Maryland Legislative Report – April 15, 2021 (End of Session)

Maryland Legislative Report – April 15, 2021 (End of Session)

     The 2021 General Assembly ended on Monday.    Here are some of the most significant bills that passed.  While there was a lot of good legislation passed there were also a lot of bills that never made it to the finish line.  Some of the important bills that failed covered important issues in the areas of climate change, tax reform, and housing assistance.  (I may supplement this final report in the next few days with bills I missed or may have not summarized correctly.)

 

Criminal Justice

 

Maryland Police Accountability Act of 20211                                                          

New disciplinary process – An overhaul of the process that handles civilian complaints and allegations of misconduct or rules infractions by officers. New all-civilian committees — rather than trial boards of fellow officers — will consider evidence and decide whether officers should be disciplined.  Chiefs or sheriffs can still levy punishment but will be required to follow a matrix of minimum punishments for different types of violations or misconduct. Officers unhappy with the sanctions can appeal their cases to a trial board made up of a civilian, a fellow officer and an active or retired judge.

Body Cameras – All county-level law enforcement agencies in Maryland will have to adopt body cameras by July 2025. The four of the biggest departments in the state that have not yet — the Maryland State Police, county police in Anne Arundel and Howard counties and the Harford County Sheriff’s Office — must do so by 2023.A task force would recommend ways to extend the requirement to use body cameras to smaller police departments, as well.

Use of force – The act will set a new statewide standard for when officers can use force — and new criminal penalties of up to 10 years in prison for serious violations.

Investigations of police killings – A newly created unit within the Maryland attorney general’s office would investigate all police killings of civilians. Most agencies, including the Baltimore Police Department, currently investigate such cases themselves. Local state’s attorneys would still decide whether to clear officers or bring criminal charges.

Surplus military gear: The package puts new limits on what kinds of surplus gear Maryland law enforcement agencies in Maryland can obtain from the U.S. Department of Defense. Among the equipment that would now be off-limits: Grenade launchers, explosives, silencers, and aircraft, drones or vehicles outfitted with offensive weapons.

Public access to records (Anton’s Law) – The public will be allowed to request disciplinary records and internal affairs complaints lodged against officers. Departments will still be able to withhold records that are part of active investigations, redact personal details and keep witness information secret.

No-knock warrants: Police can only obtain a “no-knock” search warrant — which allows officers to burst into a home unannounced — if they can demonstrate that knocking would endanger lives. And no-knock warrants would largely be limited to daytime hours: The package would require police to carry them out between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m., except in emergencies.

Scholarships for future officers A scholarship fund will cover 50% of college tuition and fees for Maryland residents who agree to spend at least five years after graduation working as an officer in the state.  Current officers will also qualify if they continue working in law enforcement after completing their degrees.

Higher payouts in lawsuits – The bill doubles the amount of money plaintiffs can win in lawsuits over police misconduct filed in Maryland state courts, raising the cap from $400,000 to $890,000. It does not affect lawsuits against police in federal court, where there are no limits on potential judgments.

Removing the governor from the parole process for people serving life sentences.  The Parole Board will make the final decision.  Governors often have political pressures which in recent years has meant that they have not followed the recommendations of the Parole Board and less people have been paroled.

Parole for juvenile offenders – This bill bans sentences of life in prison without parole for juvenile offenders. The governor vetoed the bill, but the Assembly overrode the veto.

Compensation for wrongly imprisoned – This bill will set rules for how much money to pay people who have been exonerated after being wrongly convicted and incarcerated.

Baltimore Police Department – Baltimore voters will get to decide whether the police department should be returned to full local control under legislation approved by the Assembly. City officials can schedule the referendum for 2022 or 2024.

Monitoring Fees – This Bill will bar courts from charging monitoring fees to poor Marylanders placed on home detention while awaiting trial on criminal charges.

Consumer Rights

Medical Debtors Protection Act – Expands consumer protections for individuals sued for medical debt and to create an income-based repayment plan before a lawsuit can be filed.

Utility Bills – In the future all utility bills from deregulated electricity and natural gas prices offered to families on energy assistance will have to meet, or beat, regulated utility rates.

Environmental/Climate Issues

Tree Solutions Act of 2021 – State will plant 5 million trees in the next few years.

Housing Issues

Access to Counsel – Will provide renters who are earning 50% or below area median income with access to a lawyer when facing eviction. Unfortunately, the program is not funded. The Bill will also require landlords, before they file a “Failure to Pay Rent” eviction action, to send a notice to tenants at least 10 days prior to filing their court complaint.

Testing and Remediation of Contaminated Well Water on Rental Properties

Immigration Rights

Dignity Not Detention Act – Prohibits Maryland jurisdictions from contracting with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detain undocumented people in their local jails.  The Bill will also prohibit local law enforcement from cooperating or sharing information with immigration agents beyond what is required by federal law

Revenue

Sports betting – Legislation that will create a framework for a legal industry of gambling on sports It would include licenses to be granted for in-person gambling, as well as for mobile and online gambling.

Local taxes – Local governments will have more flexibility in setting rates for local income taxes, including allowing for graduated rates for different income levels.

Voting and Democracy

Vote by Mail – Voters will be allowed to opt into a permanent vote-by-mail list, instead of needing to request a mail ballot in each election. Counties would be required to add more early voting centers and place them in areas close to historically disenfranchised communities and near public transit.

Worker Rights Issues

Expansion of the state’s prevailing wage law – This bill would require government-funded construction projects to pay prevailing wages on contracts over $250,000 or when at least 25% of a project’s construction costs are from state funds; current law sets those thresholds at $500,000 and 50%.

Collective Bargaining for Workers at Community Colleges

Improving unemployment – A package of bills would require a study of how to improve the unemployment benefits system, allow recipients to earn more money before their benefits are reduced, connect recipients with low-cost health insurance, require payment plans for businesses for their unemployment taxes, and expand a work-share program that helps companies avoid full layoffs.

Other Issues

New court names – Voters will decide in 2022 whether to re-christen the top courts in Maryland, the Court of Special Appeals, and the Court of Appeals. The new names, regarded as less confusing, would be the Appellate Court of Maryland and the Supreme Court of Maryland.

Repeal of the State Song – Maryland lawmakers voted to abolish “Maryland, My Maryland” from the laws of the state, taking the position that having no state song is better than having one that’s offensive and advocated for spurning “the Northern scum” and joining the proslavery Confederacy

 

Utility Regulation – Consideration of Climate and Labor by the Public Service Commission in setting of Utility Rates

 

Allowing Restaurants to Sell or Deliver Alcohol for Off Premise Consumption

 

College Athlete Endorsements – College athletes will be able to earn money from endorsements. The Jordan McNair Safe and Fair Play Act, named for the former University of Maryland offensive lineman who died in 2018 after suffering heat stroke at a team workout, will require athletic departments to implement guidelines to prevent and treat serious sports-related conditions.

If you would like more information on any of these bills, please send me an email. If you would like to stop receiving these emails, please send me a note.

You can read all my past newsletters at my Peoples Lobbying Group website:  www.plg.solutions .

 

1 Thanks to Bryan Stole from the Baltimore Sun for this summary.

Maryland Legislative Report – March 25, 2021

MD Legislative Report – March 25, 2021

 

We have now passed ‘Crossover Day’ in the Maryland General Assembly.  This means that almost all bills must have passed one house or the other to be heard in a timely fashion by the other house and then sent to the Governor.  The 2021 Legislative Session ends on Monday April 12th     

Here are some of the bills that have passed one house or the other.   I am recording the latest developments in the front of the newsletter.   Later in the report I have listed below some of the bills I am following and the status of those bills If there is another bill you are interested in knowing about, please let me know.  Many of these bills unfortunately did not make progress this year.  After this report I will not list them so I can focus on those bills that have some likelihood of passing.

 

New Developments

 

Bills that Passed both the Senate and the House of Delegates

          (Bills still have to be reconciled to be sent to the Governor)

         

Repeal of the State Song HB667/SB8 Maryland lawmakers voted to abolish “Maryland, My Maryland” from the laws of the state, taking the position that having no state song is better than having one that’s offensive and advocated for spurning “the Northern scum” and joining the proslavery Confederacy

 

*Allowing Counties to Have Different Income Tax Rates Based on Income:  SB 133/HB 319            

 

Bills that Passed the Senate

SB 414 Climate Solutions Now Act, this is a comprehensive bill, which will increase the statewide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction requirement from 40% by 2030 to 60% and requires the State to achieve net-zero emissions by 2045.  It also sets targets for electrifying state vehicle fleets, supporting solar on buildings and planting trees.  Finally, it has justice/equity provisions which will support already burdened communities.

SB 494 End to Life Without Parole sentences for crimes committed by juveniles

 

 

Bills That Passed the House of Delegates

  • HB 15: Establishes the Governor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs
  • HB 16: Dignity Not Detention Act – Closes ICE detention centers
  • HB 31 Increases the fee to file for eviction from $15 to $75.  Maryland has one of the lowest eviction filing fees in the nation.  This increase is needed to reduce frivolous claims and incentivize landlords and tenants to resolve disputes outside of court.  The fees collected will be reinvested into rental assistance and legal aid programs.
  • HB 50 – Tenant Protection Act of 2021
    • * Make utility bill charges more accessible and transparent for tenants whose landlords use a ratio utility billing statement (RUBS)
    • * Require landlords to provide documentation for materials and services used when using security deposit funds to fix damages.
    • * Allow tenant associations to use apartment/living complex meeting rooms for tenant organizing meetings.
    • * Allow a tenant to break their lease if they are a victim of stalking.
    • * Allow a therapist or third-party professional to certify that a tenant is a victim of stalking or abuse, instead of just cops or a judge.
  •  HB 52: Requires landlords to provide two forms of notice to tenants seven days before a landlord can file for an eviction. The required notice includes resources for the tenant, including information for rental assistance programs and court services.
  • HB 80: Maryland Purple Line Tree Replacement: Construction of the Purple Line required the removal of large mature trees. This legislation requires the Maryland Department of Transportation and the Maryland Department of the Environment to coordinate this effort to replant trees in these communities, prioritizing communities suffering multiple environmental health harms
  • HB 104 – Requires landlords to give tenants additional notice when not renewing a lease agreement.  If a tenant has lived at a property for less than two years, a landlord must provide 60-day notice before the end of the lease period.  For those who have resided at a property for over two years, landlords will be required to give a 90-day notice.
  • HB 222 would expand access to the ballot to Maryland’s prison population by requiring correctional facilities to give people voter registration forms upon their release and provide ballot drop boxes inside facilities for inmates to submit their votes.
  • HB 270: Requires a State’s Attorney to meet with the victim of a sexual assault after a decision not to file charges or to dismiss charges in their case
  • HB 411: Prohibits law enforcement officers from engaging in sexual conduct with a victim, witness, or suspect in an open investigation in which the officer is involved.
  • HB 421: Designates funds for the operation of tax assistance clinics for low-income Marylanders.
  • HB 449: Updates marriage license applications to have gender-inclusive language o
  • HB 565 Medical Debtors Protection Act – Expand consumer protections for individuals sued for medical debt and to create an income-based repayment plan before a lawsuit can be filed.
  • HB 656: Requires buses to stop at early voting centers that are nearby their existing routes when early voting centers are open.
  • HB 711: Allows Marylanders to deduct charitable donations of disposable diapers and other hygiene products from their taxable income.
  • HB 742: Requires the Board of Public Works to pay compensation and provide benefits to people who were convicted, sentenced, and imprisoned for a crime it is later discovered they did not commit.
  • HB 461: Allows mental health absences for public school students to be considered excused
  • HB 463: Offers incentives for health care practitioners who work in communities lacking health care and directs resources to reduce health disparities
  • HB 611: Bans cosmetic testing on animals
  • HB 745: Increases the number of early voting centers
  • HB 748: Requires a court to deny child custody and visitation rights to a party that has abused or neglected the child, except under specific circumstances
  • HB 832: Establishes an electric school bus pilot program
  • HB 875: Removes black liquor from Maryland’s Renewable Portfolio Standard
  • HB 894:  Establishes collective bargaining rights for community college employees
  • HB 907 and HB 908 Unemployment Insurance Reforms: Unemployment insurance is crucial, both as a safety net and as a countercyclical stimulus to prevent a deeper recession. This year far too many people struggled with accessing their unemployment benefits. These bills make several fixes to the system including requiring increased staffing so people who need assistance can speak to a human being, timelines for completion of claims and resolution of appeals, improved language access, and greater transparency. This bill also develops a seamless connection from the unemployment insurance process to allow applicants to connect to health benefits, in a process the bill changes the benefit calculation so that people who work multiple jobs and lose one, don’t lose out on unemployment income their family needs. Small businesses would also be protected by freezing the rates they paid from before COVID, so they do not pay higher rates for having to lay off workers due to the emergency. Finally, these bills require the state to study several other structural issues and to recommend changes for future legislative sessions.
  • HB 1068: Requires elections boards to count an absentee ballot if they receive both an absentee ballot and a provisional ballot from the same individual, instead of rejecting both ballots
  •  HB 1048 to make voting easier and more convenient by creating a permanent mail-in ballot list.  Marylanders who want to vote by mail in all future elections will be able to opt into this list and then will automatically receive a mail-in ballot for every election.  (The bill doesn’t change the ability of a voter to get a mail-in ballot for only one election.)  Elections during the pandemic have shown us that our existing mail-in voting process works and that voters should be able to choose the option that works best for them.
  • HB 1210: Requires entities to have diversity in their leadership or a mission that includes support for underrepresented communities in order to qualify for certain state grants and tax credits.
  • HB 1312: Landlord and Tenant – Eviction Actions – Catastrophic Health Emergencies This emergency legislation will strengthen the Governor’s executive order that created an affirmative defense for failure to pay rent by allowing tenants to use the defense up to six months after the COVID-19 state of emergency has ended.  Tenants will be required to show the court that they suffered a substantial loss of income due to the pandemic.  HB 1312 also freezes rent increases or fees during a health emergency.

(Thanks to Delegate Julie Palakovich-Carr for providing a lot of this information.)

Status of Other Important Bills that I am Following

 

Confronting the COVID CRISIS

 

COVID-19 Eviction and Housing Relief Act of 2020

* Prohibits rent increases and late fees during the pandemic and allocates funds to landlords to allow for rent forgiveness; ensures landlords demonstrate just cause in order to stop the renewal of a lease. HB 1312 – Passed the House of Delegates

 

MD Essential Workers Protection Act

* During state of emergency essential employees 1) Receive $3/hr. hazard pay; 2) 14 day paid sick leave; 3) Right to refuse dangerous work; 4) Free COVID testing; 5) PPE at no cost to employees. HB 581 / SB 486 – No Progress

 

o Foreclosure Protection Bill. HB 1009/SB 724 No Progress

 

Unemployment Insurance Reforms:

* Unemployment insurance is crucial, both as a safety net and as a countercyclical stimulus to prevent a deeper recession. This year far too many people struggled with accessing their unemployment benefits. These bills make several fixes to the system including requiring increased staffing so people who need assistance can speak to a human being, timelines for completion of claims and resolution of appeals, improved language access, and greater transparency. This bill also develops a seamless connection from the unemployment insurance process to allow applicants to connect to health benefits, in a process the bill changes the benefit calculation so that people who work multiple jobs and lose one, don’t lose out on unemployment income their family needs. Small businesses would also be protected by freezing the rates they paid from before COVID, so they do not pay higher rates for having to lay off workers due to the emergency. Finally, these bills require the state to study several other structural issues and to recommend changes for future legislative sessions.  HB 907, 908 – Passed the House

 

 

Criminal Justice Reform

 

Repeal of the Law Enforcement Officer Bill of Rights – It would put police officers under the same rules that cover other government employees who come under investigation;(e.g., Police officers have 5 days before they are allowed to be investigated in a disciplinary matter) – Passed the Senate with the following weakening amendments

  • Allow officers to exercise the same right to engage in political activity as other state employees while off-duty.
  • Permit officers to seek secondary employment.
  • Restrict income or property disclosures.
  • Prevent officers from being fired, disciplined, demoted or denied a promotion or transfer for exercising their constitutional rights or the rights provided for them under the bill.
  • Prohibit agencies from denying officers their right to file a lawsuit for incidents that arise while on duty.
  • Enable officers to request that formal complaints be expunged from their record if they are exonerated, the allegations were not sustained, or they were acquitted by a hearing board and three years have passed since the department’s decision.
  • Keep formal complaints from being admissible in court if they were not sustained or the officer was exonerated or acquitted by a hearing board

           

Public Information Act – Personnel Records – Investigations of Law Enforcement Officers (Anton’s Law) When you file a complaint of police misconduct, you cannot find out how the department investigates your complaint. All you can find out is the outcome and any discipline; you cannot find out whether the department conducted a thorough or lackluster investigation of your complaint. This is because the complaint file is considered a “personnel record” under Maryland’s Public Information Act, and personnel records may never be disclosed. THE SOLUTION. Remove the complaint file from the personnel record category, thereby allowing the police department to disclose the inappropriate situations. HB 120/ SB 178 – Passed the Senate

o   Removing the Governor from Parole Decisions HB 3 – – There is already a Parole Review Board that makes recommendations on who should be paroled.  In the last 20 years the number of people being let out on parole has gone down as Governors have brought politics in that decision.  Governors interested in running for higher office have been overly cautious on paroling some criminals.  Passed the House of Delegates

Criminal Justice Package (Passed the Senate)

o   SB71which would mandate that all law enforcement agencies use body-worn cameras.

o   SB74which would require all law enforcement agencies across the state to provide employee mental health assistance program for all their officers.

o   SB419which would limit the use of no-knock warrants.

o   SB599which would restrict law enforcement agencies’ ability to procure weaponized military equipment.

o   SB600which would establish that police incidents resulting in civilian fatalities undergo independent investigations.

o   SB786which would re-establish local control of the Baltimore Police Department.

 

 

Consumer Rights

 

Increasing the amount of money low-wage workers can protect from Garnishment:  Currently it is $11,000 a year.  The bill would increase it to $26,000. HB 660 – Hearing Held

Medical Debtors Protection Act – Expand consumer protections for individuals sued for medical debt and to create an income-based repayment plan before a lawsuit can be filed; prohibit lawsuits for all medical debts below $1000. HB 565/SB 514 Passed the House of Delegates

Drivers Bill of Rights – Limit the use of zip code in auto insurance rates and requires insurance companies to provide rebates to drivers through the state of emergency.  Hearing Held

o   Prohibiting Use of Credit History in Auto Insurance Rating Policies – HB 221 – Hearings Held

 

Democracy and Voting Rights

  • Voting Rights for Imprisoned Felons – HB 53 No Progress
  • Special Election to Fill a Vacancy in Office of the General Assembly – HB 265 / SB 6 Right now when there is a vacancy the Democratic Committee appoints the person to fill the term.  This bill a person would be appointed only until the next Federal or State election.  Passed the Senate
  • Public Financing for Candidates Running for General Assembly – HB 536 – No Progress

 

Education

 

Funding for Historically Black Colleges and University (HBCU) This bill would provide an additional $577 million to Maryland’s historically Black colleges and universities over 10 years to end the state’s lengthy lawsuit over inequitable funding of the schools. – HB 1 / SB 1 – Passed the Senate and House

  • Prohibiting fees for summer school courses in public schools HB 394Passed the House of Delegates
  • The School Pedestrian Safety Act increases road safety near public schools. This bill requires school boards to create pedestrian safety plans when building new schools or renovating existing ones. HB 487: Passed the House of Delegates

 

 

Environmental/Climate Initiatives

 

Climate Solutions Now Act, this is a comprehensive bill, which will increase the statewide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction requirement from 40% by 2030 to 60% and requires the State to achieve net-zero emissions by 2045.  It also sets targets for electrifying state vehicle fleets, supporting solar on buildings and planting trees.  Finally, it has justice/equity provisions which will support already burdened communities. HB 583/ SB 414 Passed the Senate

Community Choice Energy, which will be enabling legislation for each county that will allow them to aggregate their rate payers to negotiate for better rates and for the kind of energy (solar, wind, fossil fuel) that their residents want to use.

Climate Crisis Act, (a tax on carbon) Charges a fee for fossil fuel use in the state. The fee is used to fund: 1) Kirwan, 2) a benefit fund to offset any costs to low-income Marylanders, and 3) clean energy and resilience infrastructure improvements – HB 33 – No Progress

Constitutional Amendment for Environmental Rights, which will give everyone in Maryland the right to clean air, water and a pollution free environment. HB 82/SB 151 – Hearings Held

Right to Repair – Our electronics are manufactured with a large environmental footprint which is intentionally amplified when manufacturers produce products that either cannot be repaired, or for which repair information is not disclosed.  This bill will require manufacturers to publicly disclose repair information, decreasing waste and aiding small businesses. HB 84/SB 412 – Unfavorable Report in House Committee (Bill is dead)

Utility Regulation – Consideration of Climate and Labor – HB 293/SB 83 – House Hearing Held

* Climate Crisis and Education Act – Tax on carbon products – HB 33/SB 76 – Hearing Held

*Plastic Bag Reduction Act State-wide ban on plastic bags – HB 314/SB 223- Hearings Held

o   Black Liquor – This bill removes “black liquor” ― the gooey, pulpy byproduct of paper production ― from the roster of fuels that qualify for tax breaks under the state’s Renewable Fuels Standard. SB 65 – Passed the Senate

o   Clean Car Act of 2021 – Extending, for fiscal years 2021 through 2023, the Electric Vehicle Recharging Equipment Rebate Program and the vehicle excise tax credit for the purchase of certain electric vehicles and increasing the tax credit from $1,200,000 to $1,800,000.

Ethics

Limits on Lobbyist Spending – Limits the amount a lobbyist can spent on taking legislators out to dinner to $50 per person!  HB 292 – Hearing Held

 

 

 

Health Care

 

Study on Universal Health Care –Establishes a Commission on Universal Health Care to develop a plan for the State to establish, a universal health care program to provide health benefits to all residents of the State through a single-payer system.  HB 470/SB 522 – House Hearing 3/11 – No Progress

Healthy Maryland Act – Establishes a comprehensive, universal single payer health care program to provide health coverage for every Maryland resident.

Housing – HB 534 – No Progress

o   Legalization and Regulation of Cannabis – HB 32 – No Progress

o   Funding for Behavioral Health Crisis Response Services which would be channeled through the Department of Health This is a way to decrease police interactions with mental health situations.  SB 286 Hearing Held

o   Out-of-Pocket Maximums and Cost-Sharing Requires all payments made by patients, either directly or on their behalf, be counted toward their deductibles or out-of-pocket maximums. Requiring health insurance carriers to count all copayments will protect Marylanders from high out-of-pocket costs. SB 290 / HB 167 No Progress

 

Housing

 

Social Housing Legislation – This bill includes tenant protections, affordable housing and zoning changes that allow for duplexes, triplexes and quarterplexes. HB 1090 – Hearing Held

Right to Counsel in case of eviction – HB 18/SB 154 – Hearings Held

Tenant Protection Act of 2021

* Make utility bill charges more accessible and transparent for tenants whose landlords use a ratio utility billing statement (RUBS)

* Require landlords to provide documentation for materials and services used when using security deposit funds to fix damages.

* Allow tenant associations to use apartment/living complex meeting rooms for tenant organizing meetings.

* Allow a tenant to break their lease if they are a victim of stalking.

* Allow a therapist or third-party professional to certify that a tenant is a victim of stalking or abuse, instead of just cops or a judge.

HB 50 – Passed the House of Delegates

 

o   Mobile Laundry for the Homeless Pilot program. – HB 189 Passed the House of Delegates

 

 

Immigration and Social Justice

 

o    Trust Act – End partnership between local and state enforcement and ICE.  HB 304 / SB 88 – Hearing Senate Judicial Proceedings Comm – Hearing Held (This bill has not moved but is probably not dead because of the importance of the issue and the sponsor is the Chair of the Senate JPR Committee)

o    Termination of Private Immigration Detention Centers:  This bill, often referred to as “Dignity not Detention,” will prevent the state’s detention centers – or any private facility – from initiating or renewing existing contracts with ICE -Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (There are currently three such circumstances in the state where immigrants are warehoused, in Howard, Frederick, and Worcester Counties.) The bill will also prevent ICE from coming into Maryland in the future to build its own detention centers. It would go into effect on 1 July 2021.Required local entities that have existing immigration detention agreements to terminate their contracts.  HB 16 Passed the House of Delegates

o    Driver Privacy Act – Protects the privacy of MD drivers by requiring ICE and other Federal agencies to obtain a warrant in order to access personal information that the MVA gathers about drivers.  HB 23 / SB 234 Passed the House

o    Action of Change of Name – Waiver of Publication Requirement  HB 39– Passed the House

o    Energy Supplier Low-Income Act – This bill will prohibit deregulated, third party energy suppliers, who target low-income zip codes, to charge OHEP customers higher rates than the standard energy supplier rate.  These suppliers have stepped up their door-to-door selling game during COVID and their predatory practices have reached an all-time high. SB 31/HB 397 – Passed the House of Delegates

    • The Love Is No Defense to Sexual Crimes Act. This bill prohibits the spousal defense for sexual offenses, ensuring that individuals cannot use the fact that they are married to their victim as a defense for sexual crimes including rape. HB 147 – Passed the House of Delegates

o     

Labor and Working Rights

                       

  • Time to Care Act establishes a family and medical leave insurance program that employees may take up to 12 weeks of paid leave in Maryland. The funding would come from both the employer and employee. It’s estimated to cost the employee $3 to $6 a week which would come as a payroll deduction. HB 375 / SB 211 – Hearing Held
  • Collective Bargaining for Workers at Community Colleges – HB 894/SB 746 – House Hearing Held / Senate Hearing Finance Committee March 4 1 PM

Prince George’s Local Bills (these are bills that only pertain to Prince George’s County) and are voted on by the Delegates and Senators from Prince George’s County

 

  • HB 624.  Elected School Board – 9 members elected by district.  Right now, there is a hybrid school board. Some are appointed and some are elected.  The school superintendent will be appointed by the board.  The board selects the chair and vice chair. Hearing Held

 

  • HB 622 – Prohibition on MAGLEV coming through Prince George’s County – Hearing Held

 

  • HB 621 – Prince George’s County – Elementary School Students – Daily Physical Activity (Student Health and Fitness Act) – Hearing Held

 

  • HB 617 – Prince George’s County – Alcoholic Beverages – Licenses for Supermarkets – Hearing Held

 

 

Raising Revenue Through Fair Funding Initiatives

 

Little can be done without a realistic plan to raise revenue.  A group of legislators are proposing a package of revenue proposals that would raise close to $3 billion a year by taxing corporations and the super-wealthy in Maryland and not working people.  Some of these proposals are:

 

Combined Reporting – Requires large, multistate corporations to pay their fair share in corporate taxes for profits generated from subsidiaries in Maryland. HB 172 – Hearing Held

Throwback Rule -Require large, multistate corporations to pay their fair share in corporate taxes for profits generated related to sales in Maryland. – HB 229 – Hearing Held

Close the pass-through/LLC loophole– Apply a 4% entity-level tax on profits over $1 million for LLCs.  LLCs are limited partnerships which do not pay a corporate business tax. – HB 357 Hearing Date 1/21 – Ways and Means Comm

o Restructure personal income tax brackets and rates – Lowers income tax rates on income earners below median, raise rates on income earners above, restore millionaire tax at 7%.  HB 357 Hearing Held

Capital gains surtax- Apply a 1% surtax on capital gains income to partially offset special treatment in federal tax code. HB 201 – Hearing Held

Carried Interest – Apply a 19% state income surtax on the distributive or pro-rata share of a pass-through entity’s taxable income that is attributable to investment management services provided in the State. HB 215/SB 288 – House Hearing Held – Senate Budget and Taxation 1/28

Estate Tax Giveaway Reversal – Reverses handout to wealthy given in 2014 by resetting the estate tax exemption limit at $1 million instead of $5 million. HB 165 – Hearing Held

Effective Corporate Tax Rate Transparency Act of 2020 -Requiring a publicly traded corporation that is required to file a Maryland income tax return to attach a statement identifying the corporation’s effective tax rate and an explanation of the calculation of the effective tax rate; requiring that the statement be made under oath, signed in a certain manner, subject to audit by the Comptroller, and treated as confidential taxpayer information; requiring the Comptroller to submit a certain report to the Governor and the General Assembly by March 1 each year; etc.- HB 330 – House Ways and Means Comm – Hearing Held

Country Club Bill   Would provide $100 million in additional revenue over the next 10 years by taxing country clubs statewide at the same property tax rates that other property owners pay, $10 million in one year. HB 1120 – Hearing Held

Decouple from federal CARES Act tax breaks:  The Federal CARES Act contains several major changes to tax policy.  These changes will reduce Maryland’s revenues by $110 million in fiscal years 2020 and 2021.  This legislation would decouple from these costly federal provisions that disproportionately benefit wealthy taxpayers. HB 495 – Hearing Held

*Make MD Tax Structure More Progressive – Changes the tax brackets to raise more revenue from wealthier individuals and less from people with less income.  HB 275 – Hearing Held

*Allowing Counties to Have Different Income Tax Rates Based on Income:  SB 133/HB 319 -Passed House of Delegates & Senate

 

Transportation

 

Purple Line Tree Replacement: Construction of the Purple Line required the removal of large mature trees. While the overall plan required replacement of these trees, they were replaced in areas far from the communities that lost them. Many of the areas that lost trees are already suffering from heat island effects and poor air quality. Walking and biking along these corridors for transit-dependent individuals is even hotter and more unpleasant without these trees. While these trees cannot be replaced in the exact locations they were removed, they can be replanted in the same neighborhoods on a combination of state, county, and private land. This legislation requires the Maryland Department of Transportation and the Maryland Department of the Environment to coordinate this effort to replant trees in these communities, prioritizing communities suffering multiple environmental health harms. Lorig Charkoudian is introducing this bill. HB 80 Passed the House

 

Two Man Crew: This bill would prohibit the movement of freight in the same rail corridor as a high-speed commuter or passenger train unless the freight train has at least two workers. HB 492 – Passed the House of Delegates

 

 

There is a good website that tracks bills.  You might want to look at the Maryland Legislative Coalition:  http://mdlegislative.com

 

Please remember, the reason I inform people about these bills is so you can contact your state legislators and let them know how you feel about legislation they’re going to vote on.

General Information

 

If you want to know any more about any of the bills go to the Maryland General Assembly website:  www.mgaleg.maryland.gov     and type in the bill number.

 

To view and listen to proceedings go to the General Assembly website:  www.mgaleg.maryland.gov.

 

If you do not know who your representatives are, you can go to www.mdelect.net    to find out who are your elected representatives   There is also a very good smart phone application MD GOV which lists all the Delegates and Senators, their Committees and their contact numbers.

 

You can read all my past newsletters at my Peoples Lobbying Group website:  www.plg.solutions .

 

Maryland Legislative Report – March 6, 2021

MD Legislative Report – March 6, 2021

     The 2021 Session of the Maryland General Assembly is now more than halfway through its three-month session.    Most of the bills have had committee hearings and are now being reviewed by the various House and Senate Committees.  Almost all the bills must pass by ‘crossover’ day.  This means it must pass one house or the other to be heard in a timely fashion by the other house and then sent to the Governor.  Crossover date this year is March 22.  Here are some of the bills that have passed one house or the other.   I am recording the latest developments in the front of the newsletter.   Later in the report I have listed below some of the bills I am following and the status of those bills If there is another bill you are interested in knowing about, please let me know. 

New Developments

 Bills that Passed both the Senate and the House of Delegates

 Expanding Earned Income Tax Credit to Non-Citizens – SB 218 – This bill was neither vetoed by the Governor nor signed by him and is now the law. This bill extends the earned income tax credit, and the state COVID relief payments, to individuals filing taxes with an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN). Many taxpayers filing with an ITIN are immigrants who have been excluded from other federal and state relief payments and have been some of the hardest hit by the pandemic and subsequent recession.

          

Bills that Passed the Senate

 

          Criminal Justice Package

  • SB71, which would mandate that all law enforcement agencies use body-worn cameras.
  • SB74, which would require all law enforcement agencies across the state to provide employee mental health assistance program for all their officers.
  • SB419, which would limit the use of no-knock warrants.
  • SB599, which would restrict law enforcement agencies’ ability to procure weaponized military equipment.
  • SB600, which would establish that police incidents resulting in civilian fatalities undergo independent investigations.
  • SB786, which would re-establish local control of the Baltimore Police Department.
  • SB627 – Repeal of the Law Enforcement Officer Bill of Rights – This bill passed the Senate but was amended and there will be an attempt to eliminate some of the amendments in the House of Delegates. The amendments to do the following:
      • Allow officers to exercise the same right to engage in political activity as other state employees while off-duty.
      • Permit officers to seek secondary employment.
      • Restrict income or property disclosures.
      • Prevent officers from being fired, disciplined, demoted or denied a promotion or transfer for exercising their constitutional rights or the rights provided for them under the bill.
      • Prohibit agencies from denying officers their right to file a lawsuit for incidents that arise while on duty.
      • Enable officers to request that formal complaints be expunged from their record if they are exonerated, the allegations were not sustained or they were acquitted by a hearing board and three years have passed since the department’s decision; and
      • Keep formal complaints from being admissible in court if they were not sustained or the officer was exonerated or acquitted by a hearing board.
  • Special Election to Fill a Vacancy in Office of the General Assembly – HB 265 / SB 6 Right now when there is a vacancy the Democratic Committee appoints the person to fill the term. This bill a person would be appointed only until the next Federal or State election

 

  • Utility Regulation – Consideration of Climate and Labor – HB 298/SB 83 – Public Service Commission must consider climate and labor in the regulating of utilities. Passed Senate
  • Black Liquor SB 65 This bill removes “black liquor” ― the gooey, pulpy byproduct of paper production ― from the roster of fuels that qualify for tax breaks under the state’s Renewable Fuels Standard.

 

  • Public Information Act – Personnel Records – Investigations of Law Enforcement Officers (Anton’s Law) SB 178 When you file a complaint of police misconduct, you cannot find out how the department investigates your complaint. All you can find out is the outcome and any discipline; you cannot find out whether the department conducted a thorough or lackluster investigation of your complaint. This is because the complaint file is considered a “personnel record” under Maryland’s Public Information Act, and personnel records may never be disclosed. THE SOLUTION. Remove the complaint file from the personnel record category, thereby allowing the police department to disclose the inappropriate situations.

 

Bills That Passed the House of Delegates

  • HB 77: The Safer Sealant Act of 2021 prohibits certain coal tar pavements with high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which have contributed damaging runoff into the Chesapeake Bay.
  • HB 81: Prohibits leaving dogs outside in extreme weather.
  • HB 130: Establishes a commission on LGBTQ affairs in the Governor’s Office.
  • HB 146: Extends the state fund to help spay and neuter pets by providing grants to lower-income pet owners.
  • HB 208: Closes a loophole to prevent non-farmers from using dangerous neonicotinoid pesticides.
  • HB 247: Ensures election judges are thoroughly trained in how to provide accommodations to voters who may need assistance and requires certain voters (e.g., people with mobility-related disabilities) to be given voting order priority.
  • HB 293: Prohibits organized animal killing contests that have monetary prizes.
  • HB 322: Allows homeowners to have low-impact landscaping, such as a rain garden, and bars a homeowner’s association from prohibiting such landscaping.
  • HB 391: This bill seeks to protect the environment from balloons that are released and later return to the ground as litter.
  • HB 400: Ensures education continuity for juveniles in detention facilities awaiting court proceedings. This bill requires public schools to keep these students enrolled in their original school and provide them with educational materials while awaiting disposition of the student’s case.
  • HB 398 would require employers to provide employees with two hours of paid time off to vote on Election Day or during early voting if they are scheduled to work the entire time that the polls are open that day.
  • HB 156: Student and Military Voter Empowerment Act, which make it easier for college students and members of the military to vote.
  • HB 205: Requires public schools to provide free menstrual hygiene products in bathrooms.
  • HB 207: Requires nursing homes to provide immediate notifications of changes in a resident’s condition to the resident and, as applicable, their family.
  • HB 429: Requires pharmacists to notify consumers if lower-cost alternatives are available to fill their prescriptions.
  • HB 460: The Transfer with Success Act will make it easier for college students to transfer credits between institutions of higher education.
  • HB 318, the Local Tax Relief for Working Families Act of 2021, gives county governments more flexibility in setting their local income taxes. Instead of the flat tax required under current state law, this bill would allow counties to create multiple income tax brackets.  This would provide counties with the opportunity to provide tax relief to low- and middle-income taxpayers.
  • HB 641 protects consumers from losing their homeowners insurance because of weather-related claims. Under current state law, insurance companies can cancel a person’s homeowners insurance policy if they make three weather-related claims in a three years span.  This bill would prohibit insurance carriers from counting a weather-related claim that does not result in a payout to the homeowner towards the three-strike rule.
  • {Thanks again to Delegate Julie Palakovich-Carr for putting this summary in her newsletter}
  • HB 3 Removing the Governor from Parole Decisions – There is already a Parole Review Board that makes recommendations on who should be paroled. In the last 20 years the number of people being let out on parole has gone down as Governors have brought politics in that decision.  Governors interested in running for higher office have been overly cautious on paroling some criminals.
  • HB 492 Two Man Crew: This bill would prohibit the movement of freight in the same rail corridor as a high-speed commuter or passenger train unless the freight train has at least two workers.

 

 

Status of Other Important Bills that I am Following

 

Confronting the COVID CRISIS

 

o COVID-19 Eviction and Housing Relief Act of 2020

* Prohibits rent increases and late fees during the pandemic and allocates funds to landlords to allow for rent forgiveness; ensures landlords demonstrate just cause in order to stop the renewal of a lease. HB 1312 Hearing Held

 

o MD Essential Workers Protection Act

* During state of emergency essential employees 1) Receive $3/hr. hazard pay; 2) 14 day paid sick leave; 3) Right to refuse dangerous work; 4) Free COVID testing; 5) PPE at no cost to employees. HB 581 / SB 486 – House Hearing Held

 

o Foreclosure Protection Bill

* The bill: 1) extends foreclosure moratorium through state of emergency; 2) requires services to grant forbearance; 3) sets default (opt-out) repayment option as deferring missed mortgage payments to the end of the loan; 4) requires prompt notice of all these rights; and 5) creates private right of action to sue if any rights are violated. HB 1009/SB 724 Hearing Held

 

o Unemployment Insurance Reforms:

* Unemployment insurance is crucial, both as a safety net and as a countercyclical stimulus to prevent a deeper recession. This year far too many people struggled with accessing their unemployment benefits. These bills make several fixes to the system including requiring increased staffing so people who need assistance can speak to a human being, timelines for completion of claims and resolution of appeals, improved language access, and greater transparency. This bill also develops a seamless connection from the unemployment insurance process to allow applicants to connect to health benefits, in a process the bill changes the benefit calculation so that people who work multiple jobs and lose one, don’t lose out on unemployment income their family needs. Small businesses would also be protected by freezing the rates they paid from before COVID, so they do not pay higher rates for having to lay off workers due to the emergency. Finally, these bills require the state to study several other structural issues and to recommend changes for future legislative sessions.  HB 907, 908 – Hearings Held

 

 

Criminal Justice Reform

 

o Repeal of the Law Enforcement Officer Bill of Rights – It would put police officers under the same rules that cover other government employees who come under investigation;(e.g., Police officers have 5 days before they are allowed to be investigated in a disciplinary matter) – Passed the Senate

o Public Information Act – Personnel Records – Investigations of Law Enforcement Officers (Anton’s Law) When you file a complaint of police misconduct, you cannot find out how the department investigates your complaint. All you can find out is the outcome and any discipline; you cannot find out whether the department conducted a thorough or lackluster investigation of your complaint. This is because the complaint file is considered a “personnel record” under Maryland’s Public Information Act, and personnel records may never be disclosed. THE SOLUTION. Remove the complaint file from the personnel record category, thereby allowing the police department to disclose the inappropriate situations. HB 120/ SB 178 – Passed the Senate

  • Removing the Governor from Parole Decisions HB 3 –There is already a Parole Review Board that makes recommendations on who should be paroled. In the last 20 years the number of people being let out on parole has gone down as Governors have brought politics in that decision.  Governors interested in running for higher office have been overly cautious on paroling some criminals.  Passed the House of Delegates

 

 

 

Consumer Rights

 

o Increasing the amount of money low-wage workers can protect from Garnishment:  Currently it is $11,000 a year.  The bill would increase it to $26,000. HB 660 – Hearing Held

o Medical Debtors Protection Act – Expand consumer protections for individuals sued for medical debt and to create an income-based repayment plan before a lawsuit can be filed; prohibit lawsuits for all medical debts below $1000. HB 565/SB 514 Hearings Held

o Drivers Bill of Rights – Limit the use of zip code in auto insurance rates and requires insurance companies to provide rebates to drivers through the state of emergency.  Hearing Held

  • Prohibiting Use of Credit History in Auto Insurance Rating Policies – HB 221 – Hearings Held

 

Democracy and Voting Rights

  • Voting Rights for Imprisoned FelonsHB 53 Hearing Held
  • Special Election to Fill a Vacancy in Office of the General Assembly – HB 265 / SB 6 Right now when there is a vacancy the Democratic Committee appoints the person to fill the term. This bill a person would be appointed only until the next Federal or State election.  Passed the Senate
  • Public Financing for Candidates Running for General Assembly – HB 536 – Hearing Held

 

Education

 

o Funding for Historically Black Colleges and University (HBCU) This bill would provide an additional $577 million to Maryland’s historically Black colleges and universities over 10 years to end the state’s lengthy lawsuit over inequitable funding of the schools. – HB 1 / SB 1 – Passed the Senate and House

  • : Prohibiting fees for summer school courses in public schools HB 394: Passed the House of Delegates
  • The School Pedestrian Safety Act increases road safety near public schools. This bill requires school boards to create pedestrian safety plans when building new schools or renovating existing ones. HB 487: Passed the House of Delegates

 

 

Environmental/Climate Initiatives

 

* Climate Solutions Now Act, this is a comprehensive bill, which will increase the statewide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction requirement from 40% by 2030 to 60% and requires the State to achieve net-zero emissions by 2045.  It also sets targets for electrifying state vehicle fleets, supporting solar on buildings and planting trees.  Finally, it has justice/equity provisions which will support already burdened communities. HB 583/ SB 414 Hearings Held

* Community Choice Energy, which will be enabling legislation for each county that will allow them to aggregate their rate payers to negotiate for better rates and for the kind of energy (solar, wind, fossil fuel) that their residents want to use.

* Climate Crisis Act, (a tax on carbon) Charges a fee for fossil fuel use in the state. The fee is used to fund: 1) Kirwan, 2) a benefit fund to offset any costs to low-income Marylanders, and 3) clean energy and resilience infrastructure improvements – HB 33 – Hearing Held

* Constitutional Amendment for Environmental Rights, which will give everyone in Maryland the right to clean air, water and a pollution free environment. HB 82/SB 151 – Hearings Held

* Right to Repair – Our electronics are manufactured with a large environmental footprint which is intentionally amplified when manufacturers produce products that either cannot be repaired, or for which repair information is not disclosed.  This bill will require manufacturers to publicly disclose repair information, decreasing waste and aiding small businesses. HB 84/SB 412 – Unfavorable Report in House Committee (Bill is dead)

* Utility Regulation – Consideration of Climate and Labor – HB 293/SB 83 – House Hearing Held

* Climate Crisis and Education Act – Tax on carbon products – HB 33/SB 76 – Hearing Held

*Plastic Bag Reduction Act State-wide ban on plastic bags – HB 314/SB 223- Hearings Held

  • Black Liquor – This bill removes “black liquor” ― the gooey, pulpy byproduct of paper production ― from the roster of fuels that qualify for tax breaks under the state’s Renewable Fuels Standard. SB 65 – Passed the Senate

 

 

Ethics

Limits on Lobbyist Spending – Limits the amount a lobbyist can spent on taking legislators out to dinner to $50 per person!  HB 292 – Hearing Held

 

 

 

Health Care

 

o Study on Universal Health Care –Establishes a Commission on Universal Health Care to develop a plan for the State to establish, a universal health care program to provide health benefits to all residents of the State through a single-payer system.  HB 470/SB 522 – House Hearing 3/11 – Senate Hearing Held

o Healthy Maryland Act – Establishes a comprehensive, universal single payer health care program to provide health coverage for every Maryland resident.

Housing – HB 534 – Hearing 3/11

  • Legalization and Regulation of Cannabis – HB 32 – Hearing House Judiciary Comm – House Hearing Held
  • Funding for Behavioral Health Crisis Response Services which would be channeled through the Department of Health This is a way to decrease police interactions with mental health situations. SB 286 Hearing Held

 

Housing

 

o Social Housing Legislation – This bill includes tenant protections, affordable housing and zoning changes that allow for duplexes, triplexes and quarterplexes. HB 1090 – Hearing Held

o Right to Counsel in case of evictionHB 18/SB 154 – Hearings Held

o Tenant Protection Act of 2021

* Make utility bill charges more accessible and transparent for tenants whose landlords use a ratio utility billing statement (RUBS)

* Require landlords to provide documentation for materials and services used when using security deposit funds to fix damages.

* Allow tenant associations to use apartment/living complex meeting rooms for tenant organizing meetings.

* Allow a tenant to break their lease if they are a victim of stalking.

* Allow a therapist or third-party professional to certify that a tenant is a victim of stalking or abuse, instead of just cops or a judge.

HB 50 – House Hearing Held

 

  • Mobile Laundry for the Homeless Pilot program. – HB 189 Passed the House of Delegates

 

 

Immigration and Social Justice

 

  • Trust Act – End partnership between local and state enforcement and ICE. HB 304 / SB 88 – Hearing Senate Judicial Proceedings Comm – Hearing Held
  • Termination of Private Immigration Detention Centers: This bill, often referred to as “Dignity not Detention,” will prevent the state’s detention centers – or any private facility – from initiating or renewing existing contracts with ICE -Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (There are currently three such circumstances in the state where immigrants are warehoused, in Howard, Frederick, and Worcester Counties.) The bill will also prevent ICE from coming into Maryland in the future to build its own detention centers. It would go into effect on 1 July 2021.Required local entities that have existing immigration detention agreements to terminate their contracts.  HB 16 – Hearing House Judiciary Comm. – 3/13 1:30 PM
  • Driver Privacy Act – Protects the privacy of MD drivers by requiring ICE and other Federal agencies to obtain a warrant in order to access personal information that the MVA gathers about drivers. HB 23 / SB 234 – Hearing Held
  • Action of Change of Name Waiver of Publication Requirement HB 39– Passed the House
  • Energy Supplier Low-Income Act – This bill will prohibit deregulated, third party energy suppliers, who target low-income zip codes, to charge OHEP customers higher rates than the standard energy supplier rate.  These suppliers have stepped up their door-to-door selling game during COVID and their predatory practices have reached an all-time high. SB 31/HB 397 – Passed the House of Delegates
    • The Love Is No Defense to Sexual Crimes Act. This bill prohibits the spousal defense for sexual offenses, ensuring that individuals cannot use the fact that they are married to their victim as a defense for sexual crimes including rape. HB 147 – Passed the House of Delegates

Labor and Working Rights

                       

  • Time to Care Act establishes a family and medical leave insurance program that employees may take up to 12 weeks of paid leave in Maryland. The funding would come from both the employer and employee. It’s estimated to cost the employee $3 to $6 a week which would come as a payroll deduction. HB 375 / SB 211 – Hearing Held
  • Collective Bargaining for Workers at Community Colleges HB 894/SB 746 – House Hearing Held / Senate Hearing Finance Committee March 4 1 PM

Prince George’s Local Bills (these are bills that only pertain to Prince George’s County) and are voted on by the Delegates and Senators from Prince George’s County

 

  • HB 624.  Elected School Board – 9 members elected by district.  Right now, there is a hybrid school board. Some are appointed and some are elected. The school superintendent will be appointed by the board.  The board selects the chair and vice chair. Hearing Held

 

  • HB 622 – Prohibition on MAGLEV coming through Prince George’s County – Hearing Held

 

  • HB 621 – Prince George’s County – Elementary School Students – Daily Physical Activity (Student Health and Fitness Act) – Hearing Held

 

  • HB 617 – Prince George’s County – Alcoholic BeveragesLicenses for Supermarkets – Hearing Held

 

 

Raising Revenue Through Fair Funding Initiatives

 

Little can be done without a realistic plan to raise revenue.  A group of legislators are proposing a package of revenue proposals that would raise close to $3 billion a year by taxing corporations and the super-wealthy in Maryland and not working people.  Some of these proposals are:

 

o Combined Reporting – Requires large, multistate corporations to pay their fair share in corporate taxes for profits generated from subsidiaries in Maryland. HB 172 – Hearing Held

o Throwback Rule -Require large, multistate corporations to pay their fair share in corporate taxes for profits generated related to sales in Maryland. – HB 229 – Hearing Held

o Close the pass-through/LLC loophole– Apply a 4% entity-level tax on profits over $1 million for LLCs.  LLCs are limited partnerships which do not pay a corporate business tax. – HB 357 Hearing Date 1/21 – Ways and Means Comm

o Restructure personal income tax brackets and rates – Lowers income tax rates on income earners below median, raise rates on income earners above, restore millionaire tax at 7%.  HB 357 Hearing Held

o Capital gains surtax- Apply a 1% surtax on capital gains income to partially offset special treatment in federal tax code. HB 201 – Hearing Held

o Carried Interest – Apply a 19% state income surtax on the distributive or pro-rata share of a pass-through entity’s taxable income that is attributable to investment management services provided in the State. HB 215/SB 288 – House Hearing Held – Senate Budget and Taxation 1/28

o Estate Tax Giveaway Reversal – Reverses handout to wealthy given in 2014 by resetting the estate tax exemption limit at $1 million instead of $5 million. HB 165 – Hearing Held

o Effective Corporate Tax Rate Transparency Act of 2020 -Requiring a publicly traded corporation that is required to file a Maryland income tax return to attach a statement identifying the corporation’s effective tax rate and an explanation of the calculation of the effective tax rate; requiring that the statement be made under oath, signed in a certain manner, subject to audit by the Comptroller, and treated as confidential taxpayer information; requiring the Comptroller to submit a certain report to the Governor and the General Assembly by March 1 each year; etc.- HB 330 – House Ways and Means Comm – Hearing Held

o Country Club Bill   Would provide $100 million in additional revenue over the next 10 years by taxing country clubs statewide at the same property tax rates that other property owners pay, $10 million in one year. HB 1120 – Hearing Held

o Decouple from federal CARES Act tax breaks:  The Federal CARES Act contains several major changes to tax policy.  These changes will reduce Maryland’s revenues by $110 million in fiscal years 2020 and 2021.  This legislation would decouple from these costly federal provisions that disproportionately benefit wealthy taxpayers. HB 495 – Hearing Held

*Make MD Tax Structure More Progressive – Changes the tax brackets to raise more revenue from wealthier individuals and less from people with less income.  HB 275 – Hearing Held

*Allowing Counties to Have Different Income Tax Rates Based on Income:  SB 133/HB 319 -Passed House of Delegates

 

Transportation

 

Purple Line Tree Replacement: Construction of the Purple Line required the removal of large mature trees. While the overall plan required replacement of these trees, they were replaced in areas far from the communities that lost them. Many of the areas that lost trees are already suffering from heat island effects and poor air quality. Walking and biking along these corridors for transit-dependent individuals is even hotter and more unpleasant without these trees. While these trees cannot be replaced in the exact locations they were removed, they can be replanted in the same neighborhoods on a combination of state, county, and private land. This legislation requires the Maryland Department of Transportation and the Maryland Department of the Environment to coordinate this effort to replant trees in these communities, prioritizing communities suffering multiple environmental health harms. Lorig Charkoudian is introducing this bill. HB 80 /SB 286 – Hearings Held

 

Two Man Crew: This bill would prohibit the movement of freight in the same rail corridor as a high-speed commuter or passenger train unless the freight train has at least two workers. HB 492 – Passed the House of Delegates

 

 

 

There is a good website that tracks bills.  You might want to look at the Maryland Legislative Coalition:  http://mdlegislative.com

 

Please remember, the reason I inform people about these bills is so you can contact your state legislators and let them know how you feel about legislation they’re going to vote on.

General Information

 

If you want to know any more about any of the bills go to the Maryland General Assembly website:  www.mgaleg.maryland.gov     and type in the bill number.

 

To view and listen to proceedings go to the General Assembly website:  www.mgaleg.maryland.gov.

 

If you want to contact your representatives in District 47 about any of the bills, you should email or call:

 

Senator Malcolm Augustine       Malcolm.augustine@senate.state.md.us 410-841-3745

Delegate Diana Fennell (47A) Diana.fennell@house.state.md.us 301-858-3478

Delegate Julian Ivey (47A) Julian.ivey@house.state.md.us      410-841-3326

Delegate Wanika Fisher (47B) Wanika.fisher@house.state.md.us 410-841-3340

 

If you do not know who your representatives are, you can go to www.mdelect.net    to find out who are your elected representatives   There is also a very good smart phone application MD GOV which lists all the Delegates and Senators, their Committees and their contact numbers.

 

You can read all my past newsletters at my Peoples Lobbying Group website:  www.plg.solutions .

 

 

Older Developments – Bills That Are Now Law

 

COVID Relief Bill

 

           
A $1.5 billion relief package to help struggling Marylanders and businesses.

Stimulus payments.  Individuals who qualified for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) in 2019 and/or 2020 will receive one-time stimulus payments.  Eligibility is dependent on your income and number of children.  For instance, a married couple with two kids making up to $53,330 a year is eligible.  A single person with no kids can earn up to $15,820 a year and still qualify for the stimulus payment.  For people who qualified for the EITC in 2019, they will receive $500 for families or $300 for individuals.  People who qualify for the EITC in 2020 will receive $250 for families or $150 for individuals.

Expansion of the EITC.  The legislation also includes an ongoing expansion of the EITC program, which is a highly targeted and effective way of helping low-income workers and raising people out of poverty.  Maryland will now have the most generous EITC credit in the nation and low-income workers may receive hundreds of dollars more in tax refunds.  This change takes effect with tax year 2020 and will be reflected on taxpayers’ refunds.

If you think that you are eligible for the EITC in 2020 and therefore also eligible for a stimulus payment, you should file your 2020 taxes soon.  People must file their tax returns in order to receive this money.  You can get free tax preparation help through the County by calling (240) 777-1123.

Unemployment benefits.  Unemployment benefits will be exempt from the State income tax, keeping over $225.0 million in the pockets of unemployed Marylanders.  People whose claim for unemployment benefits is pending and who have been waiting in adjudication for at least 30 days will each receive $1,000.

 

Aid for businesses.  Small businesses will be allowed to keep sales tax collections of up to $9,000 over three months.  Up to 100,000 small businesses and nonprofits will be able to defer paying unemployment insurance taxes until early 2022 to help with cash flow.  Additionally, layoffs during FY 2020 and FY 2021 will not impact the employer’s experience rating–saving businesses money on their unemployment taxes.  Loans of up to $50,000 provided through the Minority and Small Business Loans program will be converted to grants.  State taxes on COVID-related loans and grants from the state will be forgiven.

Other aid.  The RELIEF Act also includes $300 million in additional relief.  People receiving benefits from the Temporary Disability Assistance Program will get an extra $100 a month through June.  Food banks will receive $10 million.  $83 million is directed to paying overdue utility bills for Marylanders.  Over $100 million in grants will be distributed to hard-hit business sectors and non-profits.

(Thanks to Delegate Julie Palakovich-Carr for providing a good summary of the legislation)

 

 

Governor Vetoes that Were Over-riden by the General Assembly

 

* Kirwan Commission Reforms: The “Blueprint for Maryland’s Future” required billions in extra spending on public schools to carry out education reforms recommended by the Kirwan Commission on education. The programs included expanded prekindergarten, higher teacher pay, improved career- and college-prep and more support for schools with concentrations of students from poor families. The veto of this bill meant that another bill on school construction will not go into effect. Hogan allowed the Built to Learn Act to become law, generating $2.2 billion in extra funding for school construction over the next five years using bonds that would be paid back with casino revenues.  But a provision in the bill tied the two education measures together. Until the Kirwan bill becomes law, the school construction bill does not go into effect.

* Digital downloads: This bill extends the state’s 6% sales tax to digital downloads of products such as e-books, songs, movies and streaming TV services. This bill will raise $150 million

* Long guns: This bill requires background checks on private sales and transfers of rifles and shotguns. The buyer and seller would have to go to a licensed dealer to have a federal background check completed.

* Prescription drug review board: This bill charges a fee to companies that sell prescription drugs and used the money to run the state’s Prescription Drug Affordability Board.

* Tobacco, nicotine and digital ads: Multiple taxes were rolled into one bill: an increase in the per-pack tax on cigarettes, new taxes on nicotine vaping systems and a first-in-the-nation tax on digital advertising.

 

 

Maryland Legislative Report – February 15, 2021

MD Legislative Report – Feb 15, 2021

 

The 2021 Session of the Maryland General Assembly has now been through one month of its three-month session.  Over 2,500 bills have been introduced.  A few bills have now passed, and others have made progress and I am recording in the front of the newsletter the latest developments.  Later in the report I have listed below some of the bills I am following and the status of those bills If there is another bill you are interested in knowing about, please let me know.

 

New Developments

 

COVID Relief Bill Passed by General Assembly and Signed into Law

           

The Maryland General Assembly passed a $1.5 billion relief package to help struggling Marylanders and businesses.

Stimulus payments.  Individuals who qualified for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) in 2019 and/or 2020 will receive one-time stimulus payments.  Eligibility is dependent on your income and number of children.  For instance, a married couple with two kids making up to $53,330 a year is eligible.  A single person with no kids can earn up to $15,820 a year and still qualify for the stimulus payment.  For people who qualified for the EITC in 2019, they will receive $500 for families or $300 for individuals.  People who qualify for the EITC in 2020 will receive $250 for families or $150 for individuals.

Expansion of the EITC.  The legislation also includes an ongoing expansion of the EITC program, which is a highly targeted and effective way of helping low-income workers and raising people out of poverty.  Maryland will now have the most generous EITC credit in the nation and low-income workers may receive hundreds of dollars more in tax refunds.  This change takes effect with tax year 2020 and will be reflected on taxpayers’ refunds.

If you think that you are eligible for the EITC in 2020 and therefore also eligible for a stimulus payment, you should file your 2020 taxes soon.  People must file their tax returns in order to receive this money.  You can get free tax preparation help through the County by calling (240) 777-1123.

Unemployment benefits.  Unemployment benefits will be exempt from the State income tax, keeping over $225.0 million in the pockets of unemployed Marylanders.  People whose claim for unemployment benefits is pending and who have been waiting in adjudication for at least 30 days will each receive $1,000.

 

Aid for businesses.  Small businesses will be allowed to keep sales tax collections of up to $9,000 over three months.  Up to 100,000 small businesses and nonprofits will be able to defer paying unemployment insurance taxes until early 2022 to help with cash flow.  Additionally, layoffs during FY 2020 and FY 2021 will not impact the employer’s experience rating–saving businesses money on their unemployment taxes.  Loans of up to $50,000 provided through the Minority and Small Business Loans program will be converted to grants.  State taxes on COVID-related loans and grants from the state will be forgiven.

Other aid.  The RELIEF Act also includes $300 million in additional relief.  People receiving benefits from the Temporary Disability Assistance Program will get an extra $100 a month through June.  Food banks will receive $10 million.  $83 million is directed to paying overdue utility bills for Marylanders.  Over $100 million in grants will be distributed to hard-hit business sectors and non-profits.

(Thanks to Delegate Julie Palakovich-Carr for providing a good summary of the legislation)

 

 

Overriding Governor’s Vetoes

 

 

Kirwan Commission Reforms: The “Blueprint for Maryland’s Future” required billions in extra spending on public schools to carry out education reforms recommended by the Kirwan Commission on education. The programs included expanded prekindergarten, higher teacher pay, improved career- and college-prep and more support for schools with concentrations of students from poor families. The veto of this bill meant that another bill on school construction will not go into effect. Hogan allowed the Built to Learn Act to become law, generating $2.2 billion in extra funding for school construction over the next five years using bonds that would be paid back with casino revenues.  But a provision in the bill tied the two education measures together. Until the Kirwan bill becomes law, the school construction bill does not go into effect.

Digital downloads: This bill extends the state’s 6% sales tax to digital downloads of products such as e-books, songs, movies and streaming TV services. This bill will raise $150 million

Long guns: This bill requires background checks on private sales and transfers of rifles and shotguns. The buyer and seller would have to go to a licensed dealer to have a federal background check completed.

Prescription drug review board: This bill charges a fee to companies that sell prescription drugs and used the money to run the state’s Prescription Drug Affordability Board.

Tobacco, nicotine and digital ads: Multiple taxes were rolled into one bill: an increase in the per-pack tax on cigarettes, new taxes on nicotine vaping systems and a first-in-the-nation tax on digital advertising.

 

Bills That Passed the House and Senate (but still must be reconciled before it is sent to the Governor)

 

Historically Black Colleges and Universities – SB 1 The Senate unanimously passed a measure that would send an extra $577 million to the state’s historically Black colleges and universities over the next decade.

 

Bills That Passed the House of Delegates

  • HB 147: The Love Is No Defense to Sexual Crimes Act. This bill prohibits the spousal defense for sexual offenses, ensuring that individuals cannot use the fact that they are married to their victim as a defense for sexual crimes including rape.
  • HB 487: The School Pedestrian Safety Act increases road safety near public schools. This bill requires school boards to create pedestrian safety plans when building new schools or renovating existing ones.
  • HB 39: Action of Change of Name – Waiver of Publication Requirement This bill waives the requirement that people seeking to change their legal name publish their intentions in a local newspaper.  It will help protect people’s privacy, especially for transgender individuals.
  • HB 189: Establishes a mobile laundry for the homeless pilot program.
  • HB 394: Prohibiting fees for summer school courses in public schools

Bills That Passed the Senate

 

Black Liquor SB 65 – The Senate gave preliminary approved to remove “black liquor” ― the gooey, pulpy byproduct of paper production ― from the roster of fuels that qualify for tax breaks under the state’s Renewable Fuels Standard.

 

 

Status of Other Important Bills that I am Following

 

Confronting the COVID CRISIS

 

COVID-19 Eviction and Housing Relief Act of 2020

* Prohibits rent increases and late fees during the pandemic and allocates funds to landlords to allow for rent forgiveness; ensures landlords demonstrate just cause in order to stop the renewal of a lease. HB 1312 Hearing Judiciary Committee 2/17

 

MD Essential Workers Protection Act

* During state of emergency essential employees 1) Receive $3/hr. hazard pay; 2) 14 day paid sick leave; 3) Right to refuse dangerous work; 4) Free COVID testing; 5) PPE at no cost to employees. HB 581 / SB 486 – House Hearing Held

 

o Foreclosure Protection Bill

* The bill: 1) extends foreclosure moratorium through state of emergency; 2) requires services to grant forbearance; 3) sets default (opt-out) repayment option as deferring missed mortgage payments to the end of the loan; 4) requires prompt notice of all these rights; and 5) creates private right of action to sue if any rights are violated. HB 1009/SB 724 – House Hearing 2/24 – 1:30 PM

 

Unemployment Insurance Reforms:

* Unemployment insurance is crucial, both as a safety net and as a countercyclical stimulus to prevent a deeper recession. This year far too many people struggled with accessing their unemployment benefits. These bills make several fixes to the system including requiring increased staffing so people who need assistance can speak to a human being, timelines for completion of claims and resolution of appeals, improved language access, and greater transparency. This bill also develops a seamless connection from the unemployment insurance process to allow applicants to connect to health benefits, in a process the bill changes the benefit calculation so that people who work multiple jobs and lose one, don’t lose out on unemployment income their family needs. Small businesses would also be protected by freezing the rates they paid from before COVID, so they do not pay higher rates for having to lay off workers due to the emergency. Finally, these bills require the state to study several other structural issues and to recommend changes for future legislative sessions.  HB 906, 907, 908

 

Criminal Justice Reform

 

Repeal of the Law Enforcement Officer Bill of Rights – It would put police officers under the same rules that cover other government employees who come under investigation;(e.g., Police officers have 5 days before they are allowed to be investigated in a disciplinary matter) – HB 151 – Hearing Held

Public Information Act – Personnel Records – Investigations of Law Enforcement Officers (Anton’s Law) When you file a complaint of police misconduct, you cannot find out how the department investigates your complaint. All you can find out is the outcome and any discipline; you cannot find out whether the department conducted a thorough or lackluster investigation of your complaint. This is because the complaint file is considered a “personnel record” under Maryland’s Public Information Act, and personnel records may never be disclosed. THE SOLUTION. Remove the complaint file from the personnel record category, thereby allowing the police department to disclose the inappropriate situations. HB 120/ SB 178 – Hearings Held

o   House Hearing Held Removing the Governor from Parole Decisions HB 3 – – There is already a Parole Review Board that makes recommendations on who should be paroled.  In the last 20 years the number of people being let out on parole has gone down as Governors have brought politics in that decision.  Governors interested in running for higher office have been overly cautious on paroling some criminals.  Hearing Held

 

 

 

Consumer Rights

 

Increasing the amount of money low-wage workers can protect from Garnishment:  Currently it is $11,000 a year.  The bill would increase it to $26,000. HB 660 – House Hearing Judiciary Comm 2/24 at 1:30 PM

Medical Debtors Protection Act – Expand consumer protections for individuals sued for medical debt and to create an income-based repayment plan before a lawsuit can be filed; prohibit lawsuits for all medical debts below $1000. HB 565/SB 514

Drivers Bill of Rights – Limit the use of zip code in auto insurance rates and requires insurance companies to provide rebates to drivers through the state of emergency.  No Bill # Yet

o   Prohibiting Use of Credit History in Auto Insurance Rating Policies – HB 221 – Hearing Held

 

Democracy and Voting Rights

  • Voting Rights for Imprisoned Felons – HB 53 Hearing Held
  • Special Election to Fill a Vacancy in Office of the General Assembly – HB 265 / SB 6 Right now when there is a vacancy the Democratic Committee appoints the person to fill the term.  This bill a person would be appointed only until the next Federal or State election.  Hearings Held-
  • Public Financing for Candidates Running for General Assembly – HB 536 – Hearing Held

 

Education

 

Funding for Historically Black Colleges and University (HBCU) This bill would provide an additional $577 million to Maryland’s historically Black colleges and universities over 10 years to end the state’s lengthy lawsuit over inequitable funding of the schools. – HB 1 / SB 1 – Passed the Senate and House

 

Environmental/Climate Initiatives

 

Climate Solutions Now Act, this is a comprehensive bill, which will increase the statewide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction requirement from 40% by 2030 to 60% and requires the State to achieve net-zero emissions by 2045.  It also sets targets for electrifying state vehicle fleets, supporting solar on buildings and planting trees.  Finally, it has justice/equity provisions which will support already burdened communities. HB 583/ SB 414 Hearing Held

Community Choice Energy, which will be enabling legislation for each county that will allow them to aggregate their rate payers to negotiate for better rates and for the kind of energy (solar, wind, fossil fuel) that their residents want to use.

Climate Crisis Act, (a tax on carbon) Charges a fee for fossil fuel use in the state. The fee is used to fund: 1) Kirwan, 2) a benefit fund to offset any costs to low-income Marylanders, and 3) clean energy and resilience infrastructure improvements – HB 33.

Constitutional Amendment for Environmental Rights, which will give everyone in Maryland the right to clean air, water and a pollution free environment. HB 82/SB 151 – Hearings Held

Right to Repair – Our electronics are manufactured with a large environmental footprint which is intentionally amplified when manufacturers produce products that either cannot be repaired, or for which repair information is not disclosed.  This bill will require manufacturers to publicly disclose repair information, decreasing waste and aiding small businesses. HB 84/SB 412 – Hearings Held

Utility Regulation – Consideration of Climate and Labor – HB 293/SB 83 – House Hearing Held

* Climate Crisis and Education Act – Tax on carbon products – HB 33/SB 76

*Plastic Bag Reduction Act  State-wide ban on plastic bags – HB 314/SB 223- Hearings Held

 

Ethics

Limits on Lobbyist Spending – Limits the amount a lobbyist can spent on taking legislators out to dinner to $50 per person!  HB 292 – Hearing Held

 

 

Gun Control

 

A ban on 3D printed guns and guns with no serial number, which will require the creation of an agency to manage serial numbers.

 

Health Care

 

Study on Universal Health Care –Establishes a Commission on Universal Health Care to develop a plan for the State to establish, a universal health care program to provide health benefits to all residents of the State through a single-payer system.

Healthy Maryland Act – Establishes a comprehensive, universal single payer health care program to provide health coverage for every Maryland resident.

Housing – HB 534

o   Legalization and Regulation of Cannabis – HB 32  – Hearing House Judiciary Comm – 2/16/21 – 1:30 PM

o   Funding for Behavioral Health Crisis Response Services which would be channeled through the Department of Health This is a way to decrease police interactions with mental health situations.  SB 286 Hearing Held

 

Housing

 

Social Housing Legislation – This bill includes tenant protections, affordable housing and zoning changes that allow for duplexes, triplexes and quarterplexes. HB 1090 – Hearing 2/23 1:30 PM

Right to Counsel in case of eviction – HB 18/SB 154 – Hearings Held

Tenant Protection Act of 2021

* Make utility bill charges more accessible and transparent for tenants whose landlords use a ratio utility billing statement (RUBS)

* Require landlords to provide documentation for materials and services used when using security deposit funds to fix damages.

* Allow tenant associations to use apartment/living complex meeting rooms for tenant organizing meetings.

* Allow a tenant to break their lease if they are a victim of stalking.

* Allow a therapist or third-party professional to certify that a tenant is a victim of stalking or abuse, instead of just cops or a judge.

HB 50 – House Hearing Held

 

Immigration and Social Justice

 

o    Trust Act – End partnership between local and state enforcement and ICE.  HB 304 / SB 88 – Hearing Senate Judicial Proceedings Comm – Hearing Held

o    Termination of Private Immigration Detention Centers:  Required local entities that have existing immigration detention agreements to terminate their contracts.  HB 16 – Hearing House Judiciary Comm. – 3/13 1:30 PM

o    Driver Privacy Act – Protects the privacy of MD drivers by requiring ICE and other Federal agencies to obtain a warrant in order to access personal information that the MVA gathers about drivers.  HB 23 / SB 234 – Hearing Held

o    Universal Representation – Provide legal representation to detained MD residents facing deportation.

o    Action of Change of Name – Waiver of Publication Requirement  HB 39 Bill voted out of Committee

o    Energy Supplier Low-Income Act – This bill will prohibit deregulated, third party energy suppliers, who target low-income zip codes, to charge OHEP customers higher rates than the standard energy supplier rate.  These suppliers have stepped up their door-to-door selling game during COVID and their predatory practices have reached an all-time high. SB 31/HB 397

Labor and Working Rights

                       

  • Time to Care Act establishes a family and medical leave insurance program that employees may take up to 12 weeks of paid leave in Maryland. The funding would come from both the employer and employee. It’s estimated to cost the employee $3 to $6 a week which would come as a payroll deduction. HB 375 / SB 211 – Hearing Sen Finance Comm – 1/28 at 1 PM

Prince George’s Local Bills (these are bills that only pertain to Prince George’s County) and are voted on by the Delegates and Senators from Prince George’s County

 

  • HB 624.  Elected School Board – 9 members elected by district.  Right now, there is a hybrid school board. Some are appointed and some are elected.  The school superintendent will be appointed by the board.  The board selects the chair and vice chair

 

  • HB 622 – Prohibition on MAGLEV coming through Prince George’s County

 

  • HB 621 – Prince George’s County – Elementary School Students – Daily Physical Activity (Student Health and Fitness Act)

 

  • HB 617 –  Prince George’s County – Alcoholic Beverages – Licenses for Supermarkets

 

 

Raising Revenue Through Fair Funding Initiatives

 

Little can be done without a realistic plan to raise revenue.  A group of legislators are proposing a package of revenue proposals that would raise close to $3 billion a year by taxing corporations and the super-wealthy in Maryland and not working people.  Some of these proposals are:

 

Combined Reporting – Requires large, multistate corporations to pay their fair share in corporate taxes for profits generated from subsidiaries in Maryland. HB 172 – Hearing Ways and Means Comm 1/28 at 1:30 PM

Throwback Rule -Require large, multistate corporations to pay their fair share in corporate taxes for profits generated related to sales in Maryland. – HB 229 – House Ways and Means Comm 1/28 – 1:30 PM

Close the pass-through/LLC loophole– Apply a 4% entity-level tax on profits over $1 million for LLCs.  LLCs are limited partnerships which do not pay a corporate business tax. – HB 357 Hearing Date 1/21 – Ways and Means Comm

o Restructure personal income tax brackets and rates – Lowers income tax rates on income earners below median, raise rates on income earners above, restore millionaire tax at 7%.  HB 357 Hearing – House Ways and Means Comm 1/28 1:30 PM

Capital gains surtax- Apply a 1% surtax on capital gains income to partially offset special treatment in federal tax code. HB 201 – Hearing Held

Carried Interest – Apply a 19% state income surtax on the distributive or pro-rata share of a pass-through entity’s taxable income that is attributable to investment management services provided in the State. HB 215/SB 288 – House Hearing Held – Senate Budget and Taxation 1/28

Estate Tax Giveaway Reversal – Reverses handout to wealthy given in 2014 by resetting the estate tax exemption limit at $1 million instead of $5 million. HB 165 – Hearing Held

Effective Corporate Tax Rate Transparency Act of 2020 -Requiring a publicly traded corporation that is required to file a Maryland income tax return to attach a statement identifying the corporation’s effective tax rate and an explanation of the calculation of the effective tax rate; requiring that the statement be made under oath, signed in a certain manner, subject to audit by the Comptroller, and treated as confidential taxpayer information; requiring the Comptroller to submit a certain report to the Governor and the General Assembly by March 1 each year; etc.- HB 330 – House Ways and Means Comm – Hearing Held

Country Club Bill   Would provide $100 million in additional revenue over the next 10 years by taxing country clubs statewide at the same property tax rates that other property owners pay, $10 million in one year. HB 1120

Decouple from federal CARES Act tax breaks:  The Federal CARES Act contains several major changes to tax policy.  These changes will reduce Maryland’s revenues by $110 million in fiscal years 2020 and 2021.  This legislation would decouple from these costly federal provisions that disproportionately benefit wealthy taxpayers

*Make MD Tax Structure More Progressive – Changes the tax brackets to raise more revenue from wealthier individuals and less from people with less income.  HB 275 – Ways and Means Comm – 1/28 at 1:30 PM

*Allowing Counties to Have Different Income Tax Rates Based on Income:  SB 133 – Hearings Held

 

Transportation

 

Purple Line Tree Replacement: Construction of the Purple Line required the removal of large mature trees. While the overall plan required replacement of these trees, they were replaced in areas far from the communities that lost them. Many of the areas that lost trees are already suffering from heat island effects and poor air quality. Walking and biking along these corridors for transit-dependent individuals is even hotter and more unpleasant without these trees. While these trees cannot be replaced in the exact locations they were removed, they can be replanted in the same neighborhoods on a combination of state, county, and private land. This legislation requires the Maryland Department of Transportation and the Maryland Department of the Environment to coordinate this effort to replant trees in these communities, prioritizing communities suffering multiple environmental health harms. Lorig Charkoudian is introducing this bill. HB 80 /SB 286 – Hearings Held

 

Two Man Crew: This bill would prohibit the movement of freight in the same rail corridor as a high-speed commuter or passenger train unless the freight train has at least two workers. HB 492 – Voted out of Committee

 

 

 

There is a good website that tracks bills.  You might want to look at the Maryland Legislative Coalition:  http://mdlegislative.com

 

Please remember, the reason I inform people about these bills is so you can contact your state legislators and let them know how you feel about legislation they’re going to vote on.

General Information

 

If you want to know any more about any of the bills go to the Maryland General Assembly website:  www.mgaleg.maryland.gov     and type in the bill number.

//

For the first time ever, you are now able to watch video live-streaming of the House floor proceedings.  The 2020 session is a pilot, with only one in three days being live cast.

 

Previously, only the audio portion of the floor sessions was available online.  That meant that the only way for the public to watch floor debates was to come to Annapolis and watch in person from the floor viewing gallery.

 

Archives of video from prior legislative days are available on the General Assembly website. In addition, meetings of most committees are available online, as in past years.  To view and listen to proceedings go to the General Assembly website:  www.mgaleg.maryland.gov.

 

If you want to contact your representatives in District 47 about any of the bills, you should email or call:

 

Senator Malcolm Augustine       Malcolm.augustine@senate.state.md.us 410-841-3745

Delegate Diana Fennell (47A) Diana.fennell@house.state.md.us 301-858-3478

Delegate Julian Ivey (47A) Julian.ivey@house.state.md.us      410-841-3326

Delegate Wanika Fisher (47B) Wanika.fisher@house.state.md.us 410-841-3340

 

If you do not know who your representatives are, you can go to www.mdelect.net    to find out who are your elected representatives   There is also a very good smart phone application MD GOV which lists all the Delegates and Senators, their Committees and their contact numbers.

 

You can read all my past newsletters at my Peoples Lobbying Group website:  www.plgsolutions.

MD Legislative Report – Jan 28, 2021

MD Legislative Report – Jan 28, 2021

     The 2021 Session of the Maryland General Assembly started on Wednesday January 13.  Over 1,300 bills have been introduced since the beginning of session.

            Things are definitely much different this year. The House of Delegates has decided not to meet as a body but to have Committee Hearings in January and only to start voting on bills in February.  The full Senate is meeting every day.

            Very few bills have been voted out of Committee so there is not much information to report on bill progress.  I have listed below some of the bills I am following and the hearing dates on those bills.  If there is another bill you are interested in knowing about, please let me know.

            There were two significant developments in the first two weeks:

1)      The Senate overrode 16 vetoes from last session and held many hearings.  The biggest override was the override of the veto of the bill that funded the Prescription Drug Affordability Board.  Some of the other important veto overrides are scheduled for early February.

2)      Speaker Adrienne Jones announced a comprehensive legislative package dedicated to closing race-based economic and health gaps for minority communities. Because it is so important I am going to print here her statement:

The 2021 Racial and Economic Justice Agenda package was developed this fall with over three dozen local, state and national leaders on ideas to address systemic racism across sectors. The agenda makes 30 policy recommendations, including nine pieces of legislation, in five key areas: housing, corporate management, banking, health, business and government.

As part of The Agenda, I will be introducing legislation to expand economic opportunities for more wealth inclusion. The bill will require any company receiving State capital funding over $1 million to demonstrate racial diversity on its board and in its mission; mandate any company doing business with the State to demonstrate racial diversity on their board beginning in FY23; and create a State equity scorecard that shows a corporation’s diversity and spending that go to minority businesses.

The Agenda will also include bills to:

  • Prevent loan and credit applicants from being denied if they can provide alternate forms of credit worthiness (Queen);
  • Create tax-free savings accounts to help first-time homebuyers afford the high cost of a down payment, closing costs etc. (Brooks);
  • Add a Certified Business Enterprise component to help Maryland minority companies compete for State bids (Washington);
  • Improve the State’s procurement process and provide more technical resources to minority businesses (Wilson);
  • Redirect $10 million to TEDCO’s Builder’s Fund so minority business have access to more meaningful venture opportunities (D. Barnes);
      • Establish Health Equity Resource Communities dedicated to closing gaps in our healthcare system (Barron/J. Lewis);
      • Declare racism a public health crisis and require all healthcare providers to complete bias training as part of their licensing process (Pena-Melnyk).”

Here are some local Prince George’s Bills (these are bills that only pertain to Prince George’s County) and are voted on by the Delegates and Senators from Prince George’s County

 

HB 624.  Elected School Board – 9 members elected by district.  Right now there is a hybrid school board. Some are appointed and some are elected.  The school superintendent will be appointed by the board.  The board selects the chair and vice chair.

HB 622 Prohibition on MAGLEV coming through Prince George’s County

HB 621  Prince George’s County – Elementary School Students – Daily Physical Activity (Student Health and Fitness Act)

HB 617 –  Prince George’s County – Alcoholic Beverages – Licenses for Supermarkets

 

 

Overriding Governor’s Vetoes

 

          Last year Governor Hogan vetoed 25 bills.  The Senate last week overrode 16 of the less controversial bills.  It is expected that they will meet to override some of the other bills in February.  The House of Delegates is expected to override the bills in February also.

Kirwan Commission Reforms: The “Blueprint for Maryland’s Future” required billions in extra spending on public schools to carry out education reforms recommended by the Kirwan Commission on education. The programs included expanded prekindergarten, higher teacher pay, improved career- and college-prep and more support for schools with concentrations of students from poor families. The veto of this bill meant that another bill on school construction will not go into effect. Hogan allowed the Built to Learn Act to become law, generating $2.2 billion in extra funding for school construction over the next five years using bonds that would be paid back with casino revenues.  But a provision in the bill tied the two education measures together. Until the Kirwan bill becomes law, the school construction bill does not go into effect.

Digital downloads: This bill would have extended the state’s 6% sales tax to digital downloads of products such as e-books, songs, movies and streaming TV services. (Have you seen all the TV ads.  Big business is spending a lot of money to make sure this bill does not become law.!)

Long guns: This bill would have required background checks on private sales and transfers of rifles and shotguns. The buyer and seller would have to go to a licensed dealer to have a federal background check completed.

Prescription drug review board: This bill would have charged a fee to companies that sell prescription drugs and used the money to run the state’s Prescription Drug Affordability Board.

Tobacco, nicotine and digital ads: Multiple taxes were rolled into one bill: an increase in the per-pack tax on cigarettes, new taxes on nicotine vaping systems and a first-in-the-nation tax on digital advertising.

 Confronting the COVID CRISIS

COVID-19 Eviction and Housing Relief Act of 2020

* Prohibits rent increases and late fees during the pandemic and allocates funds to landlords to allow for rent forgiveness; ensures landlords demonstrate just cause in order to stop the renewal of a lease. No bill # yet

MD Essential Workers Protection Act

* During state of emergency essential employees 1) Receive $3/hr. hazard pay; 2) 14 day paid sick leave; 3) Right to refuse dangerous work; 4) Free COVID testing; 5) PPE at no cost to employees. HB 581 / SB 486 – House Hearing Economic Matters Committee – Feb 5

 

o Foreclosure Protection Bill

* The bill: 1) extends foreclosure moratorium through state of emergency; 2) requires services to grant forbearance; 3) sets default (opt-out) repayment option as deferring missed mortgage payments to the end of the loan; 4) requires prompt notice of all these rights; and 5) creates private right of action to sue if any rights are violated. No bill # yet

Unemployment Insurance Reforms:

* Unemployment insurance is crucial, both as a safety net and as a countercyclical stimulus to prevent a deeper recession. This year far too many people struggled with accessing their unemployment benefits. This bill makes a number of fixes to the system including requiring increased staffing so people who need assistance can speak to a human being, timelines for completion of claims and resolution of appeals, improved language access, and greater transparency. This bill also develops a seamless connection from the unemployment insurance process to allow applicants to connect to health benefits, in a process the bill changes the benefit calculation so that people who work multiple jobs and lose one, don’t lose out on unemployment income their family needs. Small businesses would also be protected by freezing the rates they paid from before COVID, so they do not pay higher rates for having to lay off workers due to the emergency. Finally, this bill requires the state to study several other structural issues and to recommend changes for future legislative Sessions. No bill # yet

Criminal Justice Reform

Repeal of the Law Enforcement Officer Bill of Rights – It would put police officers under the same rules that cover other government employees who come under investigation;(e.g., Police officers have 5 days before they are allowed to be investigated in a disciplinary matter) – HB 151 – Hearing House Judiciary Comm – 2/9

Public Information Act – Personnel Records – Investigations of Law Enforcement Officers (Anton’s Law) When you file a complaint of police misconduct, you cannot find out how the department investigates your complaint. All you can find out is the outcome and any discipline; you cannot find out whether the department conducted a thorough or lackluster investigation of your complaint. This is because the complaint file is considered a “personnel record” under Maryland’s Public Information Act, and personnel records may never be disclosed. THE SOLUTION. Remove the complaint file from the personnel record category, thereby allowing the police department to disclose the inappropriate situations. HB 120/ SB 178 – Hearing House Judiciary Comm – 2/9 1:30 PM – Senate Hearing Held

o   House Hearing Held Removing the Governor from Parole Decisions HB 3 – – There is already a Parole Review Board that makes recommendations on who should be paroled.  In the last 20 years the number of people being let out on parole has gone down as Governors have brought politics in that decision.  Governors interested in running for higher office have been overly cautious on paroling some criminals.  Hearing Held

Consumer Rights

 

Increasing the amount of money low-wage workers can protect from Garnishment:  Currently it is $11,000 a year.  The bill would increase it to $26,000. No Bill # yet

Medical Debtors Protection Act – Expand consumer protections for individuals sued for medical debt and to create an income-based repayment plan before a lawsuit can be filed; prohibit lawsuits for all medical debts below $1000. HB 565/SB 514

Drivers Bill of Rights – Limit the use of zip code in auto insurance rates and requires insurance companies to provide rebates to drivers through the state of emergency.

Democracy and Voting Rights

  • Voting Rights for Imprisoned Felons – HB 53 – 1/26 Ways and Means Comm – 1:30 PM
  • Special Election to Fill a Vacancy in Office of the General Assembly – HB 265 / SB 6 Right now when there is a vacancy the Democratic Committee appoints the person to fill the term.  This bill a person would be appointed only until the next Federal or State election.  House Hearing Held- Senate Hearing Educ and Health Comm – Feb 4 -11 AM
  • Public Financing for Candidates Running for General Assembly – HB 536 – Hearing Ways and Means Comm – Feb 2 1:30

Education

Funding for Historically Black Colleges and University (HBCU) This bill would provide an additional $577 million to Maryland’s historically Black colleges and universities over 10 years to end the state’s lengthy lawsuit over inequitable funding of the schools. – HB 1 / SB 1 – Hearings Held

Environmental/Climate Initiatives

Climate Solutions Now Act, this is a comprehensive bill, which will increase the statewide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction requirement from 40% by 2030 to 60% and requires the State to achieve net-zero emissions by 2045.  It also sets targets for electrifying state vehicle fleets, supporting solar on buildings and planting trees.  Finally, it has justice/equity provisions which will support already burdened communities. HB 583/ SB 414 Hearing Educ, Health and Env Comm – Jan 28 11 AM

Community Choice Energy, which will be enabling legislation for each county that will allow them to aggregate their rate payers to negotiate for better rates and for the kind of energy (solar, wind, fossil fuel) that their residents want to use.

Climate Crisis Act, (a tax on carbon) Charges a fee for fossil fuel use in the state. The fee is used to fund: 1) Kirwan, 2) a benefit fund to offset any costs to low-income Marylanders, and 3) clean energy and resilience infrastructure improvements – HB 33.

Constitutional Amendment for Environmental Rights, which will give everyone in Maryland the right to clean air, water and a pollution free environment. HB 82/SB 151 – House Hearing Held – Sen EHE Comm 1/26

Right to Repair – Our electronics are manufactured with a large environmental footprint which is intentionally amplified when manufacturers produce products that either cannot be repaired, or for which repair information is not disclosed.  This bill will require manufacturers to publicly disclose repair information, decreasing waste and aiding small businesses. HB 84

Utility Regulation – Consideration of Climate and Labor – HB 293/SB 83 – House Hearing Held

* Climate Crisis and Education Act – Tax on carbon products – HB 33/SB 76

*Plastic Bag Reduction Act  State-wide ban on plastic bags – HB 314/SB 223- Hearing Senate Finance Comm 1/28 1 PM and Hearing House Environment and Transportation Comm 1:30 PM

Ethics

Limits on Lobbyist Spending – Limits the amount a lobbyist can spent on taking legislators out to dinner to $50 per person!  HB 292 – Hearing Held

 

Gun Control

A ban on 3D printed guns and guns with no serial number, which will require the creation of an agency to manage serial numbers.

Health Care

Study on Universal Health Care –Establishes a Commission on Universal Health Care to develop a plan for the State to establish, a universal health care program to provide health benefits to all residents of the State through a single-payer system.

Healthy Maryland Act – Establishes a comprehensive, universal single payer health care program to provide health coverage for every Maryland resident.

Housing – HB 534

o   Legalization and Regulation of Cannabis – HB 32  – Hearing House Judiciary Comm – 2/16/21 – 1:30 PM

 

Housing

Social Housing Legislation – This bill includes tenant protections, affordable housing and zoning changes that allow for duplexes, triplexes and quarterplexes.

Right to Counsel in case of eviction – HB 16/SB 154 – Senate Hearing Judicial Proceedings – 1/28 11 AM

Tenant Protection Act of 2021

* Make utility bill charges more accessible and transparent for tenants whose landlords use a ratio utility billing statement (RUBS)

* Require landlords to provide documentation for materials and services used when using security deposit funds to fix damages.

* Allow tenant associations to use apartment/living complex meeting rooms for tenant organizing meetings.

* Allow a tenant to break their lease if they are a victim of stalking.

* Allow a therapist or third-party professional to certify that a tenant is a victim of stalking or abuse, instead of just cops or a judge.

HB 50 – Env & Trans Comm 1/26 -1:30 PM

Immigration and Social Justice

 

o    Trust Act – End partnership between local and state enforcement and ICE.  HB 304 / SB 88 – Hearing Senate Judicial Proceedings Comm – 1/27

o    Termination of Private Immigration Detention Centers:  Required local entities that have existing immigration detention agreements to terminate their contracts  HB 16 – Hearing House Judiciary Comm. – 2/17 1:30 PM

o    Driver Privacy Act – Protects the privacy of MD drivers by requiring ICE and other Federal agencies to obtain a arrant in order to access personal information that the MVA gathers about drivers.  HB 23 / SB 234 – Hearing Sen Judicial Proceedings 1/28 11 AM

o    Universal Representation – Provide legal representation to detained MD residents facing deportation.

o    Action of Change of Name – Waiver of Publication Requirement – Hearing Held

o    Energy Supplier Low-Income Act – This bill will prohibit deregulated, third party energy suppliers, who target low-income zip codes, to charge OHEP customers higher rates than the standard energy supplier rate.  These suppliers have stepped up their door-to-door selling game during COVID and their predatory practices have reached an all time high. SB 31/HB 397

Labor  and Working Rights

                       

  • Time to Care Act establishes a family and medical leave insurance program that employees may take up to 12 weeks of paid leave in Maryland. The funding would come from both the employer and employee. It’s estimated to cost the employee $3 to $6 a week which would come as a payroll deduction. HB 375 / SB 211 – Hearing Sen Finance Comm – 1/28 at 1 PM

o     

Raising Revenue Through Fair Funding Initiatives

Little can be done without a realistic plan to raise revenue.  A group of legislators are proposing a package of revenue proposals that would raise close to $3 billion a year by taxing corporations and the super-wealthy in Maryland and not working people.  Some of these proposals are:

Combined Reporting – Requires large, multistate corporations to pay their fair share in corporate taxes for profits generated from subsidiaries in Maryland. HB 172 – Hearing Ways and Means Comm 1/28 at 1:30 PM

Throwback Rule -Require large, multistate corporations to pay their fair share in corporate taxes for profits generated related to sales in Maryland. – HB 229 – House Ways and Means Comm 1/28 – 1:30 PM

Close the pass-through/LLC loophole– Apply a 4% entity-level tax on profits over $1 million for LLCs.  LLCs are limited partnerships which do not pay a corporate business tax. – HB 357 Hearing Date 1/21 – Ways and Means Comm

o Restructure personal income tax brackets and rates – Lowers income tax rates on income earners below median, raise rates on income earners above, restore millionaire tax at 7%.  HB 357 Hearing – House Ways and Means Comm 1/28 1:30 PM

Capital gains surtax- Apply a 1% surtax on capital gains income to partially offset special treatment in federal tax code. HB 201 – Hearing Held

Carried Interest – Apply a 19% state income surtax on the distributive or pro-rata share of a pass-through entity’s taxable income that is attributable to investment management services provided in the State. HB 215/SB 288 – House Hearing Held – Senate Budget and Taxation 1/28

Estate Tax Giveaway Reversal – Reverses handout to wealthy given in 2014 by resetting the estate tax exemption limit at $1 million instead of $5 million. HB 165 – Hearing Held

Effective Corporate Tax Rate Transparency Act of 2020 -Requiring a publicly traded corporation that is required to file a Maryland income tax return to attach a statement identifying the corporation’s effective tax rate and an explanation of the calculation of the effective tax rate; requiring that the statement be made under oath, signed in a certain manner, subject to audit by the Comptroller, and treated as confidential taxpayer information; requiring the Comptroller to submit a certain report to the Governor and the General Assembly by March 1 each year; etc.- HB 330 – House Ways and Means Comm 1/28 1:30 PM

Country Club Bill   Would provide $100 million in additional revenue over the next 10 years by taxing country clubs statewide at the same property tax rates that other property owners pay, $10 million in one year.

Decouple from federal CARES Act tax breaks:  The Federal CARES Act contains several major changes to tax policy.  These changes will reduce Maryland’s revenues by $110 million in fiscal years 2020 and 2021.  This legislation would decouple from these costly federal provisions that disproportionately benefit wealthy taxpayers.

*Make MD Tax Structure More Progressive – Changes the tax brackets to raise more revenue from wealthier individuals and less from people with less income.  HB 275 – Ways and Means Comm – 1/28 at 1:30 PM

*Allowing Counties to Have Different Income Tax Rates Based on Income:  SB 133 – Hearings Held

Transportation

Purple Line Tree Replacement: Construction of the Purple Line required the removal of large mature trees. While the overall plan required replacement of these trees, they were replaced in areas far from the communities that lost them. Many of the areas that lost trees are already suffering from heat island effects and poor air quality. Walking and biking along these corridors for transit-dependent individuals is even hotter and more unpleasant without these trees. While these trees cannot be replaced in the exact locations they were removed, they can be replanted in the same neighborhoods on a combination of state, county, and private land. This legislation requires the Maryland Department of Transportation and the Maryland Department of the Environment to coordinate this effort to replant trees in these communities, prioritizing communities suffering multiple environmental health harms. Lorig Charkoudian is introducing this bill.

There is a good website that tracks bills.  You might want to look at the Maryland Legislative Coalition:  http://mdlegislative.com

Please remember, the reason I inform people about these bills is so you can contact your state legislators and let them know how you feel about legislation they’re going to vote on.

General Information

If you want to know any more about any of the bills go to the Maryland General Assembly website:  www.mgaleg.maryland.gov     and type in the bill number.

For the first time ever, you are now able to watch video live-streaming of the House floor proceedings.  The 2020 session is a pilot, with only one in three days being live cast.

Previously, only the audio portion of the floor sessions was available online.  That meant that the only way for the public to watch floor debates was to come to Annapolis and watch in person from the floor viewing gallery.

Archives of video from prior legislative days are available on the General Assembly website. In addition, meetings of most committees are available online, as in past years.  To view and listen to proceedings go to the General Assembly website:  www.mgaleg.maryland.gov.

If you want to contact your representatives in District 47 about any of the bills, you should email or call:

Senator Malcolm Augustine       Malcolm.augustine@senate.state.md.us 410-841-3745

Delegate Diana Fennell (47A) Diana.fennell@house.state.md.us 301-858-3478

Delegate Julian Ivey (47A)     Julian.ivey@house.state.md.us      410-841-3326

Delegate Wanika Fisher (47B) Wanika.fisher@house.state.md.us 410-841-3340

If you do not know who your representatives are, you can go to www.mdelect.net    to find out who are your elected representatives   There is also a very good smart phone application MD GOV which lists all the Delegates and Senators, their Committees and their contact numbers.

You can read all my past newsletters at my Peoples Lobbying Group website:  www.plg.solutions.

Big Challenges Ahead in the 2020 MD Legislative Session

Big Challenges Ahead in the 2020 MD Legislative Session

 

     What a year!! Is there much more to say?  Between Trump and COVID I have never lived through a year like this.  While our attention has focused on the horrific events that occurred at the Capital this week, there will be important issues developing in Annapolis starting next week.

 

     The 2021 Session of the Maryland General Assembly starts on Wednesday January 13.  In Maryland as well as the rest of the country we are facing a crisis from COVID 19 and a need to work on criminal justice issues.  There will be major initiatives to   prohibit rent increases, foreclosures, and late fees during the pandemic and to allocate funds to landlords to allow for rent forgiveness. Another initiative (MD Essential Workers Protection Act) ensures that during a state of emergency essential employees receive $3/hr. hazard pay; 14 day paid sick leave; the right to refuse dangerous work; free COVID testing; and PPE at no cost to the workers.

 

            Here are some of the legislative bills that I will be following this year.  I will be adding bills and their numbers as they are posted.  If there is another bill you are interested in knowing about, please let me know. 

 

     The legislature will also be voting on overriding Governor Hogan’s vetoes of bills passed by the General Assembly last year.  Normally this is done in the first few days of the session but because of COVID the procedure will be different.  This year the House of Delegates will solely be holding committee hearings for the first month and will not convene to vote on bills (including overriding vetoes) until the middle of February.

 

Overriding Governor’s Vetoes

 

Kirwan Commission Reforms: The “Blueprint for Maryland’s Future” required billions in extra spending on public schools to carry out education reforms recommended by the Kirwan Commission on education. The programs included expanded prekindergarten, higher teacher pay, improved career- and college-prep and more support for schools with concentrations of students from poor families. The veto of this bill meant that another bill on school construction will not go into effect. Hogan allowed the Built to Learn Act to become law, generating $2.2 billion in extra funding for school construction over the next five years using bonds that would be paid back with casino revenues.  But a provision in the bill tied the two education measures together. Until the Kirwan bill becomes law, the school construction bill does not go into effect.

Digital downloads: This bill would have extended the state’s 6% sales tax to digital downloads of products such as e-books, songs, movies and streaming TV services.

Long guns: This bill would have required background checks on private sales and transfers of rifles and shotguns. The buyer and seller would have to go to a licensed dealer to have a federal background check completed.

Prescription drug review board: This bill would have charged a fee to companies that sell prescription drugs and used the money to run the state’s Prescription Drug Affordability Board.

Tobacco, nicotine and digital ads: Multiple taxes were rolled into one bill: an increase in the per-pack tax on cigarettes, new taxes on nicotine vaping systems and a first-in-the-nation tax on digital advertising.

 

 Confronting the COVID CRISIS

 

COVID-19 Eviction and Housing Relief Act of 2020

* Prohibits rent increases and late fees during the pandemic and allocates funds to landlords to allow for rent forgiveness; ensures landlords demonstrate just cause in order to stop the renewal of a lease.

 

MD Essential Workers Protection Act

* During state of emergency essential employees 1) Receive $3/hr. hazard pay; 2) 14 day paid sick leave; 3) Right to refuse dangerous work; 4) Free COVID testing; 5) PPE at no cost to employees.

 

o Foreclosure Protection Bill

* The bill: 1) extends foreclosure moratorium through state of emergency; 2) requires services to grant forbearance; 3) sets default (opt-out) repayment option as deferring missed mortgage payments to the end of the loan; 4) requires prompt notice of all these rights; and 5) creates private right of action to sue if any rights are violated.

 

Unemployment Insurance Reforms: 

* Unemployment insurance is crucial, both as a safety net and as a countercyclical stimulus to prevent a deeper recession. This year far too many people struggled with accessing their unemployment benefits. This bill makes a number of fixes to the system including requiring increased staffing so people who need assistance can speak to a human being, timelines for completion of claims and resolution of appeals, improved language access, and greater transparency. This bill also develops a seamless connection from the unemployment insurance process to allow applicants to connect to health benefits, in a process the bill changes the benefit calculation so that people who work multiple jobs and lose one, don’t lose out on unemployment income their family needs. Small businesses would also be protected by freezing the rates they paid from before COVID, so they do not pay higher rates for having to lay off workers due to the emergency. Finally, this bill requires the state to study several other structural issues and to recommend changes for future legislative Sessions.

 

Criminal Justice Reform

 

Repeal of the Law Enforcement Officer Bill of Rights – It would put police officers under the same rules that cover other government employees who come under investigation;(e.g., Police officers have 5 days before they are allowed to be investigated in a disciplinary matter) – HB 151.

Public Information Act – Personnel Records – Investigations of Law Enforcement Officers (Anton’s Law) When you file a complaint of police misconduct, you cannot find out how the department investigates your complaint. All you can find out is the outcome and any discipline; you cannot find out whether the department conducted a thorough or lackluster investigation of your complaint. This is because the complaint file is considered a “personnel record” under Maryland’s Public Information Act, and personnel records may never be disclosed. THE SOLUTION. Remove the complaint file from the personnel record category, thereby allowing the police department to disclose the inappropriate situations.

 

 

 

Consumer Rights

 

Increasing the amount of money low-wage workers can protect from Garnishment:  Currently it is $11,000 a year.  The bill would increase it to $26,000.

Medical Debtors Protection Act – Expand consumer protections for individuals sued for medical debt and to create an income-based repayment plan before a lawsuit can be filed; prohibit lawsuits for all medical debts below $1000.

Drivers Bill of Rights – Limit the use of zip code in auto insurance rates and requires insurance companies to provide rebates to drivers through the state of emergency.

 

Education

 

Funding for Historically Black Colleges and University (HBCU) This bill would provide an additional $577 million to Maryland’s historically Black colleges and universities over 10 years to end the state’s lengthy lawsuit over inequitable funding of the schools. – HB 1 / SB 1

 

Environmental/Climate Initiatives

 

Climate Solutions Now Act, this is a comprehensive bill, which will increase the statewide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction requirement from 40% by 2030 to 60% and requires the State to achieve net-zero emissions by 2045.  It also sets targets for electrifying state vehicle fleets, supporting solar on buildings and planting trees.  Finally, it has justice/equity provisions which will support already burdened communities.

Community Choice Energy, which will be enabling legislation for each county that will allow them to aggregate their rate payers to negotiate for better rates and for the kind of energy (solar, wind, fossil fuel) that their residents want to use.

Climate Crisis Act, (a tax on carbon) Charges a fee for fossil fuel use in the state. The fee is used to fund: 1) Kirwan, 2) a benefit fund to offset any costs to low-income Marylanders, and 3) clean energy and resilience infrastructure improvements – HB 33.

Constitutional Amendment for Environmental Rights, which will give everyone in Maryland the right to clean air, water and a pollution free environment. HB 82/SB 151 – Hearing House Economic and Trans. Comm – 1/20 – Sen EHE Comm 1/26

Right to Repair – Our electronics are manufactured with a large environmental footprint which is intentionally amplified when manufacturers produce products that either cannot be repaired, or for which repair information is not disclosed.  This bill will require manufacturers to publicly disclose repair information, decreasing waste and aiding small businesses.

 

Gun Control

 

A ban on 3D printed guns and guns with no serial number, which will require the creation of an agency to manage serial numbers.

 

Health Care

 

Study on Universal Health Care – SB 228 Establishes a Commission on Universal Health Care to develop a plan for the State to establish, a universal health care program to provide health benefits to all residents of the State through a single-payer system. 

Healthy Maryland Act – Establishes a comprehensive, universal single payer health care program to provide health coverage for every Maryland resident.

Housing

 

Housing

 

Social Housing Legislation – This bill includes tenant protections, affordable housing and zoning changes that allow for duplexes, triplexes and quarterplexes.

Right to Counsel in case of eviction – HB 18/SB 154

Tenant Protection Act of 2021 – HB 50

* Make utility bill charges more accessible and transparent for tenants whose landlords use a ratio utility billing statement (RUBS)

* Require landlords to provide documentation for materials and services used when using security deposit funds to fix damages.

* Allow tenant associations to use apartment/living complex meeting rooms for tenant organizing meetings.

* Allow a tenant to break their lease if they are a victim of stalking.

* Allow a therapist or third-party professional to certify that a tenant is a victim of stalking or abuse, instead of just cops or a judge.

Immigration and Social Justice

 

o    Trust Act – End partnership between local and state enforcement and ICE.  HB 304 / SB 88 – Hearing Senate Judicial Proceedings Comm – 1/27

o    Termination of Private Immigration Detention Centers:  Required local entities that have existing immigration detention agreements to terminate their contracts

o    Driver Privacy Act – Protects the privacy of MD drivers by requiring ICE and other Federal agencies to obtain a arrant in order to access personal information that the MVA gathers about drivers.  HB 23 / SB 234 – Hearing Sen Judicial Proceedings 1/28 11 AM

  Universal Representation – Provide legal representation to detained MD residents facing deportation 

Raising Revenue Through Fair Funding Initiatives

 

Little can be done without a realistic plan to raise revenue.  A group of legislators are proposing a package of revenue proposals that would raise close to $3 billion a year by taxing corporations and the super-wealthy in Maryland and not working people.  Some of these proposals are:

 

Combined Reporting – Requires large, multistate corporations to pay their fair share in corporate taxes for profits generated from subsidiaries in Maryland. HB 172

Throwback Rule -Require large, multistate corporations to pay their fair share in corporate taxes for profits generated related to sales in Maryland. – HB 229

Close the pass-through/LLC loophole– Apply a 4% entity-level tax on profits over $1 million for LLCs.  LLCs are limited partnerships which do not pay a corporate business tax. – HB 357 Hearing Date 1/21 – Ways and Means Comm

o Restructure personal income tax brackets and rates – Lowers income tax rates on income earners below median, raise rates on income earners above, restore millionaire tax at 7%.  HB 275

Capital gains surtax- Apply a 1% surtax on capital gains income to partially offset special treatment in federal tax code. HB 201 – Hearing Date 1/21 – Ways and Means Comm

Carried Interest – Apply a 19% state income surtax on the distributive or pro-rata share of a pass-through entity’s taxable income that is attributable to investment management services provided in the State. HB 215

Estate Tax Giveaway Reversal – Reverses handout to wealthy given in 2014 by resetting the estate tax exemption limit at $1 million instead of $5 million. HB 165 – Hearing Date 1/21 – Ways and Means Comm

Effective Corporate Tax Rate Transparency Act of 2020 -Requiring a publicly traded corporation that is required to file a Maryland income tax return to attach a statement identifying the corporation’s effective tax rate and an explanation of the calculation of the effective tax rate; requiring that the statement be made under oath, signed in a certain manner, subject to audit by the Comptroller, and treated as confidential taxpayer information; requiring the Comptroller to submit a certain report to the Governor and the General Assembly by March 1 each year; etc.- HB 330

Country Club Bill   Would provide $100 million in additional revenue over the next 10 years by taxing country clubs statewide at the same property tax rates that other property owners pay, $10 million in one year.

Decouple from federal CARES Act tax breaks:  The Federal CARES Act contains several major changes to tax policy.  These changes will reduce Maryland’s revenues by $110 million in fiscal years 2020 and 2021.  This legislation would decouple from these costly federal provisions that disproportionately benefit wealthy taxpayers.

 

Transportation

 

Purple Line Tree Replacement: Construction of the Purple Line required the removal of large mature trees. While the overall plan required replacement of these trees, they were replaced in areas far from the communities that lost them. Many of the areas that lost trees are already suffering from heat island effects and poor air quality. Walking and biking along these corridors for transit-dependent individuals is even hotter and more unpleasant without these trees. While these trees cannot be replaced in the exact locations they were removed, they can be replanted in the same neighborhoods on a combination of state, county, and private land. This legislation requires the Maryland Department of Transportation and the Maryland Department of the Environment to coordinate this effort to replant trees in these communities, prioritizing communities suffering multiple environmental health harms. Lorig Charkoudian is introducing this bill.

 

 

There is a good website that tracks bills.  You might want to look at the Maryland Legislative Coalition:  http://mdlegislative.com

 

Please remember, the reason I inform people about these bills is so you can contact your state legislators and let them know how you feel about legislation they’re going to vote on.

General Information

 

If you want to know any more about any of the bills go to the Maryland General Assembly website:  www.mgaleg.maryland.gov     and type in the bill number.

 

For the first time ever, you are now able to watch video live-streaming of the House floor proceedings.  The 2020 session is a pilot, with only one in three days being live cast.

 

Previously, only the audio portion of the floor sessions was available online.  That meant that the only way for the public to watch floor debates was to come to Annapolis and watch in person from the floor viewing gallery.

 

Archives of video from prior legislative days are available on the General Assembly website. In addition, meetings of most committees are available online, as in past years.  To view and listen to proceedings go to the General Assembly website:  www.mgaleg.maryland.gov.

 

If you want to contact your representatives in District 47 about any of the bills, you should email or call:

 

Senator Malcolm Augustine       Malcolm.augustine@senate.state.md.us 410-841-3745

Delegate Diana Fennell (47A) Diana.fennell@house.state.md.us 301-858-3478

Delegate Julian Ivey (47A)     Julian.ivey@house.state.md.us      410-841-3326

Delegate Wanika Fisher (47B) Wanika.fisher@house.state.md.us 410-841-3340

 

If you do not know who your representatives are, you can go to www.mdelect.net    to find out who are your elected representatives   There is also a very good smart phone application MD GOV which lists all the Delegates and Senators, their Committees and their contact numbers.

 

You can read all my past newsletters at my Peoples Lobbying Group website:  www.plg.solutions.

New Maryland Laws Effective January 1, 2021

Happy New Year Everybody!  2021 can only get better!

Here are some new laws in Maryland that take effect on Jan. 1.

Due to the truncated legislative session in 2020 the number of new laws is smaller than in previous years but here are some of the main bills.

 

State Minimum Wage New Minimum Wage: $11.60 And $11.75

Starting Friday, Jan. 1:

  • Organizations with at least 15 employees will increase the minimum wage to $11.75.
  • Those with fewer than 15 employees will see a minimum wage increase to $11.60.

Prince George’s County, which has had its own higher minimum-wage standards, will align with the state’s starting Friday. Its minimum wage had been $11.50; but effective Jan. 1, 2021, it will be the same as the state’s minimum wage.

 

For employers with at least 15 employees, this is the increase schedule:

  • Jan. 1, 2021 — $11.75
  • Jan. 1, 2022 — $12.50
  • Jan. 1, 2023 — $13.25
  • Jan. 1, 2024 — $14
  • Jan. 1, 2025 — $15

 

For employers with 14 or fewer employees, this is the schedule:

  • Jan. 1, 2021 — $11.60
  • Jan. 1, 2022 — $12.20
  • Jan. 1, 2023 — $12.80
  • Jan. 1, 2024 — $13.40
  • Jan. 1, 2025 — $14
  • Jan. 1, 2026 — $14.60
  • July 1, 2026 — $15

 

 

 

Voluntary Disability Self-Disclosure Card

The Motor Vehicle Administration must make a card providing details of an individual’s developmental disabilities available by Jan. 1, 2021, to any person of driving age who requests one and to the parents of a minor who requests one. The card, which is voluntary, may include written guidance on effective communication between law enforcement officers and people with developmental disabilities.

 

In Vitro Fertilization Coverage

A new law takes effect Jan. 1, 2021, that enables unmarried people to have in vitro fertilization (IVF) covered by insurance if they have met certain requirements, such as three attempts at artificial insemination that have not resulted in pregnancy over the past year, and it also changes the time married couples and same-sex couples must wait to access the benefit as well, from two years to one year of unsuccessful attempts.

 

Prostate Cancer Screening

Health care providers cannot charge co-pays or deductibles for prostate cancer screening.

 

Baltimore Banning Plastic Bags

Plastic bags will be banned from Baltimore City, effective Jan. 13. Businesses must charge at least 5 cents for alternative bags, according to the Baltimore City Comprehensive Bag Reduction Act.

 

Montgomery County Labor Law: 30-Hour Janitorial Guarantee

In Montgomery County, employers will be required to guarantee 30-hour minimum work weeks for each employee working as a janitor, building cleaner, security officer, concierge, door person, handy person or building superintendent, effective Jan. 1, 2021.

 

Bowie Race Course Land

The city of Bowie must enter into a joint use agreement with Bowie State University, including an easement, to use the property associated with Bowie Race Course Training Center that is within 100 feet of the top of the Patuxent River bank for passive recreational activity, such as hiking, walking, picnicking and wildlife viewing, while the other parts of the land can be used for recreational activities including baseball, football, soccer and cricket, with one structure up to 50,000 square feet allowed to be built on the property.

 

Payment For Impounded Vehicles

In Prince George’s County, people must pay outstanding tickets to reclaim their vehicles from impoundment.

 

Campaign Laws: Write-In Restriction, Caller ID

Two laws dealing with campaigns will take effect Jan. 1.

  • A candidate who was defeated may not run as a write-in candidate the next year, effective Jan. 1.
  • Automated or prerecorded campaign calls must identify the organization and treasurer :

o     “This message has been authorized and paid for by (name of the payor or any organization affiliated with the payor), (name and title of treasurer or president). This message has not been authorized or approved by any candidate.”

 

Sexual Assault Victim Protection

Legislation that took effect Oct. 1 made it illegal to provide sexual assault victims with forms saying they waive their rights to an investigation. In the event that these victims request limitations of suspensions of investigations, law enforcement agencies must document the request and conduct a follow-up. Each law enforcement agency must have policies in place for this process by Jan. 1, 2021, and must submit a copy of the policy to the Maryland Sexual Assault Evidence Kit Policy and Funding Committee by Jan. 15, 2021. These measures ensure law enforcement agencies are protecting the rights of sexual assault victims.

 

Scooter Contact Info

Public motor scooters and electric low-speed scooters must provide tactile displays with contact information including website and mobile application information for the visually impaired.

 

Mattress Regulations

Those selling or importing juvenile products, mattresses, upholstered furniture or reupholstered furniture containing more than 0.1 percent of flame-retardant chemicals by mass.

 

Liens On Motor Vehicles

A release related to motor vehicle liens must be filed with the Motor Vehicle Administration within five business days of transfer (an extension from the previous requirement of three days) for the purpose of publicly available

electronic vehicle records.

 

Life Insurance Reduction Option

People can reduce the face value of their life insurance policy as an option to retain coverage and prevent lapse.

 

Health Care: Bias Training

Implicit bias training will be established for health professionals involved

in perinatal care.

 

Workweek guarantee in Montgomery County:

 

Montgomery County adopted a 30-hour workweek guarantee for janitors and other building maintenance staff in privately owned buildings. The bill was designed to expand health insurance to more workers. Beyond janitors, covered building staff include door attendants, concierges, security officers, handymen or superintendents not earning more than twice the living wage.

(Much of this information was taken from Elizabeth Janney, Patch Staff)

The Maryland General Assembly will reconvene on Wednesday January 13th.  In another newsletter I will let people know what are going to be the big issues and bills being discussed in Annapolis.  Jimmy

 

New Maryland Laws Effective October 1 2020

I hope everybody is staying safe.  

There are a number of new Maryland laws that became effective on October 1st.  Here is a summary of some of the most important ones.  

Ban On Use of Use of Foam Containers – HB 109/SB 205  bans the use of foam containers.  The ban on polystyrene was delayed from July until October to lessen the burden on the state’s restaurant industry, which has been badly hurt from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

 

Law Preventing Discrimination Based on Hairstyle (Crown Act) – (HB 1444/SB531) The anti-discrimination hairstyle measure  expands the definition of “race” to include all textures of hair and hairstyles often worn by African Americans. It specifically safeguards hairstyles such as braids, twists and dreadlocks that are designed to protect the ends of hair by decreasing tangling, shedding and breakage.

 

The regulation of Black hairstyles dates to the 17th century trans-Atlantic slave trade when millions of Africans were forcibly brought to the Americas for labor, and has continued for centuries in both public and private arenas. The U.S. Army, for instance, banned twists, dreadlocks and cornrows in 2014. It lifted the ban in 2017 amid public outcry.

 

Ban On Retaliation for Inquiring About Your Own Salary (HB 123/SB 217) prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee for inquiring about their own salary.

 

Hate crime expansions

 

1)     Hate Symbols (HB5/SB161)  The use of a noose or swastika to intimidate someone or a group will be barred, and the state’s definition of a hate crime will be expanded. The noose and swastika measure prohibits the use of both symbols, actual or depicted, on any property without permission of the owner or occupant with an intent to threaten to intimidate. Violating the law is punishable by up to three years in prison or a fine of up to $5,000.

 

2)    Collins Law (HB917-SB606) amends the state’s hate crimes statute to include crimes “motivated either in whole or in part by” hate or bias. Maryland’s existing law covered race, color, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, gender, disability, national origin and homelessness, but required the “sole” motivation for a crime to be hate or bias to prosecute it as a hate crime. Dawn and Richard Collins Jr., parents of the bill’s namesake, campaigned for the legislation in honor of the younger Collins, 23, who was fatally stabbed at a University of Maryland, College Park bus stop in 2017.

 

Outbreak preparations (Olivia’s Law) –  (HB 187/SB 329) will require colleges and universities to create plans to address the outbreak of infectious diseases.  It’s named for Olivia Paregol, a University of Maryland freshman from Howard County who died in 2018 after contracting adenovirus. Forty students were sickened that year, including 15 treated at hospitals.

 

Serious conditions as a result of adenovirus are rare, but they are more common in people with compromised immunity. Olivia was taking a medication to combat Crohn’s disease, weakening her immune system. Her death could have been prevented if the university had not waited 18 days to notify students and parents that the virus was spreading through the College Park campus.

 

Child Support Relief for Prisoners – Imprisoned parents who owe child support will see some relief starting in October.  A new law will allow inmates to have their child support order frozen while behind bars if they are serving a jail sentence of six months or more. Until now, the threshold was 18 months.  The law hopes to address the mountain of child support debt that can accrue while a parent is behind bars. An investigation published earlier this year found the system sets poor parents up to fail — saddling many fathers with massive debt, sometimes driving them from their children and sending some into an underground economy to make money.

 

Speed Camera Suspension of Licences – (HB46/SB177) repeals the state’s authority to suspend a car’s registration if its driver fails to pay a ticket issued for a speed or red light camera violation. Maryland was the only state to allow such suspensions. The state still will be able to refuse to renew a driver’s registration due to unpaid fines.

 

Passing A Cyclist will allow drivers to drive on the left side of a road in an area marked “no passing” to safely pass a cyclist traveling in the same direction.

 

Fair Housing — HB231/SB50. The HOME, or Housing Opportunities Made Equal, Act, expands Maryland’s fair housing policy by prohibiting landlords from discriminating against individuals based on their source of income, to include government subsidized housing vouchers, when renting or selling property.

Minority Businesses — HB404/SB499 requires the Department of Commerce to include information on the percentage of economic development assistance distributed to minority businesses.

Repeal of Sodomy Law HB 81 repeals  Maryland’s sodomy law. The ACLU reports several states dating back to Illinois in 1961 have already repealed these laws, which were historically used in a discriminatory manner against the LGBTQ community.

Strangulation — HB233/SB212 adds an additional prison sentence of up to 25 years for intentionally strangling someone during an assault.

Sexual Solicitation — HB246/SB231 bans individuals from seeking the consent of a parent or guardian of a minor when attempting to sexually solicit a minor.

House of Ruth — HB620  requires money deposited in donation boxes at Baltimore-Washington International Airport security screening checkpoints go to support House of Ruth Maryland, a center aiding victims of intimate partner violence.

Firefighting Foam Ban — HB619/SB420 bans the training use of fire-fighting foams that contain polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, as of Oct. 1, 2021. As of that date firefighters must use non-fluorinated foam during training. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, PFAS chemicals don’t break down in either the environment or the human body, and can build up over time leading to adverse health effects.

Maternal Mortality — HB286 is designed to address racial disparities in maternal health care.  This bill requires meetings convened under the Maternal Mortality Review Program to include stakeholders reflecting the racial and ethnic diversity of women most impacted by maternal deaths in the state. According to the group’s 2019 annual report, at least 40% of the 15 pregnancy-related deaths in 2017 were among non-Hispanic Black women. It is now required for this data to be taken into account and reflected in the diversity of the program.

Suicide Prevention — SB810  permits the State Highway Administration to post suicide prevention information, which includes a hotline number, on highway electronic signs within five miles of a zone designated as a high risk for suicides.

Nursing Homes — HB 364. This week each hospital or nursing facility in the state must begin ensuring personnel wear an identification tag when providing patient care. This mandate comes at a time when elderly care and vulnerability have been critical issues during the pandemic.

Remember to Vote –

Ballots requested by mail are now coming to people’s homes. (My wife’s ballot came earlier this week.)  Here is some good commentary by my former colleague, Marc Korman on the two state ballots initiatives.  I agree with what he says below:

Question 1: This statewide ballot question would grant the Maryland General Assembly the same power 49 other states have–a power most Marylanders assume we have–to move money around the budget submitted by the Governor.  This would not impact Maryland’s requirement for a balanced budget and would require the General Assembly to fund the budget within an overall amount set by the Governor.  It would also create a line item veto for the Governor on any budget changes the legislature makes.  Finally, the legislation does not take effect until the next Governor’s first budget.  Bottom line: The People’s Branch should have the authority to fund the People’s priorities. VOTE FOR THE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT

Question 2: The second statewide ballot question would authorize sports betting in the state of Maryland, something every jurisdiction around us has already permitted.  The revenue–possibly $20-$40m annually–goes to the education lockbox to fund our state’s education programs.  For many of us, the state’s incremental expansion of gaming from lottery to slots to table games to sports gaming has not been our first choice.  But given the actions by other states in our region the fact is much of this gambling will occur whether in Maryland or not.  If we can help fund education programs with these dollars, we should.  VOTE FOR THE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT

 

Gov Hogan Vetoes Over 30 Bills, Don’t Forget to Vote and Who I’m Voting For

Gov. Hogan  vetoed nearly three dozen bills passed by the 2020 General Assembly, including the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, the proposed multibillion-dollar education reform plan, as well as the revenue bills to fund it.  He also let 600 bills become law without his signature.

The Delegates and Senators can override the vetoes next January when the General Assembly resumes or in a special session that might be called this summer.

Here are some of the bills that were vetoed.

Education

*Kirwan Commission reforms: The “Blueprint for Maryland’s Future” required billions in extra spending on public schools to carry out education reforms recommended by the Kirwan Commission on education. The programs included expanded prekindergarten, higher teacher pay, improved career- and college-prep and more support for schools with concentrations of students from poor families.

 

The veto of this bill means that another bill on school construction will not go into effect. Hogan allowed the Built to Learn Act to become law, generating $2.2 billion in extra funding for school construction over the next five years using bonds that would be paid back with casino revenues.

But a provision in the bill tied the two education measures together. Until the Kirwan bill becomes law, the school construction bill does not go into effect.

 

*HBCUs: This bill would have required the state to spend $580 million to settle a long-running lawsuit from historically black colleges and universities that alleged disparate treatment, such as the state allowing predominately white institutions to duplicate programs at HBCUs.

 

Taxes

 

*Tobacco, nicotine and digital ads: Multiple taxes were rolled into one bill: an increase in the per-pack tax on cigarettes, new taxes on nicotine vaping systems and a first-in-the-nation tax on digital advertising.

*Digital downloads: This bill would have extended the state’s 6% sales tax to digital downloads of products such as e-books, songs, movies and streaming TV services.

 

Other Vetoes

 

*Baltimore Crime Resources: This bill would have required the state to fund a variety of efforts to tackle crime in Baltimore City. They include hiring crime prevention coordinators for 10 “micro zones” in the city, allowing state police to patrol certain highways in the city, creating a new warrant task force and staffing Baltimore’s pretrial complex with state officers so that city police officers can be used elsewhere.

 

*Long guns: This bill would have required background checks on private sales and transfers of rifles and shotguns. The buyer and seller would have to go to a licensed dealer to have a federal background check completed.

 

*Prescription drug review board: This bill would have charged a fee to companies that sell prescription drugs and used the money to run the state’s Prescription Drug Affordability Board.

 

*Baltimore Symphony Orchestra: This bill would have given $5.5 million in state aid to the financially struggling BSO over five years.

 

*Ban on the pesticide chlorpyrifos

 

*Expansion of MARC train service into Virginia and Delaware, and

 

[A good deal of this material was taken from an article in the Baltimore Sun by Pamela Wood and Luke Broadwater]

 

For a complete list of the Governor’s vetoes and his reasons for vetoing the bills, you can go to https://governor.maryland.gov/2020/05/07/governor-hogan-announces-legislative-actions-2

 

Remember to Vote

I received my ballot in the mail.  Did you?

The Maryland Primary Election has been moved to Tuesday, June 2 and is primarily vote by mail. Ballots have been sent to every registered voter in our state. Voting by mail is very easy – just fill out your ballot, sign the envelope, and drop it in the mail. Postage is pre-paid, so you don’t need to add a stamp. All ballots must be postmarked by June 2 to be counted.

If you do not receive a ballot in the mail within the next week, please call the board of elections and they will send one to you. The number is:  301-341-7300

If you prefer, you can drop your ballot at a ballot drop box location from May 21 through June 2 at 8:00 p.m. There are drop box locations in the following locations:

  1. College Park Community Center: 5051 Pierce Avenue College Park, MD 20740
  2. Kentland Community Center: 2413 Pinebrook Avenue Landover, MD 20785
  3. Prince George’s County Board of Elections: 1100 Mercantile Lane, Suite 115A Largo, MD 20774

Fill out your ballot as soon as you receive it and send it back.

There will be a very limited number of in-person voting locations open on Election Day only. Polls will only be open from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., and I encourage you to vote by mail from home if possible. Click here to find a list of in-person voting locations.

Who I’m Voting For

I don’t like to tell people who they should vote for but here are the people I’m voting for in the upcoming primary and the reasons why.

President:  I am going to do everything I can to see that Trump is defeated and that means working hard to make sure that Joe Biden is elected President.  Even saying that I am still going to vote for Bernie Sanders in the Primary.   While he has withdrawn as a nominee for President, his program is what I believe in.  Given the current crisis his advocacy of universal health care was prescient.   It now just makes current sense.  The more Sanders people elected to the Democratic Convention the better the platform will be and the greater chance that there will be rules enacted to ensure that the Party process is more Democratic (e.g. making sure we get rid of ‘super delegates’).  After the Convention we will all work together to defeat the worst President in modern history.

Congress:  Anthony Brown.  I think he has done a very good job.  He’s been responsive to his constituents and has shown an independent streak in Congress and has split with the Democratic leadership when necessary and has co-sponsored legislation for Medicare4All. 

Judges:  I am voting for the Judges recommended by the Judicial Nominating Commission.  I personally know one of the Judges, Cathy Serrette, and know her to be a hardworking, compassionate and very progressive jurist.  She spearheaded the creation of the County’s Family Justice Center for victims of domestic violence, human trafficking, sexual assault and elder abuse.  The other Judges recommended are Bryon Bereano, Wytonja Curry, Sharon Kelsey and Jaret McCarthy.

On a Personal Note

            I hope people are staying safe during the current COVID-19 crisis.  My wife and I are staying home and are trying to stay safe.  We go out only when necessary.  The virus has done a job on our community. In Prince George’s County over 9,000 people have been confirmed having the virus and over 300 people have died  We know too many people who have had friends and relatives who have passed away as a result of COVID-19.  The ‘new normal’ will bring many new problems for our community.  There will be many businesses that won’t be able to open and people who won’t have jobs.  We will need the government at all levels to take aggressive action to help our residents.  And we will have to be vocal to tell our elected representatives that action is necessary. 

            I haven’t been sending out emails about COVID-19 because honestly I’ve been inundated with email about the crisis and I’m not sure I had much to add.  My main contribution has been to support my wife, Jodi Beder, who has been playing music (cello) on our porch 1 PM every day to comfort our community.  Some neighbors come by and listen (following social distancing guidelines) and I stream it live on my Facebook page every day.  You should check it out.  She was featured on Friday on Channel 7 TV:  https://wjla.com/news/local/prince-georges-county-cellist-plays-music-everyday-porch-during-pandemic

I’m quite proud of her and glad I can contribute by recording her live! 

I hope everybody stays safe and if you have any questions or need any assistance send me an email.  Jimmy

Maryland Legislative Update – March 19 2020

Legislative Update – March 20, 2020

 

Our world has all changed in the last two weeks and it has changed in Annapolis. 

For the first time since the Civil War, the Legislature adjourned early.

The General Assembly is expected to come back in the last week of May to possibly override vetoes by Governor Hogan and pass some extra legislation.

Over the last few days over 650 bills were passed by the General Assembly.

Here is a list of the bills I am following and are now waiting for the Governor’s signature.

If you want to know any more about any of the bills go to the Maryland

General Assembly web-site:  www.mgaleg.maryland.gov    and type in the bill number.

 

Bills Passed by the General Assembly

Budget

Giving the Legislature the Power to Add to the Budget Voters will vote on a constitutional amendment this November.  Right now only the Governor can add to the proposed budget. The measure, which has been  introduced for more than 25 years, would allow the General Assembly to increase or decrease line items in the state’s budget, but not exceed the overall spending level set by Maryland’s governor. It would also diminish the power the governor has over the budget process, the strongest gubernatorial budget control in the nation.

Coronavirus

  • Emergency Funds for Coronavirus – SB 1079:Allows the Governor to transfer by budget amendment up to $50 million from the Revenue Stabilization Account to fund costs associated with COVID-19. Passed House of Delegates
  • Emergency Bill – This bill gives the governor authority to declare a ‘catastrophic health emergency’. It would also extended unemployment benefits

Consumer Rights

  • Debt Collection – HB 365This bill increases the amount of money a person can keep in his/her pay check protected from a judgment. Too many people can’t buy food and clothes for their family because of the money that is taken out of their check because of debt obligations.
  • Motor Vehicle and Homeowner’s Insurance – Use of Claim History in Rating Policies –SB 470 Prohibits an insurer, with respect to private passenger motor vehicle insurance, from increasing the premium for an insured based on a homeowner’s insurance claim; and prohibiting an insurer, with respect to homeowner’s insurance, from increasing the premium for an insured based on a private passenger motor vehicle insurance claim
  • Repeals the authority of the MVA to suspend a driver’s licensefor nonpayment of a traffic ticket. HB 280

Criminal Justice

  • Requires the creation of a pre-release facilityfor female inmates. Requires the creation of a pre-release facility for female inmates. Maryland does not have any such facilities for women. SB 604.
  • Jailhouse informants – The bill passed tougher restrictions on prosecutors’ use of jailhouse informants after false testimony from such witnesses led to convictions of four men who have since been cleared.

Education

  • Aid to Historically Black Colleges and Universities HB 1260: Requires the Governor in each fiscal year 2022-2031 to include in the annual state budget $57.7 million to be allocated to historically black colleges and universitiesin Maryland.
  • Blueprint for Maryland’s Future (Kirwan Commission Recommendations) HB 1300/SB 1000
    • The bill will
  • Expand pre-kindergarten programs;
  • Increase funding to schools with a high percentage of poor, special education or limited-English students;
  • Add more programs to ensure that students are prepared for college and careers.
  • Raise teacher pay;
  • Hire thousands more educators to increase individual attention for students
  • Expand teacher planning and individualized instruction time;
    • Expand career technical education and community schools
    • Providing more support and staffing for special education and mental health services
    • Create an independent, seven-member “Accountability and Implementation Board” to oversee the overhaul.
  • The bill was amended to provide relief from some of the financial obligations facing local governments. The amendment will result in the state absorbing a greater proportion of the increased education funding in 17 jurisdictions including Prince George’s County. Prince George’s will have to pay $183 million more by 2030, down from $386 million. Prince George’s schools will receive the most new state funding: $724 million more annually by 2030.
    • Build to Learn Act of 2020 HB 1 This bill provides more money to repair and build schools to ease crowding and replace aging buildings The legislation authorizes the Maryland Stadium Authority to issue up to $2.2 billion in school construction bonds, beginning in fiscal 2022, giving priority to districts with the oldest buildings, the highest number of classroom trailers and the most students from poor families. The bonds would be paid off using casino revenues
  • Advertising of Free Digital Materials for College Students HB 318: Requires each public college in Maryland to disclose to students which courses use free digital materials and may provide access to certain low-cost print materials. Passed House of Delegates
  • Prohibits a public library from charging minors a fine for overdue library materials. HB 1000:

Environmental

  • Prohibition on Use of Chlorpyrifos – The pesticide Chlorpyrifos has been proven to cause brain damage in children, harm our environment, and kill wildlife. HB 229/SB 300 Prohibiting the use of Chlorpyrifos in the State –

Ethics

  • Stopping the Revolving Door – HB 350/SB 202 A former secretary of a principal department of the Executive Branch cannot lobby 1 calendar year from the date the secretary leaves State office.
  • Repealing a prohibition on a develop from making a contribution to the County Executive of Prince George’s County or a slate that includes the County Executive HB 282

Gambling

  • Horse Racing:  A $389 million plan to renovate the Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course tracks and keep the Preakness Stakes race in Baltimore. Bonds will be issued for the projects. Those bonds would be paid back over 30 years using $17 million per year from the Maryland Lottery.  SB 987
  • Sports Betting – Maryland voters will decide in November whether to legalize sports betting. After that, lawmakers will decide who many licenses would be issued and who would get to bid on them.

Gun Control

  • Rifles and Shotguns: Secondary Transactions – HB 4 /SB 208 Maryland law requires the regulation of the “sale, transfer, rental, and possession of regulated firearms, which consist of handguns and assault weapons,” However, this regulation does not currently apply to rifles and shotguns, Under the bill, a third-party licensed gun dealer would be involved, and the transfer must be done under three conditions: The sale must be from the owner; there must be a background  and the transfer must comply with all federal and state law that would apply to the transfer.

 

  • Hate Crimes Act HB 5- This bill prohibits a person from inscribing or placing an item or a symbol, including nooses or swastikas, on any public or private property without express permission of the owner with the intent to threaten or intimidate

Housing

  • Housing Opportunities Made Equal Act – HB 231/SB 530 – Provides fair housing to all citizens regardless of source of income; provides additional opportunities for tenants utilizing public subsidies to live in certain neighborhoods and prohibits a person from refusing to sell or rent a dwelling to any person because of source of income.

Health

  • Enshrines parts of the Affordable Care Act into state code HB 959 In case it is repealed by Congress or ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
  • Hospitals – Financial Assistance Policies and Bill Collections – HB 1420/ SB 875 Increasing the family income threshold to between 200% and 500% of the federal poverty level at which a hospital’s financial assistance policy must provide free medically necessary care to patients; requiring that a certain financial assistance policy include a certain payment plan and a certain mechanism for a patient to request a certain reconsideration.
  • Requires health care professionals to receive implicit biastraining to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity. HB 837

Revenue

  • Tobacco and nicotine taxes – Per pack tax on cigarettes would increase by $1.75 while vaping products would be taxed for the first time.
  • Digital Advertising – Maryland will be the first step to tax digital advertising.
  • 21st–Century Economy Sales Tax Act – The sales tax would be extended to digital downloads of products such as e-books, songs, movies and streaming TV services. HB 932

Social Justice

  • Repeal of Anti-Sodomy Laws: HB 81 Repeals the crimes of sodomy and unnatural or perverted sexual practice;
  • Hairstyles – A ban on discrimination because of hair texture and hairstyles in order to stop employers from discriminating against employees based on how they wear their hair.

 Voting Rights

  • Election Law – References to Absentee Voting in Communications – Mail-In-Voting – HB0037 – This bill requires changing the reference to Absentee Ballots to ‘Mail-In’ Ballots.
  • Requires authority line to be used in campaign robocalls (i.e. who is paying for the robocall).  HB 216

 

Workers’ Rights

  • Wage History Act – HB 123/SB 217 Requires an employer to provide to an applicant for employment the wage range for the position for which the applicant applied; prohibits an employer from taking negative actions against an applicant for employment because the applicant did not provide wage history or a wage range; prohibiting an employer from relying on wage history and from seeking an applicant’s wage history from former employers or their agents.
  • Heat Stress Standards HB 722 / SB 434 Establishes a health and safety standard for heat stress levels and requires employers to develop, implement, and maintain a certain excessive heat-related illness prevention plan for employees.
  • Prohibiting an employer from taking adverse employment action against an employee for inquiring about the employee’s wages.