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Some state permitting to be streamlined for businesses

ANNAPOLIS — Gov. Martin O’Malley will announce Friday plans to allow businesses to apply for and monitor review of the litany of permits and licenses required in Maryland, and streamline some application processes that have grown increasingly byzantine.

“Small businesses, when they go through these processes, have to navigate this map by themselves,” said Shaun Adamec, O’Malley’s press secretary. “This [program] will do that for them.”

“Businesses will have an idea of where they need to go. They won’t be shifted between 15 different agencies,” he said.

The digital portion of the project will allow businesses to apply for and monitor review of permits from different state agencies through a single website. Christian Johansson, secretary of the Department of Business and Economic Development, said the first pieces of the site would start to come online in 2012.

“It’s a significant undertaking,” he said. “It won’t be done all at once.”

A contractor is already reviewing the landscape of licenses and permits issued by business and environmental regulators.

Separately, O’Malley announced plans to merge some regulatory functions at the Department of Natural Resources and Department of the Environment.

“It has been a frustrating impediment as we make the shift from a sort of hunter-gatherer approach to oyster harvesting into aquaculture to have two departments trying to figure this out,” he said last week at a budget briefing.

Johansson said the administration began soliciting input from the business community a year ago on what the biggest government impediments to the private sector. One of the most common areas of concern, he said, was highway user permits. The permits give developers permission to tie their projects into state roads.

DBED, the Maryland Department of Transportation and developers’ representatives crafted a plan last year to allow for online tracking of the permit review to speed communication in the process that can take up to 16 months to complete. The State Highway Administration issues about 200 such permits per year.

Johansson said his department and permitting agencies will conduct reviews of other problem permits similar to the highway permit test case.

The project, Johansson said, could help counter the common refrain among business advocates and some lawmakers that Maryland isn’t as friendly to business as its neighbors.

“What’s happened is if people say it enough, people believe it, and eventually the perception becomes reality,” he said. “We have to show people it isn’t true.”

O’Malley will also announce on Friday the members of his Small Business Commission, a group the governor touts as giving business owners a platform to voice concerns and press for change.