Dsc06143_2Shouldn’t we all be home watching college football?

Instead, we are here in Annapolis watching the 188 members of the Maryland General Assembly as they consider almost 70 pieces of legislation.

It is a chilly November day here in our state capital — perfect football weather. As I walked up the street to the House of Delegates building, I wondered how many people who were walking the streets of Annapolis knew what was going on just over the “hill.”

Yet just inside the House Office Building, the Ways and Means Committee was hearing most of the 55 bills introduced since the special session started a few days ago. All of these bills revolve around one topic — increasing the state’s revenue through taxation.

I know the state needs to solve our deficit problem, but I get the sense that many of our representatives are trying to use this special session to go beyond the $1.7 billion needed and get whatever they can get while they can. The issue I have is that this is not done in the normal legislative process. That means there is less time for hearings and almost no public input. In fact, the three bills we sent out yesterday were scheduled for hearings before the bills were available to read. That is scary!

The hearing started at 10 a.m.  Our main bill is HB 11, “Sales Tax on Services.”

Dsc06148So here I am outside the hearing room, waiting to testify. (That is our legislative representative, Nick Manis, talking in the photo at right.) Yet the hours of waiting are actually  quite productive. I got to talk briefly with about a dozen delegates and several commented on how many letters they are receiving from CPAs. They also appreciate the testimony and advice contained in our letters. I also got to hear from my counterparts in the other associations advocating for their members — Kathleen Murphy of the Maryland Bankers (Kathleen is also on our Board of Directors), Kathy Snyder (a past MACPA board member) and Karen Syrylo of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, Tom Saquella of the Maryland Retailers Association. You should know that both the bankers and Chamber are working to defeat HB 11 with us.

Actually, this is what legislative advocacy is all about — lobbying. Did you know that the term “lobbying” was created during Abraham Lincoln’s presidency when groups of special interests gathered in the lobby of the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C., waiting for the president to walk through to his dinner meetings. This is the same today. I will be able to accomplish as much outsider the hearing room as when I finally get to testify. (It is now 1:30 p.m. and our bill is nowhere close.)

Dsc06147 So here is the scoop: Our letters are making an impact. We have heard from several delegates who are definitely voting against HB 11. We have also heard in the Senate that they would not support taxing services. Combined reporting looks like it may not pass the Senate, and there was a lot of discussion about the filing fees bill. We also have a few more shots to stop any bad bills that might make it out of these hearings.

Bills will be voted on sometime next week and then the full house will convene to vote on those that make it out of committee. The Senate is working a mirror image, although due to the smaller body (41 senators), there are much fewer random bills being heard. We need to keep the letters and phone calls hitting the Ways and Means Committee until we get the “UNFAVORABLE REPORT” we are asking for.

We will keep you posted and give you a report when the vote happens. We will also keep you apprised of new developments. CPAs were heard loud and clear. Thanks to all of you who took the time to write — you are making a difference!