Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Veto Overrides and Bills I'm Planning on Introducing

I hope everybody has been able to dig out from under the snow.  There were some areas where the streets were cleaned immediately and there were other areas where it took too long to clear the streets.  Hopefully we’ll all learn from this experience and do better the next time. The legislature went back into session on Monday and it’s time to turn my attention to legislation

Veto Overrides

Last week the General Assembly voted to over-ride 5 of the Governor’s vetoes.  

1 & 2.     Internet Travel Company Tax Loophole – The bill plugged a loophole that allows internet travel agencies (Travelocity, Orbitz, etc.) to only send part of the sales tax they charge on hotel rooms to the state.  (There were two bills that were vetoed – one only impacted Howard County and the other was a state-side bill.)

3.            Decriminalization of Drug Paraphernalia – This bill reduced the penalty to a civil offense for the possession or use of drug paraphernalia involving the use or possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana.. 

4.            Seizure and Forfeiture – This bill mandated a minimum amount ($300) on the amount police officers can seize during a criminal investigation.

5.            Grant for Anne Arundel Arts Center.  Governor Hogan vetoed a $2 million appropriations to help make the Anne Arundel Arts Center ADA accessible.  It was the first time that a Governor had vetoed a specific item in the capital budget.  It seemed to be targeted at Speaker Busch who represents Annapolis

One of the most important bills (Allowing Ex-prisoners to Vote When They Are Released from Prison) passed the House of Delegates but the vote was delayed in the Senate because the Senate is waiting for a replacement to fill the vacancy caused by the retirement of Senator Karen Montgomery.  The vote is expected to be held on Feb 5th.   

More Bills That I’m Planning on Introducing

In my last newsletter, I discussed some of the tax bills I was planning on introducing in this year’s legislative session.  Here are a few more bills that I’m working on:

Digital Image of Car Registration   When stopped by a police officer an individual may (an option) present a digital or electronic image of the registration card to the officer.  I don’t like leaving my registration in the car all the time.  This way I can show the officer my registration on my iPhone.

Tax Deduction for Interest on Student Loans – Student loan debt is crippling many people.  The average student loan debt is $35,000.  The Federal Government and six states allow tax payers for a deduction on the interest on student loan.  This bill would add Maryland to the list of states.

Protecting Our Trees – While I think we can all applaud PEPCO on the extremely few outages during the snow storm, we are also finding out that Pepco is removing, instead of pruning, large trees in our community, despite local ordinances that protect our community’s large trees.  My bill would make Pepco work with local jurisdiction who have ordinances that limit the removal of large trees without looking at suitable alternatives.

Loose Wires:  There are just too many utility poles in our community which have wires hanging down or not neatly tied to the utility pole.  This legislation would fine the utility company $250 for each 30 day period that a damaged line is not repaired after being notified of the problem.

Candidate Access to Apartment Buildings   – I have been concerned that residents who live in apartment buildings are not as involved in the political process as home owners.  One reason is that candidates do not have the ability to knock on doors and talk to apartment dwellers about the current political issues.   This bill (modeled after a law in Minnesota) would enable a candidate to have limited access to an apartment building in order to talk to potential voters.  Apartment dwellers can opt out by saying that they do not want to be contacted. Candidates would have to reimburse the apartment building management for any extra cost in giving the candidate access to the property.

Ability of Municipal Code Enforcement Officers to cite violations of County Code  This  bill allows municipal code enforcement officers to cite violations of a county code within ½ mile of the municipal border.  Often code enforcement officers see violations across the street from the municipality but have to call in a county code enforcement official.  This is a waste of resources since the municipal Code Enforcement  official is at the location and experienced in the law.  The County would prosecute the violation and would get any revenues collected from the fine.

Rights of Public Workers to Have Collective Bargaining               
Municipal and county employees in many local jurisdictions do not have collective bargaining rights.  Maryland is one of only three states that has an opt-in structure of collective bargaining statues.  Each local jurisdiction has to decide whether  its employees have the right to collective bargaining.   Many municipalities and counties do not have a law that allows their employees to form a union and collectively bargain. If the law has not been passed they do not have the right to bargain.  

The right of collective bargaining is internationally recognized as an essential element of the freedom of association.  Jurisdictions that do not allow collective bargaining are depriving Maryland residents of this fundamental right.  This bill would mandate that every local jurisdiction with over 20 (non-supervisory) employees pass a law by the end of 2017 that allows its employees to bargain.

Please give me your feedback on any of these bills or anything else going on in Annapolis