End of Session 2022

Friends,
It is with a grateful heart that I share with you my last Legislative Session letter. I have been blessed to serve the people of Calvert and St. Mary’s Counties for the last six years. The experience has been humbling and exciting all at the same time. I appreciate all those who contacted me over the years to share their positions on issues and ask for assistance with problems. That is the job I signed up for and you have rewarded me with your trust and friendship.

My Legislation  

This year, I submitted five bills.  Four were statewide and one was a local bill requested by Calvert County.  Of these bills, four were passed  and will be presented to the Governor for signature.  They are:

 

  • HB 195/SB 454 Marine Contractor License – Performance of Services – Licensing Requirements and Fees.  As this was the third year for bill, I partnered with Senators Jack Bailey and Michael Jackson for a Senate cross-file.  The bill allows county and municipality employees, without a Marine Contractors License, to complete work that does not need a federal or state permit.  It also creates a pathway for local government entities to obtain a Marine Contractor License while removing the fees associated fees.

 

Our county government constantly makes repairs to piers, docks, ditches, drains, and more on local public land and parks.  Many of these repairs are routine and could be restored by employees for little cost, except the needed supplies.  This will permit repairs to be done timely and at a lower cost.

 

  • HB 558/SB 296 Land Use – Agritourism enables local jurisdictions to add camping to the Agritourism definition which will provide an additional source of funding for farmers, increase tourism and spending to rural areas, and introduce more people to farm life. It is really a win for everyone.  I was proud to sponsor this Maryland Farm Bureau priority bill and I am excited to see the opportunities it brings to Calvert and St. Mary’s Counties.

 

  • HB 170/SB 220 Calvert County – Sunday – Hunting allows hunting on private land on Sundays beginning 30 minutes prior to sunrise until 10:30 a.m. during deer firearms season, deer bow-hunting season and spring turkey hunting season. I have been working on this bill for two years and am glad to see these additional times offered for recreational hunting for families throughout the county.

 

  • HB 956/SB 582 Natural Resources – Recreation on Private Land – Hunting clarifies landowner liability provisions for recreational hunting on private land.   A recent court case called into question the section of law which permit land owners to allow hunting on their property, while not assuming responsibility for any action or injury caused by or to the hunters.  This bill clarifies the intention of the law. Hunters who are given written permission to hunt on private land, assume all responsibility and liability for their own safety and property. 

 

With the end of session time crunch, leadership decided to move the Senator Bailey’s cross-file of my bill that had already passed over to the House.  I was glad to help get either version passed so that landowners and farmers could be protected.  Without this provision, deer hunting on private land would have ceased, causing farms to be overrun by deer and crop damage.

 

Two of my bills were presented in the House, but did not advance for consideration.

  • HB 954 Vessels – Certificate of Title – Transfer-on-Death Beneficiary Designation would have allowed individuals to name a beneficiary when registering their boat. Then the named individual would have been granted ownership of the boat upon the death of the original owner, without going through probate.  This is a very logical extension of the Transfer-on-Death designation permitted in the state for motor vehicles.

 

  • HB 1483 Vehicle Laws – Eluding Police – Penalties would have increased the penalties for individuals using vehicles to run from police. This is a real safety concern for our community and the police.  The bill was brought to me by the Calvert County Sherriff’s Office and State’s Attorney following incidents of concern.  I was glad to submit this common sense legislation.

 

Local Legislation

Calvert County requested five bills this year, of which four passed.

  • HB 842 Calvert County – Hotel Rental Tax – Distribution of Revenue establishes the Tourism Development Incentive Fund that moves the hotel rental tax out of general revenue into the fund for distribution. There it is used for administrative purposes and municipality revenue, leaving the remainder to promote tourism.
  • HB 886 Calvert County – Board of License Commissioners – Compensation increases the annual compensation for the Board of License Commissioners for expenses incurred while preforming duties.
  • HB 893 Calvert County Bond Request allows for the issuance of up to $28.18 million in general obligation bonds for construction or other services for the county.
  • HB 914 Calvert County – Procurement – Award of Multi-year Contracts allows Calvert County to enter into multi-year contracts for banking, retirement, health insurance and information technology.

 

St. Mary’s County had six bills submitted this year, of which three passed.

  • HB 474 St. Mary’s County – Leonardtown – Alcoholic Beverages Licenses – Places of Worship Distance Restriction removes the 300 feet distance requirement between businesses with liquor licenses and places of worship so that established locations in Leonardtown can continue to operate.
  • HB 522 St. Mary’s County – Tax Sales Auctioneer includes the cost of an auctioneer in the sale of tax property.
  • HB 527 St. Mary’s County – Emergency Services Applicants – Polygraph Examinations permits the County to require polygraph tests for new hire paramedic and EMS personnel.

 

Highlighted Legislation

 

This year 2,520 bills were submitted for consideration by the House of Delegates and the Senate during the 2022 Legislative Session and of those, 835 passed.  Below are highlighted bills of significance.  Some of these bills I supported, but many I did not.  However, I believe it is important for you to be aware of the shift in the legislature and be informed of upcoming changes to the law.

 

Operating Budget:

SB290 – Fiscal 2023 Budget Bill  - Supported

The only action required by law of the General Assembly during the legislative session is passing a balanced budget.  With the surplus Maryland currently has on hand, the budget came in at $61 billion - one of the largest budgets ever with a 10.5% increase over the current year.  The 2023 budget boosted Maryland’s savings by adding $2.4 billion to the Rainy Day Fund and a $211 million surplus to the General Fund.   Additionally, $800 million in Capital projects were covered by cash funds on hand, reducing the amount borrowed by the State.

 

This year’s budget boasts $350 million in tax relief which includes an income tax credit for retirees, a work opportunity tax credit for businesses and sales tax exemptions on diapers, baby products, medical devices, oral care products and diabetic supplies. 

 

While I would have preferred more robust tax reductions to benefit more households, any tax cut is definitely welcome.

 

Other beneficial provisions in the 2023 budget are increased funding for human service organizations and economic relief for targeted business.  Increases in provider rates for those who care for vulnerable populations including the elderly, the developmentally disabled, and those in foster care will meet great needs for many organizations and employees in Southern Maryland.  Additionally, desperately needed resources to reduce the number of autistic youths on the Autism Waiver waitlist was added this year, as well as economic development funding in the form of grants for art and tourism.

 

Lastly, the General Assembly made investments in public schools at record levels, ensuring future funding for the long-term costs of the Blueprint Implementation (Kirwan) again this year.

 

Taxes and Tax Relief

HB 1468 Income Tax – Retirement Income Subtraction Modifications and Senior Credit allows people 65 or older whose adjusted gross income does not exceed $100,000 ($150,000 if filing jointly) to claim a tax credit of $1,000 ($1,750 if filing jointly).  The bill also expands the State subtraction modification for retired law enforcement, correctional officers, and fire, rescue and emergency services personnel to $15,000.  This tax credit is not reduced by the amount of Social Security benefits individuals receive.  Supported

 

HB 1187 Transportation – Highway User Revenues – Revenue and Distribution gradually increases localities’ share of the Highway User Revenue Fund to an 80-20 split in the fiscal year 2022.  Although the funding was not returned to the original ratio, it is welcome news for our county and municipalities.  The result will be a $663 million increase in local road and bridge repair funding.  Supported

 

HB 1486/SB 1010 Motor Fuel Taxes – Tax Free Period provided a 30 day relief from the gas tax of about 37 cents-per-gallon.  This welcome relief began March 18,  2022.  This gas holiday is great, but I would like to see the motor fuel tax flattened instead of continuing to grow each year.  That is why I co-sponsored Delegate Matt Morgan’s bill to repeal the gas taxes consumer price adjustment, which causes the gas tax to increase yearly based on inflation, HB144.  However that bill was not moved on by leadership.  Supported

 

Health

HB 275 Environment – PFAS Chemicals – Prohibitions and Requirements (George “Walter” Taylor Act) prohibits the use, manufacture, sale or distribution  of Class B fire-fighting foam which contains added PFAS chemicals. These chemicals have the potential to cause cancer in those exposed to them and have been found in 75% of the drinking water tested.

 

The bill is named for George "Walter" Taylor, a 31-year veteran fire fighter and Solomon’s Fire Department Volunteer from St. Mary’s County, who died in 2020 from PFAS-related cancer.  Supported  

 

HB 609 – Local Health Officers – Removal – Process removes the provisions that the County Health Officer works “at the pleasure of the county governing body” and requires the Maryland Secretary of Health to provide a written explanation when a Local Health Officer (LHO) is fired.  Additionally, the bill provides the LHO the opportunity for a hearing upon his removal. Opposed - Governor’s VETO Overridden

 

Education

HB 1255/SB 705 Education – Physical Restraint and Seclusion – Limitations, Reporting and Training prohibits schools, public and private, from using physical restraint and seclusion as behavior intervention on students, with a few exceptions.  Those occasions have reporting and evaluation criteria set for review.  Supported

 

Landlord/Tenant Issues

SB 384 Landlord and Tenant – Stay of Eviction Proceeding for Rental Assistance Determination requires a judge to delay evictions if a tenant proves they have a pending application for rental assistance even if the judge has already ruled in favor of the landlord.  The delay is no more than 35 days.  Opposed

 

Business/Economy

SB 275 – Labor and Employment – Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program – Establishment (Time to Care Act of 2022)  creates a state-run insurance program, funded by what will be a $1.6 billion payroll tax, to cover up to 12 weeks of paid leave in a 12-month period.  Under some circumstances individuals could qualify for up to 24 weeks of leave.

 

Individuals can take the leave due to their own illness or to take care of a family member whose illness requires continued treatment by a professional. The leave can also be used to cover maternity and paternity leave. The payroll tax will be covered by employees and employers, at a cost-sharing proportion set by the Department of Labor every two years. Depending on the decision of the Department, employers will cover 25%-75% of the premium, with employees covering the rest. The amount of the weekly benefit depends on the employee’s salary or wage and is capped at $1,000 per week beginning January 1, 2025. The cap increases to $1,500 per week beginning January 1, 2026. In the years beyond, increases in the weekly benefits are indexed to the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

 

The bill has good intentions but goes too far. It covers a wide variety of “family”, well beyond biological, adopted, step, or custodial. The bill also throws a lot of uncertainty at Maryland’s businesses. Many businesses are already struggling to find and keep employees, and this bill allows for 12 weeks of leave during which time the employer must keep the employee’s job open to them. There are limited cases where the employer can terminate the employee. The bill also fails to set the contribution ratio in statute, allowing it to change every two years. Businesses could see their contributions rise to up to 75% of the premium, if that is what the Department decides. 

 

Businesses are already operating under a tremendous amount of uncertainty. This bill fails to balance the needs of the employees and the employers and is a bad idea for Maryland.   Opposed - Governor’s Veto Overridden

 

Crimes and Guns

SB 71/HB 290 Hate Crimes – Civil Remedy  allows the victim of a hate crime to bring civil action against the person who committed the crime.  In addition to covering the damages caused by the act, also included in this bill are pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment, loss of companionship, services and consortium and reimbursement of the victim’s attorney and court fees.

 

Although we definitely want to hold people accountable for their actions against one-another, this bill is too subjective and opens up opportunities for people to sue others for injured feelings and assumed intentions.  The law should be more definite in this area and not open to broad interpretation. Opposed

 

HB 425 Public Safety – Untraceable Firearms bans the sale of ghost guns beginning June 1, 2022 and possession of ghost guns beginning March 1, 2023.  “Ghost guns” are unserialized guns, most of which have been made from a frame and assembled by someone unauthorized.  Opposed - became law without Governor’s Signature

 

SB 691/HB 459 Juvenile Justice Reform establishes new sentencing guidelines for young offenders which include prohibiting incarceration for a child under 13 (even in the juvenile system) except for violent crimes and sets limits for detention, out-of-home placement and probation imposed by juvenile courts.  Opposed -became law without Governor’s signature

 

HB 1021 – Public Safety – Licensed Firearms Dealers – Security Requirements requires businesses that sell firearms to have 24 hour alarm systems, as well as security bars, metal doors or other physical barriers to prevent vehicles from crashing through the establishment.  Although this is well meaning, the measures taken are overdone and the bill was rushed through the Senate to be passed in time for veto override consideration.   Opposed - Governor’s Veto Overridden

 

Marijuana Legalization

Legalization of marijuana was one of the most anticipated issues of the 2022 Legislative Session. The Senate amendments to these bills put the bills in better condition than when they left the House.

 

HB 01 Constitutional Amendment – Cannabis – Adult Use and Possession is a proposed Constitutional Amendment that adds the question of whether to legalize the possession and use of small amounts of marijuana to the November 2022 Maryland ballot.  Opposed

 

HB 837 Cannabis Reform gives a framework for how the legalization of marijuana will work, if the referendum passes at the ballot.  This bill allows for individuals to grow two plants per household and legally possess 1.5 ounces.  It makes the possession of 1.5 -2.5 ounces a civil citation and any amount over 2.5 ounces subject to existing laws regarding possession with intent to distribute. 

 

The Senate added an obvious, but missing amendment, to make smoking while driving illegal.  Smoking in public is not permitted, under the law, and carries a fine of $250 - $500 per offense.  Additionally, the bill provides for the expungement of previous possession charges.

 

More regulations are expected in the future that will address the results of a disparity study and other research on public health impacts of marijuana use. The measures passed in HB837 will only go into effect following an affirmative vote by the citizens of Maryland on the November 2022 ballot question established by the passage of HB01.  Opposed - Governor’s Veto Overridden

 

Environment

SB 528 - Climate Solutions Now Act of 2022.  While not as progressive as its original form, the bill requires a 60% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2031 based on 2006 levels with the state’s carbon-neutral goal met by 2045.  “Carbon-neutral” means that the amount of carbon removed from the atmosphere must be the same as the amount emitted.  The bill also requires the state vehicle fleet and school buses to transition to all-electric vehicles and requires buildings larger than 35,000 sq. feet to reduce their emissions.  The Climate Catalytic Capital Fund is created by the bill as a “green bank” to invest in projects to reduce gas-emissions in low-and moderate-income communities.

 

The bill was amended heavily following strong opposition from utilities, construction and appliance companies who objected to the requirements on newly constructed buildings to be all-electric for heating and water, in effect banning fossil fuels.  This section was replaced with a study to be done by the Public Service Commission on the impact of electrifying buildings.

 

I was eager to be part of the committee work to amend changes to this bill which lessen the impact on our citizens.  Additionally, our committee chose to recognize nuclear energy, for the first time, as a vital resource of clean energy by including it in this bill.  This is exciting news.  I have been working towards this each year in Annapolis.  Now nuclear energy will have stakeholders in future discussions concerning the direction of clean energy by holding three positions on the Energy Resilience and Efficiency Workgroup.   Without Exelon’s Calvert Cliff’s Nuclear Power Plant, Maryland’s only nuclear energy resource, it will be impossible to reach the carbon-neutral goal by 2045.

 

While I still am not completely satisfied with the final product of the bill, SB528 definitely came out of the legislative process better than submitted.  Became law without Governor’s signature

 

SB 541 the Great Maryland Outdoors Act will boost investment in state parks for funding, land conservation, park staff and volunteers’ salaries and positions, and park infrastructure. Supported - became law without Governor’s Signature

 

Thank you for making these last six years a tremendous opportunity to champion the needs and principles of Calvert and St. Mary’s Counties.  It has been a truly humble and challenging experience that I have thoroughly enjoyed and cherished.  I am glad to have shared this time with you and continue to welcome your contributions.

Sincerely,

     

MDGOP Candidate