Legislation Aims To Streamline Building Permit Process

BERLIN — State Delegate Mike McDermott (R-38B) has introduced several pieces of legislation aimed at making Maryland more business-friendly, including a bill that would clarify the often-murky decision-making process for the issuance of construction permits in Worcester and across the state.

House Bill 213, authored by McDermott and co-sponsored by 18 of his colleagues in the House, is the so-called “Truth in Permitting” bill. The bill, if approved, would restructure the way in which local government responds to proposed building permits and electrical and plumbing permits, for example. With the economy showing signs of recovery and the building business responding in kind, more and more permits are being requested on the Lower Shore and across Maryland, but the recovery is often stymied by the rejection of permits.

According to McDermott, the current system in place does not require the various local boards that approve or reject building and other permits to explain their decision-making process, nor does it require the agencies to review a requested permit within a reasonable amount of time. As a result, the process is also slowed to a standstill, curtailing what should be a robust contracting industry after years of stagnation.

“There is a poor system in place today that often fails to tell a contractor what is wrong with their permit,” McDermott said this week. “This faulty process results in a back-and-forth between contractors and architects trying to identify the problem, which is often omitted by those reviewing the permits. This adds to the time and money it takes business owners to have their permits approved, often resulting in months of lost time.”

House Bill 213 is just one of the bills sponsored by McDermott aimed at making Maryland more business-friendly. In addition, House Bill 199, the so-called Corporate Income Tax Rate Reduction Bill, would, if approved, reduce the corporate tax rate from the current 8.25-percent to six-percent. According to McDermott, the proposed reduction would give corporations in Maryland more breathing room, allowing them to operate more freely. The bill was introduced as a competitive response to neighboring states with lower tax rates and incentives.

Another piece of legislation introduced last week by McDermott, House Bill 26, would require agencies submitting new regulations to also submit a fiscal impact statement. McDermott contends new regulations are often passed and implemented without a real examination of the fiscal impact of the changes. While the legislation would apply to all regulation changes, McDermott said the bill could be particularly beneficial to farmers and small business owners.

“Maryland desperately needs legislation that will make it a more business-friendly state,” he said. “Our current business environment does not allow it to adequately compete with our neighboring states. These laws will help out not only big business, but also small business owners, contractors, electricians and the like. We need to change the way we think about business in Maryland.”

Yet another bill introduced by McDermott would alter the penalty process currently meted out by the Department of Labor and Licensing Regulations (DLLR). Currently, the DLLR penalizes small businesses for non-serious violations without first giving a warning. McDermott’s bill would ensure a warning is given before often severe penalties and fines are handed out.

“Maryland needs to be a more business-friendly state and it can start with this legislative year,” he said. “We have a real opportunity here to do what’s right, to compete with our neighboring states and make Maryland a more prosperous, inviting state in which to do business.”