Thursday, April 12, 2018

End of Session Report - Major Legislation Passes the General Assembly

    Monday was the last day of the legislative session.  It was a busy time and hundreds of bills were passed.  I am listing below some of the bills that I introduced that were passed and some of the other significant legislation that passed. 
Some of My Bills That Passed

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 expanded it to those who have graduate student debt.      

Freezing The Tax Exemption For Estates At $5 Million – This legislation will save Maryland over $60 million.  If this legislation had not passed, estates worth $11.2 million would be paying no taxes. Forty of the families in Maryland would each be getting a $1 million tax break.   We need this money for our schools.

Making Sure Everybody Receives the Homestead Tax Credit - There are over 500,000 Maryland homeowners who do not receive this valuable credit that keeps real estate taxes down even with rising assessments. This is because they haven’t applied for it or because they don’t know about it or forgot to send in the application. My legislation that passed the will require the state to inform people who have not applied that they are eligible for this tax credit. Just common sense.

Major First Step Toward Tuition-Free Community College – We appropriated $15 million for scholarships for up to 5,000 students to give them the resources needed to continue their post-high-school education.

Mosquito Spraying – Requires the state or county to give municipalities 24 hours before any spraying so they can inform the residents who may want to keep their children and pets inside and cover vulnerable plants.

Some of the Major Accomplishments of the Legislative Session
Paid Sick Leave for Marylanders - In January we over-rode the Governor’s veto and made this become law. Over 750,000 Marylanders had not been able to earn a single paid sick day.  Each time they get sick or need to care for a sick child, Maryland workers were forced to choose between their health or their family’s well being, and a day’s pay.   Some may even lose their jobs for missing a shift to see a doctor or care for a loved one.   This bill applies to businesses with 15 or more employees and to people who work part-time, who are often under-employed or working multiple jobs to make ends meet.  We also passed a tax credit for small business with less than 15 employees to provide up to $500 for each work who is given paid sick time off.

Ban the Box   In January we also over-rode the Governor's veto on this bill. This new law denies colleges and universities the option of asking an applicant if they have been arrested or charged of a crime in the initial application process. This will provide a second chance to those individuals who have worked hard to turn their life around, and it encourages them to seek higher education. Colleges and universities remain free to ask about arrests and convictions at later stages of the admission process and to deny entry to applicants they believe pose a danger.

Denying Parental Rights for An Attacker in a Rape  This legislation will allow a rape victim to terminate the parental rights of her attacker.    It will  establish a court process to terminate rapists’ parental rights when a child is conceived through rape.


          Protecting Marylanders from the Federal Tax Package
The Republican Tax Package that passed through Congress was a $1.5 trillion tax break for corporations and the very wealthy.  Unfortunately it also made for tax increases for Marylanders.  We worked hard and voted out a package of tax bills to help protect Marylanders from the effect of the Federal Tax Package.
Saving and Increasing the Maryland Personal Exemption – Under the new Federal tax law that passed Congress in December, Maryland residents would have seen an $800 million tax increase.  This is because the new tax bill eliminated the state personal tax exemption.  We safeguarded the tax exemption to make sure it is not eliminated and we also increased the personal exemption by 12.5% for a $70 million tax credit for working Marylanders.

Tax Credit for Retired Veterans - Increased the amount of retirement income that is not subject to taxes to $5,000 for those veterans under 55 and $15,000 for those over 65.

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

Earned Income Tax Credit – This bill expands the credit to include childless working Marylanders from age 18 to 24.  It will provide nearly $7.5 million of additional tax relief to 100,000 Maryland households.

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.                       

Metro Funding – We allocated $167 million to help fund Metro.  Hopefully along with money from Virginia and DC, this will enable Metro to receive some stable funding. 

Two Person Crew – Bill mandates there be two staff persons on all freight trains. Some train companies are trying to reduce the staff to one.   It is a critical safety issue as many of these freight trains go through our community

   Voting Rights

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.

Automatic Voter Registration –People who visit state agencies on business will be registered automatically to vote unless the person requests not to be registered or is ineligible to register to vote.


Creating a Lock-Box for All the Moneys That Are Supposed to Go to Education
In the past, money that was supposed to go to education has been used for other priorities.  We passed legislation to put a referendum on this year’s ballot to guarantee that all casino money is used to supplement existing education funding – placing the casino money in a constitutional lock box.

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.

School Safety  - Maryland Safe to Learn Act – We appropriated up to $40 million for increased public safety in our schools including grants for de-escalation and threat reporting training and additional resources for safety personnel.  Also each school system is required to appoint a mental health services coordinator to coordinate existing services and referrals for services.

Some School Calendar Relief -  We passed emergency legislation to allow school districts to extend their academic calendar by five days without having to ask for a waiver from the State Board of Education. The bill allows for the extension if districts lose days of instruction because of severe weather.  The legislation only gives districts flexibility at the end of the year.  Districts are still required by Hogan’s Executive Order to delay the start of the student year until after Labor Day.

School Construction – We passed legislation to provide $400 million for school construction.


            Gun Violence

Banning Bump Stocks -  The bill wo;; 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.

Lethal Violence Protective Order - Bill calls for a protective order that will 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 poses an immediate and present danger to self or others. This type of legislation will 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.

 Making Criminal Defendants Turn In Guns -  This bill will 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.

  Protecting the Climate

Requiring 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. 

MD Pension Climate Change Risk Act - Requires that the investment policy adopted by the Board of Trustees for the State Retirement and Pension System include the concern about climate risks in the investment of the State Retirement Fund.

Prohibiting Off-shore Drilling – Establishes that offshore drilling activity is an ultra-hazardous and abnormally dangerous activity and that a person who causes a spill of oil or gas while engaged in an offshore drilling activity is strictly liable for certain damages.  This will, in effect, stop companies from drilling off the shores of Maryland.

   Stabilizing Health Insurance Premiums

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 and head 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 getting coverage through an employer or government program.

Dental care coverage for Medicaid recipients Some adults who are insured under Maryland's Medicaid program could soon be covered for routine dental care for the first time under a pilot program..  For now, Medicaid only covers dental care for children and emergency room dental care for adults.


             Other Important Legislation

Beagle Freedom Bill  - Researchers who use dogs or cats in research will have to “take reasonable steps” to offer the animals for adoption under legislation the Maryland General Assembly passed Friday.

Prohibition of Selling Dogs from Puppy Mills - Maryland pet stores will no longer be able to sell dogs born in so-called “puppy mills”.  The legislation, which also applies to the sale of cats, limits where stores can obtain their animals to three sources: animal welfare organizations, animal control units and licensed breeders. Animal rights advocates believe puppy mills are large-scale breeding operations that value profit above animal welfare.

Regulating Political Ads on Facebook – Maryland will be the first state in the country tro regulate political ads on facebook and other social media.  Legislation will require social media platforms to track all political ads, keep copies of them and record which users are being targeted.  State elections officials to use the data to track bad actors and detect foreign interference.

Banning Conversion Therapy – Licensed medical and mental health professionals will no longer be able to offer therapy to minors advertised a means to change a person’s sexual orientation or dener identity, a practice which is abusive and ineffective.

           Now that the 2018 Legislative Session is over, Delegate Fennell and I will be spending more time going to local meetings and walking through the district in attempt to find out your concerns.

           As you may know Diana Fennell and I are also running for re-election this June 26th (early voting June 14th to June 21st).

           If you would like to help out with our campaign by putting a yard sign in your yard or making some phone calls, please let me know by sending me an email.




7 PM - 9 PM