Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Major Legislation Passes the House of Delegates - Information on Tax Credit for Student Debt

Monday is cross-over day in Annapolis.  All bills have to be passed in the House of Delegates by the end of the day to be heard in a timely fashion by the Senate.  We passed hundreds of bills. There are a lot more bills that passed the Senate that will now be voted on by the House of Delegates. Here are some of the more significant bills.  You can read more about any of these bills by clicking on this link:  http://mgaleg.maryland.gov  If you have any questions about anything going on in Annapolis, send me an email.

HB 3 – Requires Maryland To Join The US Climate Alliance This bill requires the Governor to include Maryland as a member of the U.S. Climate Alliance by July 1, 2018, and stipulates that withdrawal from the alliance is conditional on approval from the General Assembly.

HB 296 – Tax Credit for Corrections Officers – Allows retired corrections officers from age 55 to 64 years of age to deduct up to $15,000 of their retirement income from their Maryland taxable income.

HB 308 – Freezing The Tax Exemption For Estates At $5 Million – This is my legislation and will save Maryland over $60 million.  If this legislation does not passestates with $11.2 million will be paying no taxes.  We need this money for our schools.

HB 327 – Tax Credit for Retired Veterans – Income for retired veterans will not be taxed in Maryland. It will be phased in starting in 2019.  

HB 365 – Saving The Personal Exemption on Your Maryland Tax Form– Under the new Federal tax law that passed Congress in December, Maryland residents would see an $800 million tax increase.  This is because the new tax bill eliminated the state personal tax exemption ($2,000 for an individual and $4,000 for a couple). This bill safeguards the tax exemption to make sure it is not eliminated. 

HB 372 – Metro Funding – Allocates $150 million to help fund Metro.  Hopefully along with money from Virginia and DC, this will enable Metro to have some stable funding.

HB 532 – Election Day Voter Registration  – This bill puts a referendum on the ballot this year to allow people to register to vote on Election Day.  Hopefully it will make it easier for people who haven’t registered but decide they want to get involved to be able to vote.

HB 593 – Expanding Tax Credit for Student Debt to Graduate Debt – Two years ago we passed legislation to give up to $5,000 in tax credits to former students with undergraduate student debt (priorities for those with the highest debt to income ratio). This year we are trying to expand it to those who have high graduate student debt. 

HB 671 – Tax Credit for Teachers Who Buy Supplies for Their Students – This bill enables teachers to reduce their taxable income by $250 if they buy school supplies for their students.

HB 807 – Highway User Funds – This bill restores needed highway user funds to municipalities.  In the past these funds were cut back by 90%.  This legislation restores the money at 95% of the previous level.

HB 888 - Banning Bump Stocks -  This will ban bump stocks and devices similar to bump stocks. Bump stocks allow a semi-automatic firearm to fire at a rate similar to that of a fully automatic firearm. The shooter in Las Vegas used a bump stock and was able to shoot over 1,100 rounds of ammunition in just a couple of minutes. All of us witnessed the horror and carnage that took place in Las Vegas. Bump stocks and similar devices have no place in Maryland and it is vital that we pass this commonsense protection.

B 993 -  MD Pension Climate Change Risk Act - Requires that the investment policies for the State Retirement and Pension System include concerns about climate risks in the choice of investments. 

HB 1302 –  Lethal Violence Protective Order - Calls for a protective order that would allow family members or police officers to petition a judge to impose the instant seizure of a firearm or ammunition from a person they believe pose an immediate and present danger to self or others. This type of legislation would prevent incidents like Parkland/Suicides/Domestic Violence Shootings such as just happened in Prince George's County that resulted in the death of a police officer

HB 1412 – HOV Lanes on Route 50 – One of the annoying things for me is that you cannot use the HOV lanes on Route 50 from the Beltway to Route 301 24 hours a day / 7 days a week. This bill would only restrict the use of the HOV lanes from 6 to 9 AM and 4 to 7 PM Monday to Friday

HB 1536 – Expansion of the Maryland Dream Act -   would allow qualifying Dreamers to pay in-state tuition rates at public four-year universities. (Right now, they pay only in-state tuition if they go first to a community college.)

HB 1646 – Making Criminal Defendants Turn In Guns -  This bill would make it mandatory that a judge tell a criminal defendant in a sex abuse case that he/she has to give up their guns to the court prior to trial or the acceptance of a plea of guilty.

HR 1695 - Hate Crimes - Use of a Noose or Swastika to Threaten or Intimidate  - This bill prohibits a person from affixing, erecting, or placing a noose or swastika on the property of another without authorization, with the intent to threaten or intimidate any person or group of persons. Violators are guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment for up to three years and/or a $5,000 maximum fine.

HB 1782 - Health Insurance – Individual Market Stabilization  - This legislation will stabilize skyrocketing individual health insurance premiums by taxing insurance companies and using the money to pay the biggest claims.  The legislation would levy a surcharge of $380 million on insurance companies that do business in Maryland, which are paying about that much less in federal taxes this year because of a one-time exemption provided by the recent overhaul of the U.S. tax code.

Using that money for a “reinsurance fund” will lower premiums for everyone in the individual insurance market, officials and advocates said, heading off a potential crisis stemming from anticipated increases in premiums of between 30 and 50 percent and the possible departure of CareFirst, Maryland’s only statewide insurer for the estimated 154,000 individuals who buy their own plans rather than get coverage through an employer or government program.

There are a lot of other bills that passed and others that will be voted on Monday.  We will keep everyone updated on important bills as they move through the legislature.

Reminder - $5,000 Tax Credit for Student Debt Now Available
Have you (or do you know someone who has) incurred at least $20,000 in undergraduate student loan debt and have at least $5,000 in outstanding undergraduate student loan debt remaining?  If so you are eligible for a tax credit of up to $5,000 on your 2017 personal income tax!    

As a result of legislation passed by the Maryland General Assembly, there is a new tax credit available for Maryland residents.
The only requirements are you must:    

o  Have incurred at least $20,000 in total undergraduate student loan debt;

o  Have at least $5,000 in outstanding student loan debt during the tax year for which you are applying.

                The deadline is September 15th to be eligible to receive a credit on this year’s taxes.        There are $5 million of tax credits available.  Priority will be given to those with the highest ratio of student debt to gross income and then to those who graduated from Maryland institutions.

                You can find out more about the tax credit and get an application form by going to:  http://mhec.maryland.gov/preparing/Pages/StudentLoanDebtReliefTaxCredit.aspx .  If you do not yourself have student debt, pass the word to your friends and relatives.

                We hope that if HB 593 passes, this tax credit will be extended to graduate school debt.  We will keep you updated.