Sunday, March 20, 2016

Three of My Bills Pass the House of Delegates

District 47 Night in Annapolis
Monday, March 21st
6:00 P.M. -  8:00 P.M.
Miller Senate Building, Conference Room West, 11 Bladen Street
For More Information and to RSVP:  Call 301-858-3745
Three of My Bills Move Past the House of Delegates

This Monday is called cross-over day in Annapolis. Every bill has to be approved by the House of Delegates by this date in order to be heard and voted on by the State Senate.  A bill has to be voted on by a majority of both chambers and signed by the Governor to become law.  It is possible for bills to be passed and approved after that date, but it is very unlikely they will be approved by both chambers and become law.

I was fortunate enough to have three of my bills move through the House of Delegates (one of which is scheduled for a final vote on Monday).

Marketing the Existing Homeowners Tax Credit Program (HB 378).  In doing research on our Homeowners Tax Credit Program I discovered that only 15% of the people eligible use the existing homeowner tax relief program.  My bill would require the Department of Assessments to contact eligible homeowners by mail to let them know they are eligible for this property tax credit. A similar version of the bill introduced by Senator Pinsky has passed the Senate, so we believe that this bill has a good chance of actually becoming law!

Improving the Renters Tax Credit Program (HB 340).  This current law affects renters over the age of 60.  The program is hardly used because so few people know about it, and not many people are eligible.  My bill would increase the eligibility from $40,000 to $60,000 gross income per household and increase the credit by $300 per renter.  It also allows renters who have over $200,000 in retirement plans (401ks, IRAs, etc.) to be eligible.

Candidate Access to Apartment Buildings (HB 1327).  I have been concerned that residents who live in apartment buildings are not as involved in the political process as homeowners.  One reason is that candidates do not have the ability to communicate to apartment dwellers about current political issues.   This bill would enable a candidate to leave literature in a common area of a multi-unit dwelling 60 days before an election.  It is not everything I would have liked, but it is a first step in involving more people in the election process.
Other Important Legislation That Passed the House of Delegates

Pay Equity (HB1003)
A sizable gender gap persists between pay for men and women for the same or equivalent work. Nationally, women are paid 79 cents for every dollar that men are paid. One major barrier to addressing this problem is the lack of transparency in pay levels. We passed pay equity legislation to allow workers to disclose their wages to determine if there is discrimination.  If the Senate passes the bill and Governor Hogan signs it, we will join eleven states with pay equity laws that contain wage disclosure provisions similar to those in our bill.  
Earned Income Tax Credit Expansion (HB 1047) 
Maryland’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a vital program for low- to moderate-income working individuals and couples, particularly those with children.
In 2013, the EITC helped 6.2 million people.  Under current law, a worker must be over 25 to claim the tax credit. This legislation expands the eligibility age to 21 years old, and increases the tax credit.
Reduced Interest Rates for Tax Deficiencies and Refunds (HB 422)
Currently, the Comptroller is required to set an annual interest rate for Maryland tax refunds and deficiencies at a rate of 13% (or 3% above the Federal Reserve’ prime interest rate – whichever is higher)..  HB 422 reduces the 13% interest rate by 1% per year for 4 years until it is 9%.
Of the 44 states that impose an income tax, the average interest rate for penalties is 4%. Only 2 states (OK and WI) have higher interest rates than Maryland.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions Act Reauthorization (HB 610)
We voted 100-37 to approve a new goal for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Maryland.  The legislation requires the state to cut greenhouse emissions, including carbon dioxide, by 40 percent by 2030.  The goal uses 2006 as the baseline for measuring emissions.  The previous goal, to cut emissions by 25 percent by 2020, was set six years ago.  
Taking Away Guns from Domestic Abusers (HB 1001)
We passed HB 1001, legislation that requires a court to inform a person convicted of a disqualifying crime that he or she is prohibited from possessing regulated firearms, rifles, and shotguns.  In addition the court must advise the person that proof must be provided to the court that all firearms owned by the person have been transferred from the person’s possession.  Guns are the cause of death in well over 60% of all domestic violence homicides in Maryland.    
College Affordability Act of 2016 (HB 1014)
This bill has many provisions and is hard to summarize, so if it concerns you, you may want to wade into the substance of the bill itself.
Saving for College 
Maryland’s 529 Plan (College Investment Plan) is a tax savings plan, allowing families to make annual contributions up to $2500 toward college, deductible from Maryland state income tax. Lower- and middle-income families struggle to make large contributions and are increasingly finding college out of reach. As a result, participation in the plan is low among lower-income families. To provide more support the bill provides a $250 State matching grant for families with incomes below $175,000 who make a contribution to a 529 Plan in a given year:  Families with income under $75,000 would receive a $250 grant for a $25 contribution.  Families with income between $75,000 and $125,000 would receive $250 for a $100 contribution. Those families with incomes between $125,000 and $175,000 would receive a $250 grant to match a $250 contribution to a 529 Plan.
Student Loan Debt Relief 
The act creates a Student Loan Debt Relief Tax Credit program for students who have over $20,000 of undergraduate student debt.   A $5,000 tax credit will be available to 1,000 Maryland families, based on debt-to-income ratios, to assist families in paying off student debt.
Neonicotinoid Pesticides - Restrictions on Sales and Use (Pollinator Protection Act of 2016)   (HB 211)
The 2016 Pollinator Protection Act requires retailers to curb sales of neonic pesticides and let consumers know when they are buying plants or seeds treated with them. These reasonable steps will help protect the health of people and pollinators.   Toxic neonic pesticides harm and kill bees and other pollinators, and unchecked use poses a serious threat to our food supply, public health, and environment.
Yacht Tax Cap (HB 14)

I did not vote in favor of every bill that passed.  One bill I voted against was a tax cap on the purchase of yachts.  There is a 5% excise tax on the purchase of new yachts. Under current law that was set to expire, this tax is capped at $15,000.  Thus someone who pays $300,000 for a new yacht would only pay $15,000 (or 5%) in tax; and if the yacht instead cost $1.5 million, the tax bill would also only be $15,000 (or 1.5%).  HB 14 makes this cap permanent.  The argument for the tax credit is that otherwise, people buy their yachts in other states.  I believe you can make that argument for lots of taxes, and this particular tax credit only helps the wealthy people who can afford very expensive yachts – and  costs the state $350,000 a year.  I along with 26 others voted No on this bill.
Remember:  All these bills have to be passed by the Senate and signed by the Governor to become law.  I will update everyone on the status of these bills. 
You can look up each of these bills by going to the MD Legislative Web-site and inputting the bill number.