Cumberland Times-News

July 7, 2013

Business group gives low marks to many Maryland lawmakers

meg tully

— ANNAPOLIS — A Maryland business group rating state lawmakers in its annual scorecard released last week gave low marks to the two Democrats leading the Maryland General Assembly, typifying how business organizations view the legislature as a whole.

In the Roll Call report it’s been doing since 1987, Maryland Business for Responsive Government gave House Speaker Michael Busch a 29 percent in 2013, and Senate President Mike Miller fared slightly better at 40 percent.

“Technology companies, cybersecurity companies and other select special commercial interests declared 2013 to be a victorious legislative session for business,” said the report. “For them, it meant more government investment in their industries, which breeds more innovation and more jobs, as the argument goes.

“But to other businesses in Maryland, 2013 meant higher taxes, more overburdensome regulations, fewer employees and a bigger bottom-line struggle to remain a going concern. It’s a deep divide in the underpinning of Maryland’s economic development climate.”

MBRG is made up of companies, chambers of commerce and other business and trade organizations. It rated senators and delegates for their votes on key bills for the roll call. The ratings vary from zero to 100 percent.

“I am very proud of my pro-business voting record,” said Delegate Anthony O’Donnell, the Republican leader during the session, scoring a 100 percent rating this year. “I know businesses in my district, whether they are large businesses or the small mom-and-pop shop on the corner, are the ones who provide jobs for my constituents.”

O’Donnell was one of 18 delegates who earned a perfect score, as did Senate Minority Leader E.J. Pipkin in the Senate. Anne Arundel County Sens. Ed Reilly and Bryan Simonaire also scored 100 percent.

The lowest score in the General Assembly went to Delegate James Malone, a Baltimore County Democrat who got a zero. But his score reflected a lot of missed votes that happened when he was taken ill with pneumonia during session, he said.

Malone maintains a 44 percent for his overall score after serving in the House of Delegates 19 years, something he said he was proud of as a “union man.”

“I’m one of these that feel I have to meet everybody halfway,” Malone said. “Having close to 50 percent, I’m happy with that.

Kimberly Burns, president of Maryland Business for Responsive Government, said that the scorecard helps keep public officials accountable to business and industry.

This year, the group is particularly concerned with a new law that will go into effect Oct. 1. That law will allow employees to seek liens against employers for unpaid wages — a move that Burns predicts will hit many employers and will be costly to defend.

The group’s state advisory council sifted through more than 225 pieces of legislation to select the dozen bills that were ultimately included in the scorecard. Burns said they chose the most critical votes to business and indicators of Maryland’s business climate health as a whole.

Among the hot-button issues was an initiative led by Gov. Martin O’Malley to add offshore wind power in Maryland.