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.
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
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 – Passed the House of Delegates
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 – No Progress
o Foreclosure Protection Bill. HB 1009/SB 724 No Progress
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 – Passed the House
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 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
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
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 SB71, which would mandate that all law enforcement agencies use body-worn cameras.
o SB74, which would require all law enforcement agencies across the state to provide employee mental health assistance program for all their officers.
o SB419, which would limit the use of no-knock warrants.
o SB599, which would restrict law enforcement agencies’ ability to procure weaponized military equipment.
o SB600, which would establish that police incidents resulting in civilian fatalities undergo independent investigations.
o SB786, which would re-establish local control of the Baltimore Police Department.
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 Passed the House of Delegates
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
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
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
* 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.
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
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 – No Progress
o 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
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 eviction – HB 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 – 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
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:
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 & Senate
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.
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 .