Friday, December 20, 2019

Big Changes and Big Challenges Ahead for 2020 MD Legislative Session

            The 2020 Session of the Maryland General Assembly starts on Wednesday January 8. There will be more changes than usual in the upcoming session, and plenty of challenges.

The former Speaker of the House of Delegates, Mike Busch, passed away last April, and the President of the Senate, Mike Miller, is stepping down.  The new Speaker of the House of Delegates will be Adrienne Jones, from Baltimore County, and the new President of the Maryland Senate will be Bill Ferguson, from Baltimore City.  Both Jones and Ferguson have made some impressive new appointments to the legislative leadership, and I am optimistic that more progressive legislation may now be passed by the General Assembly and become Maryland law. 

As we get close to the opening of the session, the top legislative issues are coming into focus.  Last weekend I attended two different conferences that discussed legislative priorities. Here are some of the issues that will be discussed at the upcoming session, and some of the legislation that is being proposed.  I will discuss more in my upcoming newsletters, and  once the proposed legislation is introduced, I will let you know the numbers of the bills.

For more information on these bills, or to find out about a bill or topic that is not listed below, please send me an email.

Kirwan Committee Recommendations and New School Construction      Everyone agrees that the top issue in the upcoming legislative session will be education. In 2016, the Maryland Legislature formed the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, popularly known as the Kirwan Commission. The commission issued a report earlier this year with an aggressive plan to improve Maryland’s schools.  Implementation of the plan requires increased spending of up to $4 billion per year. New school construction will also be a top priority.  In fact, the Speaker of the House has said that the first two bills, HB1 and HB2, will be for school construction and implementing the Kirwan recommendations.
Raising Revenue to Pay for Education            Unfortunately, even if the bills pass, little can be done without a realistic plan to raise revenue.  A group of legislators have put together a package of revenue proposals that would raise close to $3 billion a year by taxing corporations and the super-wealthy in Maryland, not working people.  Some of these proposals are:
Combined reporting         Requires large, multistate corporations to pay their fair share in corporate taxes for profits generated from subsidiaries in Maryland.

Throwback rule      Requires large, multistate corporations to pay their fair share in corporate taxes for profits generated related to sales in Maryland.

Close the pass-through/LLC loophole Applies a 4% entity-level tax on profits over $1 million for LLCs (limited partnerships that do not pay a corporate business tax).

Decouple 529 Tax Benefit           Prohibits an individual from claiming the State income subtraction modification for contributions made to the Maryland College Investment Plan if the contributed funds are used for private elementary or secondary education expenses.

Means testing for individual tax credits        Disallows tax credits (such as for solar panels and accessibility ramps) for high-income tax filers.

Restructure of personal income tax brackets and rates  Lowers income tax rates on income earners below median, raises rates on income earners above, and restores millionaire tax at 7%. 

Capital gains surtax         Applies a 1% surtax on capital gains income, to partially offset special treatment in federal tax code.

Carried interest     Applies a 19% state income surtax on the distributive or pro-rata share of a pass-through entity’s taxable income that is attributable to investment management services provided in the State.

Estate tax giveaway reversal    Reverses handout to wealthy given in 2014, by resetting the estate tax exemption limit at $1 million instead of $5 million.

Carbon tax   Establishes a greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution charge on all GHG-producing substances distributed or used in the State.

Immigration issues
The Trust Act  This bill would prohibit the police from contacting ICE if an individual has been stopped because of a civil (not criminal) infraction.
Overturning the Governor’s veto of the Dream Act Expansion      The bill allows all students (including undocumented students) to go directly to a state four-year institution and pay in-state tuition.  The bill was vetoed by Governor Hogan; the veto has to be overturned by the legislature in the first week of session.
                           Prohibiting MVA from sharing information with ICE
Environmental Issues
Statewide ban of plastic bag, with a 10-cent charge for paper bags.
Greenhouse gas reduction reform:   Raising the 2030 reduction target from 40% to 63%, and requiring that 40% of state resources dedicated to emission reduction be spent in frontline communities (those that experience the “first and worst” consequences of climate change) and economically disadvantaged communities. Includes planting of 1 million trees each year.
Shutting down the six existing coal plants in MD while compensating employees who will lose their jobs because of the plant shutdowns.
Public Service Commission climate-based decision making requiring the PSC to factor climate change into all its regulations, including the approval of new generating plants.
Retrofitting of existing buildings      When buildings undergo renovations, they will have to meet new energy efficiency standards.
New building standards        Net-zero standards for new government buildings and new commercial buildings by 2025.
Healthy Green Amendment: Amends the state’s constitution to include a right to a clean, safe and healthful
Consumer Rights
Pilot low-cost auto insurance program for Prince George’s and Baltimore City    Lowers the minimum liability coverage for good drivers.  MD has the highest minimum liability coverage in the US.
Increasing the amount of money low-wage workers can protect from garnishment  The bill would increase this amount from the current $11,000 a year to $26,000.
Medical Debtors Protection Act        Two bills would increase protections, including ensuring that no one can lose their home because of medical debt.
Ending Drivers license suspensions for unpaid fines and fees
Tenant Protection: This bill protects tenants from eviction, abuse, and health risks. It is an omnibus renter’s rights bill that will make it easier for tenants to void their leases when necessary, confront harassment, defend themselves in court, recover their security deposits, and organize with their neighbors into tenants’ associations.
Criminal Justice
2nd Chance bill  Allows incarcerated citizens with over 20 years of imprisoned time to go to court to reduce their sentence.
Removing the Governor from the parole process    The independent Parole Board recommends whether long-term prisoners should be released, but for the last twenty years Maryland’s Governors have not followed up on the recommendations of the Parole Board, because of politics.
Women’s pre-release facility            MD has four pre-release facilities for men, but none for women.
Death with Dignity legislation Last year this bill passed the House of Delegates and lost in the Senate by one vote.  There will be another attempt to pass the legislation in 2020.
Health Issues
            Banning of Flavored Vaping Products
Funding for the Prescription Drug Affordability Board  - The Board was created in 2018 but it needs to be funded so it can do its job.
Opposition to I-270 and Beltway expansion There will be numerous bills to try and block the expansion of the two highways.
Two Person Crew Legislation – The Governor vetoed this important train safety bill which would prohibit CSX from moving to long freight trains with only one worker directing the whole train.
Voting rights issues/Democracy issues
            Small-Donor Incentive Act to encourage campaign fundraising from small donors for state legislative campaigns
            Ranked-choice voting
            Allowing independent voters to join a party during early voting  
Allowing prisoners who have not been convicted of a crime (waiting for a court date) to vote
Stopping the Revolving Door In Annapolis - Prevent heads of state agencies from becoming lobbyists immediately after leaving state government
Gun Control
            Background checks for long guns
            Restrictions of firearms sales near schools
            Ban on 3D printer guns and guns with no serial number
Worker Rights
Maryland Worker Protection Act     Bill to (1) make sure that pay stubs have all the information on hours and wages so people know they have been correctly compensated; (2) prevent workers from being misclassified as independent contractors when they are in fact employees of a business; (3) prevent retaliation against workers who file complaints about receiving their correct pay.
Salary History Bill       Employers would not be able to ask job seekers about their previous salary.
Family and Medical leave Insurance Program         Bill establishing a private-sector family and medical leave insurance fund to provide partial wage replacement for employees who take unpaid leave to care for a new child or a family member with a serious health condition.
Local (Prince George’s County) Legislation
            Allowing the County to charge a fee for use of disposable bags
Prohibiting a state agency from acquiring or constructing any toll road, toll highway, or toll bridge in Prince George’s County unless authorized by Prince George’s County.
Repealing statutes that prohibit developers with pending projects from making contributions to the County Executive of Prince George’s County or a slate that includes the County Executive. (Not something I support.)
If you live in District 47 you may want to contact one of your State Representatives about one of the proposed pieces of legislation.  Here is their contact information:
Senator Malcolm Augustine 410-841-3745
Delegate Diana Fennell (47A) 301-858-3478
Delegate Julian Ivey (47A)       410-841-3326
Delegate Wanika Fisher (47B) 410-841-3340

If you do not know who are your representatives, you can find them at   There is also a very good smartphone app, Verizon MD GOV,  that lists all the Delegates and Senators, with their committees and their contact numbers.

There are a lot of good bills that are will be introduced in the next session.  This is only some of them.  It’s easy to introduce a bill, it is hard to get it passed and it needs people to call their legislators to get it done!