It is hard to believe that the 2017 Legislative Session is almost finished. We only have one week left. I wanted to give you an update on the local bills that have been passed this year.
Also, don't forget to submit your scholarship application. These are due to my office by April 15th. More information is provided at the bottom of the newsletter.
St. Mary's County Bills
St. Mary's County submitted 18 bills this year. All of these bills passed out of the House, and have either passed the Senate or have a favorable report in the Senate. Most of these bills related to repealing local code that was no longer necessary because of state law. Other bills being presented include two bonds for St. Mary's County bills, two MetCom bills and two alcohol licenses bills.
The public facility bond bill authorizes the St. Mary’s County Commissioners to issue up to $26.3 million in general obligation bonds for the acquisition, construction, improvement, or renovation of public buildings, facilities, and public works projects.
The other bond bill updates the Public Local Laws of St. Mary’s County to modify the calculation of the debt limit in St. Mary’s County.
The personnel MetCom bill changes the types of positions in the St. Mary’s County Metropolitan Commission (MetCom).
The other MetCom bill updates the Public Local Laws of St. Mary’s County to require the St. Mary’s County Commissioners to review and approve any loan application before the St. Mary’s County Metropolitan Commission submits that application to a lender.
The Art Establishment License bill authorizes the St. Mary’s County Board of License Commissioners to issue an art establishment license to a for-profit retail business engaged in the display, sale, or demonstration of original art to serve beer and wine at retail for on-premises consumption.
The Beauty Salon License bill authorizes the St. Mary’s County Board of License Commissioners to issue a beauty salon beer and wine license to a holder of a beauty salon permit for on-premises consumption.
Calvert County Bills
Calvert County submitted five bills this legislative session and four passed out of the House. They deal with Bond authority, Solid Waste Disposal Contracts, Competitive Bidding and a bill regarding notification and hearing of proposed legislation. One has passed the Senate and another has a favorable report.
The bond authority bill authorizes the Calvert County Commissioners to issue up to $17.62 million in general obligation bonds for the acquisition, construction, improvement, or renovation of public buildings, facilities, and public works projects.
The Solid Waste Disposal Contracts bill authorizes Calvert County to enter into a contract for solid waste disposal that (1) may include transportation; (2) may require payment of funds from county appropriations or receipt of payment to the county; and (3) is for no more than a 20-year initial term.
The Competitive Bidding bill requires the county government to publish notice of county contracts in the eMaryland Marketplace and in other forms of social media or websites where the county maintains a presence.
The bill regarding notification and hearing of proposed legislation requires the Calvert County Board of License Commissioners (Liquor Board) post notices, send notices and hold a hearing at least three months before submitting a legislative proposal to the Calvert County Delegation for introduction as a bill in a General Assembly session.
Protect Our Schools Act
The Protect Our Schools Act has just passed both the House of Delegates and Senate. The bill is in reaction to the Every Student Succeeds Act federal education law which allows the Maryland State Board of Education (BOE) to develop a new accountability system for school performance. It instead bypasses the authority of the State BOE, sets up the rating system and prohibits vouchers and charters to be used as a way to remedy failing schools.
Although the amended version of this bill has increased the accountability percentage to 65% (standardized testing, student achievement, graduation, etc.), the remaining 45% is based on teacher satisfaction, class size, teacher caseload and school climate surveys. These measurements are based more on the teacher’s comfort than the results of student achievement.
This bill does not protect our children, but gives more influence to the teacher's unions and takes away power from the State BOE. I have voted to oppose this bill and Governor Hogan has vowed to veto the “Protect Our Schools Act”. I support his decision. I will stand up for our students to ensure they are receiving the education they need to succeed.
Newsletter Update from Annapolis
My Bill - HB1246
The second of my bills, HB1246 Forests and parks - Public Recreation on Private and State-Owned Land - Hunting HB1246 Forests and parks - Public Recreation on Private and State-Owned Land - Hunting The purpose of this bill is to ensure that hunters who lease land for recreational purposes hold the liability for their use, not the land owner. This has previously been the case for other recreational activities. This bill would simply add hunting. These changes will positively impact the farmers in Maryland, as they will have an additional revenue option to mitigate crop loss incurred from wildlife. The bill will now be heard in the Senate.
Throughout the Legislative Session the Senate Budget and Taxation and House Appropriations Committees have held hearings on the Governor's proposed budget. These hearings are for all state agencies that will be receiving funding through the budget. The agency is required to be present at their hearing.
The House and Senate will each adopt their version of the budget. The two budgets will have some differences, which the Department of Legislative Services is in charge of compiling.
Select members from the House and Senate will then go to conference to work through the differences in each version. The budget must be approved by the end of session. Once the budget is approved by the Legislature, it is enacted. It does not have to be signed or vetoed by the Governor.
Last Wednesday budget was in Second Reader in the House. During Second Reader a bill is debated and amended. The budget had a number of amendments when it came out of committee, which were suggested by the Legislature based on the hearings. These were adopted during debate. Last Friday, the budget passed.
Today the Governor presented the supplemental budget to the House. This budget will provide additional funding to fight the Heroin epidemic. In addition, this will further encourage economic development in the state and support education.
This week the House Rules and Executive Nominations Committee voted 18-5, along party lines, to give an unfavorable report regarding the Governor's Redistricting Reform plan. Instead, the Democratic leadership in the General Assembly have made Maryland's Redistricting Reform dependent on five other states, who have to pass the same redistricting bill.
It is disheartening that the goals of members of our legislature work contrary to the fair representation of their Constituents by linking the future of Maryland representation to the interests of other states. I have supported the Governor's version as it would ensure fair representation for all people of Maryland.
HB1362 - Sanctuary Bill
Monday night we voted on HB1362 Criminal Procedure - Immigration - Community Trust. This bill allows Maryland to become a Sanctuary State. I am against this bill because it impedes the ability of the Federal Government to proceed with the legal process concerning people who have committed a federal misdemeanor.
I am disappointed in the state's choice of actions this week. The General Assembly should be seeking to improve the justice system and protect legal Marylanders including legal immigrants, rather than focusing on encouraging illegal behavior.
Newsletter Update from Annapolis
Paid Sick Leave
There are two versions of the Paid Sick Leave bill. These bills regulate the amount of sick leave that employers are required to provide employees. HB1 Labor and Employment - Healthy Working Families Act, sponsored by Delegate Clippinger, and HB382 Commonsense Paid Leave Act, which was requested by Governor Hogan.
Wednesday, Delegate Clippinger's bill (HB1) was on the House Floor for Second Reader. During the second reading the bills are debated and amended. I am opposed to this bill because it puts additional strain on businesses. Any business with 15 or more employees will be required to provide employees with paid sick leave that will accrue time off at a rate of one hour per 30 hours worked, not to exceed 56 hours. This will cause small businesses to endure financial strain that they cannot afford. Nine amendments were offered during the discussion, to help make the bill more palatable, but all were rejected. Unfortunately, this version of the bill went to Third Reader, and was voted on Friday.
Despite the opposition of many Republicans, including myself, and a few Democrats, the bill was passed. It has now gone to the Senate where it will be heard in the Senate Finance Committee soon.
I am supporting the Governor's bill (HB382) which would allow companies with less than 50 employees to receive a tax incentive for offering paid sick leave. This bill only requires a business with 50 or more employees to provide mandatory sick leave accruing at a rate of one hour per 30 hours worked, not to exceed 40 hours. I support this bill because it is more business friendly, while still ensuring that the needs of employees are being met.
Governor Hogan's bill has not made it out of the Economic Matters Committee, yet. However, I hope that we will soon be able to discuss this bill on the House Floor, as it offers many alternatives that are better for Marylanders. I will keep you updated on both of these bills.
Patuxent High School Recognition
Monday night I was honored to be joined by students from Patuxent High School. They were recognized on the House floor for their achievements.
Students from the marching band were recognized for winning the Maryland State 2A Championship title on October 29th.
Ms. Hayley Jackson, a member of the Patuxent High School Cross Country team was recognized for winning the Maryland State 2A Girls Cross Country Championship.
Newsletter Three - Septic System Bill
Environment and Transportation -
My committee heard HB281 - On-Site Sewage Disposal Systems - Best Available Technology (BAT) for Nitrogen Removal. I am opposed to this bill which expands the areas required to install a BAT septic system and reduces the financial assistance available for maintenance of these systems.
Last year, Governor Hogan rolled back septic regulations to only require that BAT septic systems be installed for new construction in Critical Areas. Local jurisdictions are also permitted to require a BAT system. Additionally, the new regulations provided a two year warranty and maintenance contract for all BAT systems. This was good news new homeowners.
The newly proposed legislation, HB281, expands the septic regulations back to the 2012 requirements which included Critical Areas, Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Coast watersheds, and any watershed with nitrogen problems. The bill also does not offer grants for installation or maintenance to homeowners outside of the Critical Area. This bill will affect many new construction projects in Calvert and St. Mary’s Counties.
These systems with the Nitrogen Removal technology cost more to install and maintain than traditional septic systems. There isn’t indication that the expanded land areas contribute to keeping nitrogen out of the Bay. Governor Hogan’s plan was a sensible plan with responsible environmental standards and a lower impact on new construction. I support Governor Hogan's rollback, and do not support HB281.
My first sponsored bill, HB714 - Corporations and Associations - Fee for Processing Articles of Dissolution – Repeal, was heard in the Economic Matters Committee. This bill eliminates the fee for businesses to dissolve. At a time when a company is “going out of business” the extra cost can be burdensome. If a company does not file and pay the fee, the process becomes more complicated and costly. I am sponsoring this pro-business bill to ensure that undue economic strain is not being placed on those who cannot afford it.
Newsletter Two - Weapon-free Higher Education Zones
Wednesday we debated HB159 - Weapon-Free Higher Education Zones, on the house floor. I oppose this bill, which prohibits carrying or possessing firearms on campus. This violates the Second Amendment rights of legal adult citizens of the United States, including students, faculty and parents. In addition, this bill raises safety concerns, especially for victims of rape and violent crimes, who carry guns in self-defense.
The bill was hotly debated Wednesday. Republicans submitted amendments to improve the bill, but all were rejected.
Unfortunately, the bill advanced to a vote today (Friday) and passed in the House 84-49. It is now waiting a hearing in the Senate.
Newsletter One - Veto Override
The Legislative Session started in Annapolis Wednesday, January 11th. I was assigned to the Environment and Transportation Committee. I will be serving on two of the Environment and Transportation Subcommittees, Natural Resources, Agriculture and Open Space and Government and Bi-County Agencies.
Veto Override Vote
Yesterday I participated in my first debate and vote in the House of Delegates. The issue at hand involved 2016 legislation vetoed by Governor Larry Hogan. This is not the first time I have heard debates in the House, but a seat on the floor gave me new perspective. Many eloquent and well thought out arguments were presented on both sides. Along with some not so well argued.
The vetoed bill discussed and voted on yesterday was House Bill 1106 - Clean Energy Jobs – Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard Revisions (2016). Initially, the bill seems to bring positive things to Maryland – clean energy and jobs. However, the increased cost for electricity that will be passed on to consumers is not so welcome.
This bill increases the State’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS) to 25% by 2020. That is a 5% increase with two less years to meet the deadline. The rate increase is expected to be between $49 million to $196 million. This happens because energy suppliers will be required to increase the amount of energy they provide from clean energy sources. Since only 25% of current clean energy comes from Maryland, the remainder must be bought from other states. The demand to purchase more energy from outside the state will now be even greater. These fees are forwarded on to the consumers. You will be paying more for the energy you use in your home. What many do not understand is the burden this will place on you, the people of Calvert and St. Mary’s who will foot this bill. Families are already struggling to pay for their electricity.
Although the title of the bill would suggest that jobs in Maryland will be created by this legislation, the truth is far from it. When electric suppliers purchase clean energy from outside the state, jobs are created. But not in Maryland. In fact, jobs may even be lost here due to the decreased demand for Maryland’s traditional energy sources.
Additionally, the push for clean energy has disregarded logical environmental conservatism. Farms and fields are leased and renovated to build solar farms. Trees are cut down, grass is covered with impervious surface and clean water is constantly used to keep the panels clean. Creating solar farms has produced some of the exact problems other environmental legislation has attempted to change. Using existing surfaces such as building and parking garage rooftops is more environmentally sound.
Yesterday’s veto override is disappointing. Well-meaning efforts for clean energy will only bring burden to rate payers and electric suppliers while marring our pristine farm lands. I stood with Governor Hogan’s veto to keep your electric rates down and Calvert and St. Mary’s farmland for agriculture farms. Sadly, I stood in the minority.