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September 8, 2015

Stay out of my business

Farrell Keough

With Fall almost upon us, the smells from Session in Annapolis are welling up from their depths. To take a quote from a President Franklin Delano Roosevelt speech, ‘the only thing we have to fear, is politicians in session.’

We are seeing this play out with the – ‘Augustine Commission’ [Maryland Economic Development and Business Climate Commission] formed by Senate President Thomas V. ‘Mike’ Miller (D., Calvert-PG) and House Speaker Michael E. Busch ( D., Anne Arundel) just prior to Gov. Larry Hogan’s sweeping election victory. The irony of this commission formation is almost enough to make one smile.

Well, the Augustine Commission’s first report yielded results. (Keep in mind, this is not a commentary as to whether said results were good or bad, simply that their actions produced results.)

We now have a new “supper secretary of commerce,” and some new reporting commissions as well as costs for new programs, according to The Daily Record. In short, we pay more for government to meddle in business and have the benefit of numerous reports and recommendations – the latter being as important as a strongly worded column from a local political blowhard.

But, a new outcome (or should the word be ‘result’) has arisen from the Augustine Commission. In a couple of news columns from the Daily Record, we have seen both the special assistant to the secretary of business and economic development, and the president and executive officer of The Howard Bank in Ellicott City indicate it may be a bad idea to hand over these changes to the legislature.

In a Daily Record article, Ursula S. Powidzki, the special assistant, told the Maryland Economic Development and Business Climate Commission [Augustine Commission] that even though changes are needed to old programs or outdated laws, there is a hesitance to go to the General Assembly to seek updates.

“To change them means going back to the legislature and particularly triggering a much bigger change that neither we nor the folks who are interested in the credits want to get into,” Ms. Powidzki said…

“It’s Katie bar the door,” Jon Laria said of legislative involvement. “No one knows what will happen” [sic].

Mary Ann Scully, president Howard Bank and a commission member, called the recent meeting “a frustrating day.”

“Taxes are not about stories,” Ms. Scully said (according to The Daily Record): “Taxes are about credible analysis of where we differ and if we want to move the dial in a certain direction, what must we do and what would the advantages and disadvantages of that be. I just don’t feel right now that we’re making any progress on that front.”

Some lawmakers on the commission, however, took exception to the comments and said the attitude was not conducive to rehabilitating programs that are outdated to the point they no longer function effectively.

“That’s a disturbing message to me,” said Del. C. William “Bill” Frick (D., Montgomery Co.). “If we’re going to get better we need to be partners rather than view the legislature with suspicion.”

Let’s consider these disparate replies….

From the political side, Delegate Frick, there is a strong belief that the Legislative Branch can fix these myriad business impediments. From the business side, Ms. Powidzki and Ms. Scully, the simple request is – status quo, please don’t involve yourself in business as the results are historically and generally poor.

So, think about this – how should we contact our representative? It seems to me, ‘stay out of our businesses’ may be the best response…


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