Legislative Session: County Commissioners and Non-Citizens
Last week really felt much more like regular Session. We had intense debates on the House Floor, caucus meetings to discuss bills of concern and even one day with multiple sessions. It was nice to have that normalcy back again.
HB655 Local Government – County Commissioner Elections – District Voting – Delegate Crosby
Much of our time this week was taken up with HB655. The intent of this bill is to change the method of electing Commissioners in counties governed by a Board of County Commissioners with commissioner districts. This bill will affect both Calvert and St. Mary’s Counties.
Both counties have Commissioners who run for election in the districts they reside and both counties have At-Large Commissioner(s). Currently, when voting for Commissioners, people vote for all 5 seats regardless of where you live. This bill will change that. You will only be permitted to vote in the district race in which you reside and any At-Large seats. Therefore Calvert residents will vote for one district Commissioner and two At-Large. And St. Mary’s residents will vote for one district Commissioner and one At-Large.
Sounds right to you? Well, the real issue here is that none of the five counties affected by this bill asked for the change. It is being forced upon them by a legislature in which most members do not live in an area governed by a Board of County Commissioners. Additionally the sponsor of the bill, Delegate Brian Crosby, did not even bring this bill to St. Mary’s County for consideration and a public hearing. Delegate Crosby attended the St. Mary’s County Legislative meeting and did not mention this bill. It could have been discussed and had public input at that time.
Some issues garnering a lot support are put on the ballot to be considered by all citizens – a referendum. Such as in 2016, when Code Home Rule was voted on by St. Mary’s County citizens.
None of that was done. Delegate Crosby and the majority party disregarded the input of the County Commissioners and citizens that would be affected by this bill, save for a few vocal individuals.
Delegates Matt Morgan, Mark Fisher and I, along with the delegates representing other counties affected by this bill, put in numerous amendments and stretched the debate on this bill out over three days. Only Delegate Morgan’s amendment to conform the Board of Education voting requirements to this bill was adopted after being reissued as a committee amendment. In the end, the bill passed to Third Reader and will be voted on this week.
SB218 Income Tax - Child Tax Credit and Expansion of the Earned Income Credit - Senator King
With the passage of Governor Hogan’s RELIEF ACT without provisions for non-citizens, the majority party adapted SB218 with language to provide a tax credit to tax paying non-citizens with children. The new language expanded the Earned Income Tax Credit to include non-citizen families who file taxes with an ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number). As expected the debate on this bill was intense and long. Amendments were proposed to make this bill more palatable, but none of these were accepted. The bill passed the House (91-44) and was returned passed to the Senate.
Those were just two of the strong debates on the House Floor last week. Tomorrow we will begin to meet daily as we advance toward Crossover, the deadline by which bills presented in the House need to be voted on and passed over to the Senate in order to be guaranteed a hearing.
If you have any questions about the above legislation or anything else, please feel free to contact my office – 410-841-3314.