Rocked over the past year by unprecedented changes in leadership, Maryland’s General Assembly received crucial insights into the accounting and finance profession on Jan. 23 as more than 200 CPAs poured into the state’s capital for the Maryland Association of CPAs’ annual CPA Day in Annapolis.
The event, which marks the beginning of the Maryland General Assembly’s annual legislative session, offers CPAs the opportunity to meet face-to-face with their legislators to discuss issues that impact their clients and their profession. It’s perhaps the most impactful event the association offers each year, and according to MACPA Executive Director Tom Hood, more is at stake legislatively this year than ever.
“More than 3,000 bills will be heard by the 188 legislators in 90 days,” Hood said. “With leadership in both houses changing hands recently and many lawmakers still new to their jobs, we need to re-introduce ourselves to the legislature. If not you, who will help us protect our profession and your license? And if not now, when will you make time for your profession and the license that you worked so hard to earn?”
One MACPA member summed up the urgency well after his CPA Day experience: “If we don’t have a seat at the table, we could end up on the menu. Thanks, MACPA, for giving us that seat!”
This year’s Maryland General Assembly includes three CPAs:
- Arthur Ellis, a senator from the 28th Legislative District.
- William Wivell, a delegate from District 2A.
- Brian Feldman, a senator from the 15th Legislative District.
“Seismic” is the way Sen. Feldman describes the changes that have hit the General Assembly over the past year.
- In January 2019, 60 new lawmakers — 43 in the House and 17 in the Senate — took their seats in the General Assembly. That’s a huge portion of the legislature that were new to their jobs, and CPAs rallied to acclimate themselves to the new lawmakers while also acclimating the legislators to their new roles as lawmakers.
- On April 7, House Speaker Michael Bush died from pneumonia at the age of 72. Busch was a powerful political figure in Maryland who had served as House speaker since 2003. Adrienne Jones, a Democrat from the 10th legislative district, was named House speaker, becoming the first African-American and the first woman to fill that role.
- In October, Senate President Thomas “Mike” Miller, the longest-serving state senate president in the United States, announced he would end his 32-year reign due to an ongoing battle with prostate cancer.
- In December, state Sen. Bobby Zirkin, chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, announced plans to resign to focus on his law practice, his family, and a new project to help professional athletes with charities.
The MACPA’s legislative mission now is to rebuild the relationships it has lost by these monumental changes in personnel. Busch, Miller, and Zirkin were friends of the profession who understood our issues and worked with the association to enact reasoned legislation. Now the association must reconnect the dots with new leaders and lawmakers.
On top of all that, the MACPA’s 2020 legislative agenda will be packed with issues that could have an explosive impact on the profession.
- Early indications are that tort reform / comparative fault legislation may be introduced this year. If passed, this will result in increased professional liability and the potential for more lawsuits against firms. The MACPA would oppose such legislation.
- The association also is watching potential efforts to raise revenue by imposing sales taxes on professional services — which it also would oppose.
- The association also will work to defeat efforts to impose excessive data protection and privacy legislation.
- Similarly, the MACPA will aggressively oppose efforts to weaken or eliminate professional licensing boards, a deregulatory risk that has arisen in several other states recently.
- The association also will work to stop service contracts, employee tracking, excessive overtime legislation, and other onerous employment laws .
- MACPA volunteers also will be closely monitoring legislation related to Maryland tax policy and offering our insights as needed.
A comprehensive list of the bills the MACPA is following this year can be found at MACPA.org/advocacy.