Cumberland Times-News

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February 16, 2013

Legislation aimed at improving state’s business climate

CUMBERLAND — A bill that would create a task force to improve the business climate in Maryland has gained the support of the Legislative Committee of the Allegany County Chamber of Commerce, said Stu Czapski, the chamber’s executive director.

“I generally think commissions and studies are a good thing as long as something comes of it,” Czapski said, adding that the proposed task force has “a good deal of diversity, and that matters.”

In environmental policy, for instance, “we need to be responsible but competitive,” Czapski said.

Czapski said Thursday that the Legislative Committee had voted to support the bill. The chamber’s full board of directors must vote on the recommendation to make it official, Czapski said. That vote should occur soon.

A need for a look at the state’s business climate exists, Czapski said.

“The perception of the business climate is probably worse than it is ... but the reality is, it’s not good,” Czapski said. “We rarely rank well (in assessments of state businesss climates). We are an expensive state to do business in.”

State officials are always helpful and cooperative, but state rules and regulations often get in the way, Czapski said.

The legislation, House Bill 1326, is co-sponsored by a number of Republicans and Democrats. Those include Delegates Heather Mizeur and Michael Smigiel, two members who are rarely on the same side of an issue. Czapski specifically cited the work of Vickie Swink of the state Department of Business and Economic Development.

The task force would be charged with reviewing and examining state laws that affect business, including resources, the business tax structure and the length of time to obtain permits and licenses to operate a business.

The aims of the task force would include identifying laws and policies that should be changed to make the state a more competitive business environment; eliminating unnecessary administrative burdens; and general recommendations to improve the business climate.

“We need to look at incentives,” Czapski said. Especially in Western Maryland, “we are geographically challenged,” he said, with Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Virginia so nearby.

The task force would include a member from the state Senate and House, the secretary of business and economic development or a designee, the secretary of housing and community development or a designee, and several other members from educational, business and government organizations.

The task force would be required to submit recommendations by the end of this year.

Expenses of task force members may be reimbursed, but they will not be otherwise compensated for their service, according to the language of the bill.

“I’d like to see something good come out of this,” Czapski said.

Contact Matthew Bieniek at mbieniek@times-news.com

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