Frederick County delegation faces tough questions during legislative wrap-up

I-270

The Frederick County Chamber of Commerce hosted a legislative wrap-up with a panel of state senators and delegates representing the county in the Annapolis General Assembly. 

Each elected official was offered a turn at the microphone to talk about legislative successes like passing a statewide bill that makes human trafficking a crime of violence, acquiring $14 million for capital projects, and passing a budget with no new taxes. 

And the audience, made up of local business owners and community members, was able to ask questions.

Founder of a local law office, Matt Johnston stood to raise concerns about the minimum wage bill that was passed after legislators overrode Governor Larry Hogan’s veto.

The bill requires companies with at least 15 employees to raise wages to $15 by 2025, and companies with 14 and fewer employees will have an extra year to reach that wage goal.

“The different phase-in creates some economic disincentives to hiring that fifteenth employee. What happens if the company goes the other way? Goes from 15 to 14 [employees]- that kind of implies it’s okay to cut wages,” said Matt Johnston, founder of the Law Offices of Matthew S. Johnston.  

The delegation was split on their support of the bill. Supporters say the bill is essential to addressing the significant amount of people within the county who are income constrained. 

“When you’ve got close to 40% of your population that can’t afford the necessities, no less disposable income items, how do you get the support for your businesses or your services? You know, we have two sides of the story,” said Delegate Karen Lewis Young (D).

Multiple people honed in on the status of the proposed downtown hotel and conference center.

$5 million has been funded for infrastructure, like the parking garage, but the project has yet to be voted on by the Board of Public Works.

“I don’t think this is a republican or a democratic issue. My point to the delegation was [to] work together and recognize that the downtown hotel is about really creating stability around the economic viability of downtown,” pleaded CEO for Woodsboro Bank, Steve Heine.

“I have nothing against the hotel. But if you’re asking for tax dollars to go to a project, I think it’s fair to say that I do have a responsibility to ensure where that money goes,” said Delegate Jesse Pippy (R).

Many elected officials say they’ll work on legislative issues through the summer in time for the next general assembly session.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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