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Businesses point out problem regulations to Md. commission

COLLEGE PARK — A state panel described as secret by one Maryland architect was dragged into the light during a meeting of a governor’s commission tasked on reforming the state regulatory code.

John F. Corkill Jr., an architect and senior principal in the firm of Corkill Cush Reeves, said the Overlapping Practice Panel within the Department of Licensing Labor and Regulations delays projects and causes unnecessary expenses related to development projects because it can require the use of an engineer on some plans that up until 2002 could be done by those within his profession.

“This is a kangaroo court as it turns out because it’s secret,” Corkill said. “It is not mentioned anywhere in state law and we cannot appeal it for this reason.”

Corkill said one project that required the use of an engineering firm cost $3,000 — the same amount as the fee his firm charged for their involvement in the project.

“This is classic restraint of trade,” the architect said. “This is something I’ve done since 1965.”

Surprising tale

The tale surprised not only members of the state Regulatory Reform Commission, but also Kelly Schulz, secretary of the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

“I’m familiar not with the overlapping panel, but I am familiar with the way that the board sometimes work together and I can certainly look into the overlapping practice panel. But I have not heard of that specifically being convened on behalf of an architect’s issue,” Schulz said.

Corkill was one of several dozen who came to the University of Maryland, College Park Thursday to make recommendations about how the state could become more business friendly through the elimination or streamlining of regulations.

At the receiving end of those recommendations was the commission created in July by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. The group is one of two panels convened in the past 18 months tasked with looking at issues related to state regulations.

Earlier this year the Maryland Economic Development and Business Climate Commission, appointed by House Speaker Michael E. Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., made recommendations that resulted in a new state law that will look prospectively at the effect on businesses from proposed regulations.

Hogan’s commission faces a more difficult task of wading into decades of state code looking for antiquated, obsolete, redundant or rules unfairly unfriendly to business.

The meeting in College Park was the second in less than a month. The panel, which will work over the next three years, is expected to deliver an interim report in December that will become part of a legislative package submitted by Hogan. Officials on the commission say they have received dozens of recommendations in writing from business around the state.

Simpler fixes asked

A number of business owners and organizations asked for simpler fixes.

Julie Verratti, owner of Silver Spring-based Denizens Brewing Company, asked for the ability to electronically submit required reports to the state comptroller.

Verratti said she typically has to submit eight pages of reports to the state tax collector, who also regulates alcohol in the state, but that the forms then need to be copied as many as three times.

“This is just one specific issue,” Verratti said. “If I could file this paperwork online, that will be super helpful.”

Leslie Weber, a lobbyist for Johns Hopkins University and Bethesda-based Suburban Hospital, said a required annual state report detailing the community benefits of the medical facility takes as much as 350 employee-hours to prepare. She said a required federal report asks for similar information but the state reports are different enough that they must be prepared separately.

Weber said the hospital could save time if the state would simply accept the federal report.

“It’s a report, in our opinion, that has outlived its usefulness, ” Weber said.