Ocean City Today

Who’s got our back in oil, sick pay politics?

Jan 11, 2018



printed 01/12/2018


Ocean City’s tourism industry, the nucleus of the resort’s existence, is facing two critical situations that are the product of federal and state political stupidity.

At the federal level, a five-year plan for offshore oil and gas exploration has been ordered, while in Maryland governmental affairs, members of the General Assembly are about to vote on whether to override Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto last year of the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act, which, by design or ignorance, overlooked the hardship it would impose on seasonal businesses.

In the latter instance, Hogan this week offered a sensible compromise that would cut seasonal businesses a break by extending from 106 to 120 the number of days an employee must work before taking paid time off. That will address the potential problem of employees failing to finish the summer by clocking out a week early with pay by calling in sick.

It also takes into consideration the 5,000 J-1 visa students who work through September and whose contribution to the seasonal workforce is vital.

The only way Ocean City and other seasonal worker-dependent areas will be spared the ramifications of a veto override is for Democratic legislators to muster the guts to defy the take-no-prisoners party leaders like the bellicose Senate Majority Leader Mike Miller and back Hogan’s compromise.

Meanwhile, Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke last Thursday declared that offshore oil and gas exploration would no longer be off limits in virtually all the nation’s coastal areas, as he institutes the Trump Administration’s April 2017 executive order to reopen offshore leasing as part of a five-year energy plan.

The executive order to allow oil and gas exploration on the continental shelf was supported in an August letter to Zinke signed by 155 members of Congress, including this district’s Rep. Andy Harris, as long as the work is done in a “safe and environmentally responsible” way.

That, however, doesn’t square with what Zinke proposes to do. Even though he pledged that new safety regulations would eliminate the hazards of offshore drilling, he did not mention his proposal to roll back the safety precautions enacted after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon blowout disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

Zinke also quickly exempted Florida from the plan, after Gov. Rick Scott, a potential Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, asked to be kept out of the deal.

Zinke has said he will discuss the similar concerns of the other coastal state governors, including the GOP’s Gov. Hogan, apparently, who has directed Attorney General Brian Frosh to do whatever it takes to block leasing off the state’s coast.

Still, it is doubtful that without major legal action and an even greater howl of protest from the area’s state and federal political officials that anything good will come of this, considering that granting multiple state exemptions would gut the plan.

This being an election year, the resort business community — and its contributors to the various political campaigns — needs to put state and federal officials on the spot and demand to know whether they’re with us all the way, against us, or are flapping around cautiously in the winds of party politics.

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