May 1, 2014

Business groups ask candidates not to sign pledges before the election

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Signature pen signing by Hammer51012

Signature pen by Hammer51012 on Flickr Creative Commons

By Len Lazarick

Len@MarylandReporter.com

A dozen business groups representing thousand of business owners in Maryland are sending out a letter Friday to all candidates for the General Assembly asking them “not to sign any pledges or commitments that will make Maryland’s small businesses less competitive with surrounding jurisdictions (e.g. new taxes).”

House chamber

House chamber

The letter being sent to more than 500 candidates says:

“All we ask is for a chance to read proposed legislation, so everyone understands the possible ramifications before you make a pledge. That is what committee hearings and the legislative process is all about. Important issues should not be decided in advance by pledges and commitments.”

One of the key targets of the letter, the organizer of Healthy Maryland Initiative gathering pledges of support for a $1-a-pack increase in the cigarette tax doubts the letter will be effective in derailing its campaign.

“We’re getting a tremendously positive response” to requests to sign its resolution backing the tax hike,  said Vincent DeMarco, president of the Health Care for All Coalition which is supporting the initiative.

DeMarco said some business groups tried a similar strategy in 2006 but a push to raise the cigarette tax in 2007 was successful.

Getting candidates to sign the resolution backed by hundreds of local health, religious and labor groups is part of a long-term strategy described in a book about DeMarco. The coalition does polling showing public support for an issue, gets candidates to sign a pledge to support a tax-hike, and then continually pressures the legislators through lobbying and free media to pass the measure.

DeMarco said the resolution “refers to legislation that is already written,” HB443, introduced this year with 58 co-sponsors in the House and 19 in the Senate.

DeMarco noted the signers of the letter included the tobacco distributors, who are “not interested in saving lives,” as the legislation is intended to do.

The other groups signing the letter include retailers, electrical contractors, amusement operators, beer distributors, auto dealers, tanning salons, truckers, service stations and petroleum distributors, along with the umbrella National Federation of Independent Business.

Ellen Valentino of the Mid-Atlantic Petroleum Distributors Association emphasized the final point of the brief letter. The business groups just want legislators to hear both sides of an issue before committing to legislation, especially to raise taxes.

“Please give us a chance to be heard,” the letter concludes.

Here is the full text of the letter.

Dear Candidates,

Over the next several months you will be inundated with questionnaires and pledge requests as you campaign for the Maryland General Assembly. These come with the territory; however, they are often vague, making it difficult to express one position or another.

As representatives of thousands of small business owners throughout Maryland, we respectfully ask you not to sign any pledges or commitments that will make Maryland’s small businesses less competitive with surrounding jurisdictions (e.g. new taxes).

All we ask is for a chance to read proposed legislation, so everyone understands the possible ramifications before you make a pledge. That is what committee hearings and the legislative process is all about. Important issues should not be decided in advance by pledges and commitments.

Missing an opportunity for everyone to hear the pros and cons of any particular legislation, goes against everything you are working so hard to achieve. Please give us a chance to be heard.

Thank you in advance and good luck with your election.
Sincerely,

Independent Electrical Contractors – Chesapeake (IEC)

Maryland Automotive Dealers Association

Maryland Amusement and Music Operators Association

Maryland Association of Tobacco and Candy Distributors

Maryland Beer Wholesalers Association

Maryland Indoor Tanning Association

Maryland Motor Truck Association, Inc.

Maryland Retailers Association

Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association

Mid-Atlantic Petroleum Distributors’ Association
National Federation of Independent Business “NFIB”

WMDA Service Station and Automotive Repair Association