The Virginia General Assembly ended its legislative session a week ago by passing bills to change the state's unemployment benefit schedules and alter corporate taxes to attract foreign investment.
Also considered was legislation, expected to be voted on during a special session March 30, allowing construction of a $200-million steam coal export terminal on 623 acres in Portsmouth. The terminal is intended to help meet the increasing demand for coal by foreign countries and would handle 30 million tons of steam coal annually.
Port revenue bonds would be used for financing the project and would be guaranteed by private sector agreements, a state official said.
"The state cannot sit idly by and watch the deterioration of its mining and shipping economies," Gov. John N. Dalton said earlier this year.
Legislation to allow the state's banks to lift the 18 percent ceiling on credit card interest rates failed, partly because many legislators feared reprisals from constituents at the voting booths this year. However, some state bankers are saying they may charge membership fees for credit cards instead.
Some bankers said that a higher interest rate ceiling was necessary for them to make money on the credit cards during times of high inflation. If interest rates fall, however, pressure for a membership fee may subside.
Another bill excludes from Virginia taxes some income of out-of-state subsidiaries of Virginia corporations. Also, Virginia will not tax some income of corporations having less than 50 percent ownership by a Virginia taxpayer and whose parent company is headquartered outside of the state.
In addition, corporate income tax laws would be changed to prohibit taxation of sales of goods shipped by a Virginia firm to other states that for some legal reason cannot tax those goods. Previously, those sales would have been included as income to be taxed by Virginia.
The tax changes are intended to attract businesses with foreign subsidiaries, Virginia officials said.
In another bill, the maximum unemployment benefit was raised from $122 a week for 12 weeks to $138. The minimum benefit was raised from $38 to $44. However, an unemployed person who is the past would have qualified for the minimum benefit after earning $1,584 a year, now must have earned $2,200 to qualify. Also, an unemployed worker who would have received $122 in wekly benefits would have had to earn $4,392 a year. Now to get the maximum benefit an unemployed person must have earned $6,900 a year.
All bills are awaiting the governor's signature before they become law.
In Annapolis last week, Maryland's banking industry received unexpected support from Gov. Harry Hughes and Baltimore Mayor William Donald Schaefer.
The mayor urged members of the House Economic Matters Committee to be cautious about passing any legislation that might prompt banks to flee Maryland for other states, such as Delaware.
Hughes, through the testimony of one of his cabinet secretaries, told the committee he recommends no legislative action this year regarding a recent court ruling that said Maryland banks may charge up to 33 percent interest on credit card accounts.
John Corbley, the secretary for licensing and regulation, said the governor believes there is insufficient information currently available for legislators or the administration to determine if interest rates are fair.
The governor's position differed from that of Attorney General Stephen Sachs, who urged the committee to pass legislation to exempt Maryland banks from applicable portions of a 1980 federal bank deregulation act.
Schaefer's remarks particularly angered one member of the legislature who has consistently fought bank industry attempts to raise interest rates or to charge credit card customers annual membership fees.
"I take issue with the mayor," said Del. Steven Sklar (D-Baltimore). "Not only is he misguided, but he is blind and deaf to the developments over the past year, which give us every reason to mistrust the banks."
The mayor, however, said Baltimore lost 300 jobs when First National Bank of Maryland decided to move its credit card operations to Deleware and said how the committee acts on a series of bank bills before it amounts to "a question of economic survival."
This week's business-related committee hearings in the Maryland General Assembly. The Virginia General Assembly regular session has adjourned and a special session is scheduled later.: MARYLAND SENATE
Monday: Budget and Taxation Committee hearings of property and retail sales tax legislation, 2 p.m., Room 100, James Senate Office Bldg.
Economic Affairs Committee considers bills relating to interest bearing accounts and credit unions dividend rates, 10 a.m., Room 200, James Office Bldg.
Finance Committee hearings on pension and retirement legislation, 1:30 p.m., Presidential Wing, James Office Bldg.
Tuesday: Economic Affairs Committee hearings on consumer-related legislation including, use car warranties, small business complaints and retail credit finance charges, 10 a.m., Room 200, James Office Bldg.
Wednesday: Budget and Taxation Committee considers bills pertaining to income tax, motor vehicle excise tax and property tax credits, 3:30 p.m., Room 100, James Office Bldg.
Thursday: Economic Affairs Committee hearing on various insurance-related bills, 10 a.m., Room 200, James Office Bldg.
Friday: Budget and Taxation Committee hearings on motor vehicle fuel tax, mass transit, local sales tax and sales and use tax legislation, 10 a.m., Room 100, James Senate Office Bldg.
Finance Committee considers legislation on tax credits for the elderly, property tax rates and elimination of double taxation, 10 a.m., Presidential Wing, James Office Bldg. MARYLAND HOUSE
Tuesday: Ways and Means Committee hearings on various income tax elgislation, 1:30 p.m., Room 110, Lowe Office Bldg.
Wednesday: Economic Matters Committee hearings on unemployment insurance legislation, 1 p.m., Room 150, Lowe Office Bldg.
Thursday: Economic Matters Committee considers legislation on health and life insurance, 1 p.m., Room 150, Lowe Office Bldg.
Ways and Means Committee hearings on miscellaneous tax legislation, 1:30 p.m., Room 110, Lowe Office Bldg.