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Carozza pushing for more veteran-owned businesses

(Feb. 20, 2015) Delegate Mary Beth Carozza will be the first to say changing what she calls the state’s “stringent” procurement laws isn’t easy, but she’s willing to try in order to foster more veteran-owned businesses into the state’s bidding process.

She has sponsored a bill, HB243, that seeks to increase the total dollar value of the state’s procurement going directly or indirectly to veteran-owned businesses by a factor of 10. The state’s existing goal is one half of one percent, and Carozza is trying to push it to five.

“Fiscal 2013 is the first year we have numbers for this, and it’s pretty low at only two-tenths of one percent,” she said this week.

No penalties exist within the law’s language for missing the mark.

“I want to point out that it’s pretty low. I’d like to make an effort to increase the goal or provide incentives,” Carozza said.

The aim of the proposed law, which is scheduled for a hearing this week before the Health and Government Operations Committee, is not to outline a specific plan with goals or milestones toward achieving the increased numbers, but to foster the conversation around the goal.

“I want to make the percentage meaningful enough to encourage discussion. In the process of legislative amendments it will increase the outreach. I’m speculating the increase will produce conversation about including more veterans,” Carozza said.

Simply being a veteran and owning a business is not enough. Businesses need to be registered and evaluated by the Federal Department of Veteran’s Affairs to qualify for the designation. Registered businesses get priority contracting opportunities, special consideration in federal contracting opportunities, notices of new contracts and special newsletters, according to the Department of Veteran’s Affairs website.

Registration is a seven-step process outlined on the site.

“Maybe it’s just a lack of awareness. Let’s start the conversation. Let’s generate ideas,” she said, admitting the process can be cumbersome.

Another bill Carozza is co-sponsoring with other delegates is HB482, which seeks to increase the amount of military retirement income that can be deducted from federal adjusted gross income to determine the Maryland adjusted gross income.

Currently, only the first $5,000 may be deducted. If this bill is signed into law this year, veterans will be able to deduct the greater of $5,000 or 25 percent, increasing by 25 percent each year until the tax year beginning after Dec. 31, 2017, when all retirement income may be deducted.

“It will impact about 50,000 people in the state who earn an average of $28,000 per year in pensions,” Carozza said.

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