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Econ Focus

Fourth Quarter 2015


Regional News at a Glance


In February, the $200 million Maryland Proton Treatment Center in Baltimore began receiving cancer patients. The facility — the first of its kind in the state — specializes in a type of radiation therapy that uses a thin beam of protons to treat tumors without damaging surrounding tissue. The center is one of only 23 currently operating proton therapy centers in the United States. It is expected to be at full operating capacity in 2017, employing more than 170 workers and treating 2,000 patients annually.


An expansion of the state sales tax took effect on March 1, and lawmakers say it is an attempt to reduce reliance on income tax revenue in an increasingly service-oriented economy. The expanded sales tax requires businesses that already tax products to now tax repair, maintenance, and installation services. For example, an auto body shop that sells oil filters will now also tax the labor of the oil change; however, a garage door repair by a company that does not sell garage doors (or other retail products) would not incur the new tax.


The Port of Charleston has leased rooftop space on two of its cargo terminals to SolBright Renewable Energy for solar panels that will generate 3.7 megawatts of electricity. The project, to be completed in the summer, will be the largest rooftop installation of solar panels in South Carolina. The 25-year lease will generate a total of $1.85 million for the State Ports Authority. The panels will help the SPA reduce its usage of conventional energy, and SolBright will sell power back to South Carolina Electric & Gas during peak demand times.


In early March, Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed a law permitting fantasy sports websites to operate in the state if they follow certain guidelines. Several states have taken measures to block these sites, saying they violate state gambling laws. The Virginia law contains consumer protections — like age verification and separating player funds from company operational funds — and requires the websites to register with the state and pay a $50,000 licensing fee. The law takes effect in July and applies to any fantasy sports game, daily or season-long, that requires an entry fee.


Prudential Financial invested $1.7 million to prevent polluted stormwater runoff from D.C. streets into the Anacostia and Potomac rivers. Prudential is partnering with the Nature Conservancy and investment firm Encourage Capital to construct permeable pavement, rain gardens, and other green projects. These projects are expected to qualify for D.C.'s Stormwater Retention Credit Trading Program, which allows property owners to generate credits for voluntary green infrastructure and then trade those credits on the open market to other companies who use them to meet regulatory requirements for retaining stormwater.


The state legislature in February overrode two of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's vetoes, paving the way for West Virginia to become a right-to-work state in July and also repealing the state's prevailing wage law effective in mid-May. West Virginia becomes the 26th right-to-work state, meaning workers in unionized workplaces can opt out of paying union dues while working under a union-negotiated contract. The state's prevailing wage law sets a minimum wage for workers on state-funded construction projects.

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David A. Price (804) 697-8018