Chamber Hosts Legislative Preview

SALISBURY – Discussions on the local real estate market, state budget and vaccine distribution plan highlighted a preview session with members of the Eastern Shore delegation last week.

Last Thursday, the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce held a virtual question-and-answer forum with members of the Eastern Shore delegation ahead of the 2021 General Assembly session. The topics, developed by the chamber’s government and business affairs committee, focused on several issues and gave representatives a chance to discuss bills that will be introduced to address challenges, particularly within the local business community.

“Now more than ever we need to hear from those members what’s important, what they like, what they don’t like and what’s coming out of the General Assembly …,” said Del. Chris Adams. “It’s important, now more than ever, to show Marylanders how to govern during these difficult times.”

When asked how the legislature could support the real estate industry and encourage homeowners to take advantage of a seller’s market, Adams said more was needed to address regulations that hinder development in Maryland.

He noted that while demand was high inventory was low, and the costs of septic systems and mandated sprinkler requirements made it more expensive to build a home in Maryland.

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“The opportunity to invest is no better than it is now. The problem is supply and demand are way off …,” he said. “We can ask the question. But really the answer is something is amiss in our regulatory and environmental policies.”

Members of the delegation were also asked how the COVID-19 pandemic would impact this year’s budget and, specifically, funding to implement recommendations from the Kirwan Commission – a state task force created to improve Maryland’s public school system.

Del. Sheree Sample-Hughes told participants last week there would be a effort this session to override the governor’s veto of the plan, or to at least implement portions of the Kirwan Commission’s recommendations.

“The state of Maryland is in a better position than we thought so originally …,” she said. “Yes, we are going to take up some veto overrides and are keenly aware of what that looks like financially.”

Del. Wayne Hartman, however, argued the recommendations needed to be implemented slowly over time.

“I don’t think it’s affordable for the state and the counties,” he said.

When asked if they supported a proposed tax on digital advertising, Sample-Hughes said it would bring in revenue for Kirwan recommendations. Opponents, however, said a tax increase would burden Maryland businesses already facing economic challenges.

“This is the wrong time to put that additional burden on our businesses …,” Sen. Mary Beth Carozza said. “We need to be sensitive to what COVID-19 recovery looks like for small businesses.”

Representatives last week also had a chance to talk about the state’s vaccine distribution plan and ways in which the delegation could inform the public. Sen. Addie Eckardt noted as of last Thursday more than 3,000 vaccine doses had been administered in Wicomico County.

“Actually, the Eastern Shore has been ahead of the rest of the state,” she said.

Other topics of discussion last week included redistricting, agricultural regulations, local septic system issues and broadband access.

Members of the Eastern Shore delegation also encouraged constituents to contact them with questions or concerns.

“This is a completely different environment we are going into,” Del. Johnny Mautz said. “It’s all hands on deck.”

Del. Charles Otto agreed.

“I ask you to be involved and keep informed,” he said.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.