Mid-Session Message from MHLA President & CEO
As we approach the third month of the Maryland General Assembly 2019 Session, there have been nearly 2,500 pieces of legislation introduced for consideration. The MHLA Legislative Committee, co-chaired by Jim Starke, (General Manager, Best Western Plus BWI Airport / Arundel Mills) and Monroe Harrison, (Director of Public Affairs, Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center) and your lobbying team headed by Frank D. Boston, III, Esq. have identified 42 House Bills and 39 Senate Bills that are of importance to the lodging and tourism industries. The complete tracking sheet can be seen on our website under Legislative Reports.
Among those bills are two dealing with raising the minimum wage to $15—one in both houses. Both bills originally called for raising the minimum wage to $15.00 by 2024, eliminating the tip credit for restauranteurs and imposing stringent penalties for non-compliance. Both bills have been amended by their house of origin and are moving through the legislative process. Both houses have removed language doing away with tip credit, and both houses have eliminated the penalties for non-compliance. The date by which the wage reaches $15 is different in the two bills as of this writing. These bills will go to “Conference Committee”, which is the way most differences are resolved in the Legislature. The Conference Committee—made up of three members of the House and three from the Senate—will then report their findings to the two houses. Usually, the Conference Committee report is adopted and the bill goes to the Governor for signature.
In the meantime, the Governor has also sent suggested language for increasing the minimum wage to legislative leaders. His proposal would set the date for implementation further out and sets out exemptions and other conditions. If the legislature insists on an earlier implementation date, it is all but certain the Governor will veto the bill, setting up a veto override.
Depending on when the bill passes, there may or may not be time for that override to occur before the end of the Session on April 8.
Another subject that has pit the Legislature against the Governor is the School Start Date issue. Bills were introduced that allow the County Boards of Education to set school start/end dates. These bills are moving through the legislature, and will also face potential vetoes by the Governor. As you know, the Governor mandated that schools must open after Labor Day in response to requests from tourism entities throughout the state. MHLA testified against these bills that will undo the Governor’s order.
Companion short-term rental tax bills were introduced in both houses at the request of MHLA. At this writing, we and other stakeholders met with members of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee on March 12 to hammer out amendments to the bill. It is likely to move out of Committee in both the House and the Senate and we are hopeful for passage this year. Based on Airbnb alone, who booked $57 million in business in Maryland in 2018, passage is expected to generate a minimum additional $3.5 million in sales tax collected and remitted to the State by just this one platform.
Linda Smith, owner of Rachel’s Dowry Bed & Breakfast, joined our panel testifying in support of the proposed legislation. Read more about the bill and her testimony here: Airbnb guests would pay sales tax under proposed bill, Maryland Reporter.
Other bills of interest include prohibition of polystyrene packaging, plastic straws and plastic bags. Along those lines, we are also watching recycling legislation. There are also a number of bills dealing with aspects of last year’s “Sick and Safe” leave. While we don’t expect any of these to pass, we’ll be reporting on them should any of them reach passage.
MHLA Members should feel free to contact me with questions. And, as always, there will be a full report at the end of Session.
Amy Rohrer, CAE
President & CEO
Maryland Hotel Lodging Association
MHLA NEWS & EVENTS
MHLA Scholarship Opportunity for Maryland Hotel Employees
In 2019, MHLA plans to award multiple $1,500 scholarships to Maryland hotel employees with a desire to pursue a professional career in the lodging industry. The first round of applicants will be accepted through May 31, 2019.
For more information and to view the application, click here.
Welcome to General Managers at New Member Properties
- Nick Kelly – Hyatt Place Baltimore Inner Harbor
January 2019 STR Report
Smith Travel Research data for Maryland shows occupancy is down slightly, ADR has increased .2%, and RevPAR is down .4% YTD through January 2019 compared to the same period last year. Maryland data is provided monthly to MHLA by Smith Travel Research. Members may view the full report online. Go to https://mdlodging.org/members/ and select “Industry Statistics and Research.” (Member log-in required.)
Save the Date for MHLA Annual Meeting on June 6, 2019
The MHLA Annual Meeting will take place on June 6, 2019. Chip Rogers, recently named President & CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, is confirmed as our guest speaker! More details will be announced soon.
INDUSTRY NEWS & INFORMATION
U.S. Department of Labor Releases Overtime Update Proposal
Source: Department of Labor
The U.S. Department of Labor announced a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that would make more than a million more American workers eligible for overtime. Under currently enforced law, employees with a salary below $455 per week ($23,660 annually) must be paid overtime if they work more than 40 hours per week. The new proposal would update the salary threshold using current wage data, projected to January 1, 2020. The result would boost the standard salary level from $455 to $679 per week (equivalent to $35,308 per year). READ MORE
Great Wolf Lodge likely to break ground in Cecil County by year end
Source: Baltimore Business Journal
A $200 million Great Wolf Lodge project is moving forward in Cecil County now that two economic incentive packages are in place. The massive 450-500-bed, 44-acre resort planned for Perryville is expected to break ground later this year or by early 2020. READ MORE
Howard Hughes presents plans for 15-story modern hotel in Columbia’s Merriweather District
Source: Baltimore Business Journal
Developer Howard Hughes presented plans for a new 15-story hotel in Columbia’s Merriweather District on February 28, receiving a nod from Howard County’s design panel to proceed with the project. Designs for the project show a building that incorporates a tall hotel tower, as well as a ballroom, pool deck and restaurants overlooking what will eventually become a walkable, urban district in the heart of Columbia. READ MORE