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Tomlinson: Dart decision a reminder to Left-leaning legislators that their anti-business actions have consequences

My column is usually penned for the eyes of folks in Carroll County. This column is addressed to a different audience in the form of a letter to the Democrat leadership in Annapolis on a topic of importance for all Marylanders.

Dear President Miller and Speaker Jones,

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This past Legislative Session, both chambers of the General Assembly passed a bill banning polystyrene foam containers, often referred to as Styrofoam. By doing so, Maryland became the second state to take such extreme measures. By July 1, 2020, Maryland coffee shops, bars, restaurants, grocery stores, and other establishments will no longer be able to use or sell Styrofoam

Once left-leaning legislators were tired of patting themselves on the back, the rest of us were left to wonder what would the consequences of this legislation be? We all heard the fears and concerns expressed by interested parties. For carryout Styrofoam containers, restaurant owners said it will cost around $1 more per container to use more eco-friendly alternatives. Money-tight public school systems will need to replace their styrofoam trays and cups. Maryland’s Department of Legislative Services estimated that it will cost Baltimore County Public Schools over $300,000 and Anne Arundel County Public Schools believe it will cost nearly $700,000 to comply with the ban.

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Mr. President and Madam Speaker, you may have never been to Carroll County, and probably have no idea where the Town of Hampstead is located. Hampstead is a quaint municipality of less than 7,000 residents that in recent years has been named by national organizations and publications as the “best place to raise children in Maryland” and the "safest place to live in Maryland.” I am proud to have called Hampstead home for the majority of my life. But what does little ol’ Hampstead have to do with this ban you passed?

Less than one mile outside of the city limits of Hampstead lies a nearly 1 million-square-foot warehouse and distribution center for Dart Container Corporation, an international food packaging products manufacturer. Dart makes numerous products including dinnerware, cups, including the Solo cup brand, cutlery, and straws that come in a variety of forms; paper, plastic, and take a wild guess … polystyrene foam.

Once the idea of banning styrofoam started to take shape, Dart representatives began meeting with legislators and Gov. Hogan’s administration. Despite the concerns of many, the Democrats overwhelmingly voted in favor of the bill hoping that the ban would result in less pollution and litter. It seems the representatives of Dart were on target when they warned of the consequences of enacting the ban.

Last month, sensing they were squarely within the bull’s-eye of the ban, Dart decided to cease operating in its Hampstead facility and its smaller facility in Havre de Grace. Dart has decided to depart Maryland and build a new facility in Delaware. Once the new facility is completed in 2020, Dart will close the doors forever in Hampstead and Havre de Grace.

Why would Dart make this decision?

Last month, a Dart representative told the Carroll County Times, “While the state of Maryland’s ban was not the core reason to move our distribution operations to Delaware, elected officials’ decision to ban some of our products did not encourage us to keep our distribution centers in Maryland.”

The bills that you pass each and every year have real consequences and the disheartening news out of Hampstead is a shining example of those consequences. Your actions have directly contributed to an international business leaving Maryland that will take nearly 100 jobs with it. A large commercial property that will soon sit vacant. Hampstead, already reeling from the closure of North Carroll High School, will suffer another sucker punch to its economic gut.

Del. Haven Shoemaker represents Hampstead and most of Carroll County in the House of Delegates, but he also served two terms as the Mmr of Hampstead. Shoemaker recently said, “In Annapolis, liberals neither think nor care about consequences. They don’t care that their actions will cost jobs and result in empty hulking buildings. For them, it’s all about virtue-signaling, and worshiping at the altar of environmentalism.”

As leaders of the Democratic-controlled General Assembly, you can put an end to this anti-business lawmaking. On top of this outrageous bill, over the past two years your Senate and House has passed legislation that will increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025 and force business to fund paid sick leave for employees. These laws send existing businesses packing and send the signal to entrepreneurs looking to start businesses and those looking to relocate businesses that Maryland is not open for business. Since taking office, Governor Larry Hogan has said that “Maryland is open for business.” I encourage you to help the Governor by passing business-friendly legislation.

While it may be too late to change Dart’s decision to depart Hampstead and Maryland, you, as the president of the Maryland Senate and the speaker of the House of Delegates, have tremendous influence and can stop anti-business legislation in its tracks.

Christopher Tomlinson, a member of the Carroll County Republican Central Committee, writes from Melrose. His column appears every other Monday. Email him at CCTtomlinson@gmail.com.

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