Friday, March 13, 2009

Exum’s Billionaire Protection Bill

We all know Senator Nathaniel Exum (D-24) is a busy man. He is a target of an FBI probe. And he is trying to repeal Prince George’s County’s prohibition on political contributions from developers with pending land use applications (which benefits his daughter). But that’s not enough. Now he wants to make sure that billionaires are classified as “economically disadvantaged” by the state government.

Say what? You read that correctly. SB 355, sponsored by Exum and co-sponsored by Senators Lisa Gladden (D-41), David Harrington (D-47), Verna Jones (D-44), Nathaniel McFadden (D-45), Catherine Pugh (D-40) and scandal-plagued Ulysses Currie (D-25), rewrites the state’s minority business certification requirements. Under current law, a minority business enterprise is considered to be economically disadvantaged only if the owner’s personal net worth is $1.5 million or less. Exum’s bill removes that test entirely.

That’s right, Senator Exum believes that billionaires Robert Johnson, Oprah Winfrey, Jerry Yang and Sanjiv Sidhu are “economically disadvantaged” and deserve to participate in Maryland’s minority business program. It’s worth noting that the U.S. Small Business Administration’s definition of economically disadvantaged firms excludes companies owned by individuals with more than $250,000 in net worth (aside from business and home equity).

Montgomery County legislators were excoriated for opposing the millionaire tax. Fair enough. But why are those same critics silent about Senator Exum’s billionaire protection bill?