The Maryland Senate voted on Tuesday to create an advisory council to review new state regulations and assess their impact on small businesses — despite warnings from some Democrats that the panel could make the regulatory process more drawn-out and bureaucratic.
“It’s like Saturday Night Live does a comedy routine on legislators trying to help small business: ‘Let’s meet! Let’s talk! Let’s write reports!’” said Sen. James C. Rosapepe (D-Prince George’s), who — like most others who expressed opposition — eventually voted for the bill. “That’s what small business people think government does. And what this bill does is do more of it.”
Proponents said the council would help small businesses that feel smothered by heavy regulations. The Department of Business and Economic Development secretary would likely lead the group, which would include two lawmakers, two small business owners and a state official.
“Giving these small businesses a chance to know what’s going on and have a say with these regulations is all that we’re asking for,” said Senate Minority Leader J.B. Jennings (R-Harford), who once owned a farm supply store.
Senators voted 42 to 5 to form the council. The Maryland House of Delegates, which approved the bill 134 to 3 earlier this month, now needs to consider a few minor changes senators made.
The bill is part of a package introduced by the Maryland General Assembly’s powerful leaders, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) to address concerns about the state’s business climate.
Miller and Buschalso proposed restructuring the state’s economic development efforts, requiring some state employees to take customer service training, expanding apprenticeship programs and studying how public universities might make money by selling the findings of their researchers.
Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who campaigned on a promise to make Maryland more business friendly, has voiced general concern about increasing the amount of bureaucracy but has not taken a position on the advisory council bill.
The governor “believes in the principle of scaling back on regulations, however will reserve his position until reviewing a final bill,” said spokeswoman Shareese DeLeaver-Churchill.
The House has already approved all five of these bills. The Senate has approved three of the five and is expected to soon take up the remaining two — expanding apprenticeships and restructuring business development efforts. The new advisory council has been the most controversial so far, with a handful of the Senate’s most progressive members raising questions.
Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Montgomery), who voted against the bill, tried unsuccessfully to alter the legislation so that the council would only review regulations flagged by state agencies. Otherwise, he said, there is no way that a council with just one paid staff member could keep up with the hundreds of regulations that are released each year and take action within 15 days. Last year the total was more than 400.
Sen. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Montgomery) asked why the state should set up a council to represent the interests of small businesses — and not, for example, the environment, children, public health or minimum-wage workers?
He eventually voted for the bill.