Harford legislators say jobs, taxes will be main concerns of '14 session

Harford County's state legislators are making arrangements to head back to Annapolis for the opening day of the Maryland General Assembly this coming Wednesday, and the big issues for many of them will be jobs, taxes and state funding for local needs.

And, not to be forgotten, repealing or revising the 2012 local stormwater management fee – known widely as the "rain tax" – is a top priority for most Harford legislators.

Northern Harford Del. Wayne Norman Jr., a member the Environmental Matters Committee, is working on legislation that will repeal the rain tax or delay implementation for another few years to study its impact on municipalities.

Under the rain tax, business owners are taxed based on the area of impervious surfaces like roofs and parking lots, which create runoff from rain that pollutes the Chesapeake Bay.

"Most of our problems in the Chesapeake Bay come down the Susquehanna from New York," Norman said. "This seems to be more of a federal issue than something the state should be concerned with."

Legislators are also concerned with talks of raising the minimum wage in the state of Maryland, which is currently $7.25 per hour.

Western Harford Del. Richard K. Impallaria said raising the minimum wage will have a negative impact on many working people in Harford.

"There are ramifications when you pass a bill like that," Impallaria said. "When Obamacare became mandated companies dropped their employees down to part-time, people couldn't pay their rent and places like Harford County saw an increase in homelessness. A minimum wage hike will do the same thing."

While statewide legislation is on the agenda for some Harford legislators, most also are working on legislation specifically on the county.

Sen. Barry Glassman, who represents northern Harford, said he is introducing legislation to "modernize" the State Fire, Rescue and Ambulance Fund, passed in 1985 named after his predecessor, the late Harford Sen. William H. Amoss, which increased financial support for emergency services by local governments.

"We're working to give volunteer fire companies more flexibility to use to funding for modern electronic equipment like laptops and software," Glassman said. "In the old days it was just used for equipment or fire clothing."

Glassman, who is entering his final legislative session, said he is also working to give additional protections to local businesses, who are using payroll services companies to pay state and federal income tax withholdings. The senator came to Annapolis in 1999 as a member of the House of Delegates before moving over to the Senate in 2008. He hopes to be elected Harford County's next county executive this November.

The payroll services protection legislation comes after a AccuPay, a Bel Air-based payroll services company, allegedly failed to pay state and federal income tax withholdings for as many as 600 client companies last year.

Sen. Nancy Jacobs, who represents parts of southern Harford, is not seeking re-election, meaning this will be her 20th and final legislative session. Jacobs, who served one term in the House and is in her fourth in the Senate, said she believes she has been "pretty successful" in the Maryland General Assembly over the years.

"I think I have pretty much done everything I entered into office to do," Jacobs said. "I might not retire if I didn't feel like I had done anything I had come to do."

Most of the Harford legislators believe it will be a rather quiet year for big legislation in Annapolis with the pending elections in June and November.

But Impallaria, who has chaired Harford's House Delegation the past few sessions, noted that big issues tend to arise toward the end of the legislative session and said "the game isn't over," for something big to take over the session during the ensuing 90 days.

Harford legislators are also waiting to see if any agenda items will come from the Harford County executive or county council in the coming weeks, Impallaria said.

The final day of the legislative session is April 7.

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