Chamber gives lawmakers its '93 business perspective

November 20, 1992|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff Writer

The Howard County Chamber of Commerce told the county's General Assembly delegation yesterday what business leaders

want -- and don't want -- during the legislative session beginning in January.

The chamber's positions, developed by the 900-member organization's legislative committee, outline the business perspective on everything from environmental issues, to taxes, health care and family leave.

Meeting with lawmakers at the chamber's annual legislative breakfast yesterday in Jessup, members said they will oppose legislative efforts to relax rules for challenging in court permit decisions by state agencies. The chamber anticipates environmental groups will attempt to modify existing law.

The chamber fears that "needed" projects, including public facilities, could be delayed because of "spurious appeals" brought by citizens groups opposed to development.

"Some citizen groups are trying to stop growth for their own ends, not to protect the environment," said Larry Liebesman, an attorney who chaired the subcommittee.

The chamber recommends streamlining the state's non-tidal wetlands review process, which can cost time and money for developers.

The business group opposes tighter emissions standards on cars sold in Maryland if economic drawbacks outweigh environmental benefits. A regional program should be developed Maryland is not put at a competitive disadvantage with other states, the chamber says.

The chamber recommends these state initiatives: Developing a program for using crushed glass for road construction; encouraging the use of recycled products and reducing wasteful packaging; labeling to advise consumers about recycling; increasing the market for recycled plastics; and developing regional solutions to solid waste problems.

The chamber will oppose tax increases, instead pushing for reducing government's operating expenses. But business leaders warned lawmakers to avoid cutting infrastructure XTC projects, such as transportation improvements.

"Our criticism has been that the state has no coherent tax policy," said Alan Schwartz, an attorney and subcommittee chairman. "There's not an idea about what is needed to stimulate the economy. Instead, there's a crisis reaction from year to year."

New or increased taxes are a "last resort," the chamber says. If necessary, the chamber would support a 1 percent increase in the sales tax, but not an expansion of the sales tax base to additional services.

The chamber supports legislation that would promote competition, improve availability and control spiraling costs of health care through medical and workers' compensation insurance programs. For example, the chamber says mandated health benefits should be evaluated to measure costs against benefits. It recommends that self-employed individuals and partnerships should be allowed a 100 percent tax deduction for health insurance premiums.

The chamber opposes mandated family and parental leave requirements, saying that benefits should be the result of negotiations between employers and employees.

Such mandates would increase costs for businesses, some of which already are offering their own programs, the chamber says.

Del. Virginia M. Thomas, a Columbia Democrat, suggested that the chamber consider advocating health care reforms that aren't employer-based.

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