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Md. commercial real estate, business advocates notch legislative victories

Donald C. Fry, president and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee. (The Daily Record / Maximilian Franz)

Donald C. Fry, president and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee. (The Daily Record / Maximilian Franz)

Economic development advocates and commercial real estate interests scored several victories during the 2017 General Assembly session that ended on Monday.

Donald C. Fry, president and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee, said he was happy with moves the state made regarding tax credits for businesses.

He cited tax credits for manufacturing, research and development and making it easier for early-stage companies to qualify for bioscience tax credits as wins for the state’s business environment.

“When you look at the overall budget, not a significant part of the budget goes to tax incentives. It’s important that we continue to have an increasing amount over time so that we’re competitive with other states,” Fry said.

Tom Ballentine, lobbyist for commercial real estate interest group NAIOP Maryland, touted the group’s success during the session passing bills that helped the industry and defeating those it opposed.

The first bill, House Bill 599 and Senate Bill 365, would have changed the replanting ratios required of developers. It also created a fee-in-lieu system that would’ve increased exponentially with each additional acre. The bill passed the Senate but died in a House of Delegates committee.

NAIOP Maryland did support a bill that passed clarifying that local governments have the right to adopt their own forest conservation programs under the state’s Forest Conservation Act.

The organization also opposed House Bill 468, which aimed to require developers to pay a prevailing wage to property that will be leased by the state or local governments. The bill failed to advance after receiving an unfavorable report in the Economic Matters Committee.

“A temporary lease holding interest is not in position to dictate wage scale and who’s doing the buildout. We also have some concerns about whether those added costs could be recovered over the life of a typical lease,” Ballentine said.

NAIOP Maryland also opposed a bill changing the way the state inspects elevators; the measure never made it out of the Economic Matters Committee.

The legislation, HB 1226, proposed requiring third-party private inspector to be on seen while elevator mechanics performed the annual test. The law currently allows inspectors to verify the work after the mechanics perform the test.

The current arrangement stems from 2009 when the state faced a backlog of about 5,000 un-inspected elevators. Essentially going back to the pre-2009 inspection requirements, Ballentine said, put “buildings owners in an untenable situation.”

“The problem is that there are only 39 inspectors qualified to do this work, and there’s no way for them to observe the entire test, and still get 19,000 elevators inspected every year the way (the bill would require they) happen,” he said.


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