Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Planning an Aggressive Agenda for Annapolis

Part 1 - Responding to the New Administration in Washington

                I will be starting my third session in Annapolis on January 11th.  I have been fortunate to have had five bills pass the legislature over the last two years and a number of other bills passed that incorporated legislative concepts that I had advocated.  I have drafted ten pieces of legislation that I plan to introduce in January.   In the next few emails I will be discussing some of my ideas.

                This year will be very challenging.  We are facing a revenue shortfall (more expected expenses than expected revenues).  I will discuss some of my proposals to raise revenue in my next email.  Of course, we will have a new administration in Washington which will be making changes on a national level that we will have to react to at the state level in order to protect the citizens of our state. It is important that we respond to what is occurring in Washington.    Here are a couple of my proposed initiatives.

Disclosing Tax Returns as a Requirement to Be on the Ballot 

                      This bill requires candidates who run for President of the US to release their last five years’ tax returns in order to appear on the ballot in Maryland.  For over four decades, tax returns have given voters an important window into the financial holdings and potential conflicts of interest of presidential candidates.  Sadly, in the last presidential election, one of the candidates, Donald Trump, refused to release copies of his federal income taxes, denying voters this critical information.  This should not happen again.

                      Maryland can take corrective action and make the release of tax returns a qualification to appear on the ballot in Maryland for the position of President of the United States.  Similar legislation has been introduced in New York, Massachusetts and Maine.  The legislation has been endorsed by the New York Times. Laurence Tribe, a constitutional professor at Harvard Law School, has written that this legislation is definitely within the authority of the state to regulate access to the ballot.

Protecting Overtime Regulations Here in Maryland 

                    We expect the new administration in Washington to repeal many of the regulations that were promulgated by the Obama Administration.  Some of these regulations are of critical importance to the residents of Maryland.  We don’t have to passively sit back and watch important regulations be stripped away.  We can actually take some of these regulations and codify them into Maryland law.  This means they can be the law of Maryland even if they are not in effect nationally.

                    One such regulation is the one that increased the salary threshold for people to be paid overtime after 40 hours.  Currently, employers can call a low-salary worker a “manager” and avoid paying them overtime pay, or time-and-a-half, for working more than 40 hours a week, as long as the employee earns more than $23,660 (or $455 a week). As we all know, this is hardly enough to live on, and is an extreme  hardship for people who are asked to work extra hours. The extremely low threshold has been in place since 2004.  My legislation will nearly double the threshold salary to $47,476, or $913 a week. Small businesses would have protection: businesses with revenue of less than $500,000 annually would be exempt from the new rules.

                      Of course the new administration and the Republican Congress will threaten many other regulations that will impact the Affordable Care Act, the environment, and other issues, to which we will have to react.  These are just a couple of my initial ideas.

                       I am also introducing legislation on tax reform through closing tax loopholes, taking money out of politics through public financing legislation, and expanding collective bargaining.  I will be discussing these in future newsletters.