s sales and use tax, and safeguards Maryland small businesses who received a state or local pandemic-related loan or grant from any tax increases on their state income tax returns. NFIB supported SB496. Passed and signed into law.
- Senate Bill 811: Sponsored by Senator Steve Hershey (R – Queen Anne’s), the bill will lower an employer’s unemployment insurance tax rate for calendar year 2022 and 2023. It will move the state from Table F to Table C for those years. This bill came on the heels of the Governor’s announcement of a $1.1 billion transfer of federal funds into the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund to insure its solvency. NFIB supported SB811. Passed and signed into law.
- House Bill 508/Senate Bill 210: Sponsored by Delegate Dalya Attar (D – Baltimore City) and Senator Chris West (R – Baltimore County), this bill would have provided small business owners immunity from frivolous civil liability lawsuits for claims related to COVID-19. A person would have to prove a business owner showed gross negligence or intentional wrongdoing if a plaintiff alleged they contracted COVID-19 at that business. NFIB supported HB508/SB210. Received committee hearings but no further action was taken.
- House Bill 375/Senate Bill 211: Sponsored by Delegate Kris Valderrama (D – Prince George’s) and Senator Antonio Hayes (D – Baltimore City), legislation sought to create a paid leave insurance program through the Division of Unemployment Insurace whereby an employee would be entitled to 12 weeks of benefits to care for themselves or a family member in the event of a serious health condition or the birth or adoption of a child. Contributions to the fund would be shared equally among employer and employee. According to an analysis of the bill, it could have cost an employer a maximum of $536 per employee. NFIB opposed HB375/SB211. Received committee hearings but no further action was taken.
- House Bill 581 – Maryland Essential Workers’ Protection Act: Sponsored by Delegate Dereck Davis (D – Prince George’s), this bill establishes a number of workplace safety regulations employers will be responsible for adopting and enforcing during a declared public health emergency. As introduced, the HB581 would have required employers to pay $3 extra per hour in “hazard pay,” provide 17 days of paid leave, and create and maintain written protocols to mitigate disease spread absent official guidance from state agencies. NFIB worked hard with legislators to amend the bill that balanced the health, safety, and financial concerns of both employers and workers. In the end, hazard pay was removed from the bill, paid leave will be granted only if there are federal or state funds to pay for it, and the Department of Labor will promulgate workplace safety regulations for employers to adopt. NFIB opposed HB581. Passed and is awaiting action by Governor Hogan.
Overall the legislative session was a success for small businesses. The legislature held the line against a number of tax increases that risked plunging small businesses into a deeper hole that many would no doubt be unable to crawl out of. NFIB members came out of the 2021 legislative session with results that prove once again small business continues to be the engine of Maryland’s economy.
If you have any questions about NFIB’s priorities and legislation that was before the General Assembly, please contact NFIB in Maryland’s State Director Mike O’Halloran at [email protected].
NFIB Follows Up with Another Big Win on UI
General Assembly passes UI tax relief for small business
NFIB scored another big win in the closing days of the 2021 legislative session. Coming on the heels of Governor Hogan’s announcement of transferring $1.1 billion in federal stimulus to shore up the state’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund (UITF), the General Assembly passed Senate Bill 811. Sponsored by state Senator Steve Hersehy (R – Queen Anne’s), SB811 will set employers’ UI tax rates at Table C of the Table of Rates for calendar years 2022 and 2023.
As it stands employer rates increased from Table A (lowest) to Table F (highest) this year as a result of the unprecedented draw down of the UITF during the pandemic. From March through September of 2020 alone, the UITF paid out $1.4 billion in unemployment benefits to claimants. But thanks in large part to the efforts of the small business community, SB811 will provide much needed tax relief for Maryland employers.
NFIB released the following statement on the passage of Senate Bill 811:
“The small business community notched a number of big wins this past session due in large part to the leadership of the General Assembly and Governor Hogan. Chief among these victories was the passage of Senate Bill 811, sponsored by Senator Steve Hershey (R – Queen Anne’s). This bill ensures Maryland job creators will not face crippling tax rates when it comes to unemployment insurance taxes. The COVID-19 pandemic caused unforeseeable stress on our state’s unemployment insurance system. But thanks to the actions of Governor Hogan and legislative leaders, Maryland small businesses will not be left on their own to pick up the tab of replenishing the trust fund”.
In light of the current economic times, the Department of Labor’s Division of Unemployment Insurance has implemented an initiative to assist employers finding themselves in a position of financial hardship. Please visit the Division’s webpage for more information. It can be found here.