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As of midnight this past Monday, the 2019 Maryland General Assembly Session has officially come to a close. The purpose of this letter is to effectively highlight the major legislative initiatives deliberated over the last 90 days by the 47 Senators and 141 Delegates. It is an honor to serve as your State Senator, and it is my goal to keep you informed and represent our shared values in Annapolis.

 

The State Budget and Education

 

FY2020 Operating Budget:

This year, just as in years past, Governor Hogan submitted a balanced, financially sound budget that provides record funding for many programs without raising taxes, cutting services, or irresponsibly raiding “special funds” like Program Open Space or the Chesapeake Bay Fund as previous Governors did. The Governor’s budget does increase state spending by about 3% but part of that increases the “Rainy Day Savings Fund” to $1.3 billion. State support for K-12 education is also at a record high, with $225,000,000 allocated for the preliminary education recommendations of the Kirwan Commission. Moreover, additional funding has been made available to increase our efforts combatting the opioid epidemic, and gives our law enforcement agencies and correctional officers the tools they need.

FY2020 Capital Budget:

Carroll County benefits greatly in the Hogan Capital budget, as our County’s Delegation was able to secure funds for several key local priorities. There is funding earmarked for the planning and construction of the Freedom Army National Guard Readiness Center, construction and equipping of a new Critical Care Unit at Carroll Hospital Center, and for Carroll County’s first artificial turf field at the North Carroll High School property that can be used by our schools and rec councils. Additional funding was also secured for a major expansion of the Carroll Hospice Dove House and Westminster Boys and Girls Club gymnasium project.

Education: SB1030: Kirwin Commission Education Recommendations

Last April, the Kirwan Commission divided into four working groups to consider different education policy areas: early childhood education, high quality and diverse teachers and leaders, college and career readiness pathways, and more resources for at-risk students. The Commission presented a wide array of policy prescriptions to modernize and improve our State’s education system, but has yet to provide the adjusted funding formula that calculates how much money each County would receive to properly implement the recommendations. That task has been moved to this coming summer and fall. I have concerns about the high costs of the Commission’s recommendations. However, SB 1030 was streamlined to focus on the most important priorities of accountability, teacher training, and support, while keeping initial spending to what we can afford within existing funds for the next three years. I also supported this first installment of recommendations because it switches focus of our K-12 to measure success by results instead of how much money is spent. 

 

Victories from the 2019 Session

 

SB103/HB181: Graces Law 2.0 – Passed

I was proud to co-sponsor this legislation to modernize Maryland’s current law to further protect children from cyberbullying. The bill is named in honor of Grace McComas, a 15 year-old from Howard County who, after consistent harassment online by a neighbor, tragically committed suicide. Graces Law 2.0 passed unanimously.  

SB561: Laura & Reid’s Law -- Passed

This legislation was inspired by the highly publicized murders of Laura and Reid Wallen by her boyfriend and child’s father, Tyler Tessier.  As amended, the bill creates an new penalty when a person commits a crime of violence against a woman known or believed to be pregnant.  It would add an additional felony and a prison sentence of up to 10 years on top of the sentence for the underlying crime.

SB736: Cracking Down on Child Pornography -- Passed

I was proud to co-sponsor meaningful legislation that expands Maryland’s prohibition against the possession of child pornography. At its core, this law helps to protect victims and deter abusers. A key priority of mine is keeping our children out of harm’s way by staying tough on crime.

SB174: More Opportunities for Marylanders Act of 2019 – Portions added to SB 581 - Passed

Restoring Maryland’s economy and putting more people to work is a bench-mark for the Hogan administration, as well as my own agenda. This legislation promotes these goals by extending the More Jobs for Marylanders Program through 2030 and expanding access to Opportunity Zones. While the bill did not pass in its entirety, key portions of this program of making tax incentives more available all over the state were added to another bill, SB 581, that did pass. As a result, our State can continue making progress in job creation and revitalizing the economy and local communities.

 

Bad News from the 2019 Session

 

SB280: $15 Minimum Wage – Gubernatorial Veto Override

On a party line vote, the Senate overrode Governor Hogan’s veto on legislation that will raise our State’s minimum wage to $15/hour by 2025, and 2026 for businesses with 14 employees or less. What I like to call the “Youth & Retiree Job Elimination Act”, could cost Maryland as much as  100,000 jobs, and hurt our State’s economic competitiveness.  I supported the Governor’s veto, and opposed this artificial wage hike that puts Maryland workers and businesses at a competitive disadvantage.

SB1050: Non-Partisan Redistricting – No movement out of committee

I co-sponsored legislation with Governor Hogan to create a non-partisan commission to redraw Maryland’s congressional and legislative maps.  Maryland’s districts are the poster-child for gerrymandering at its worst. In the last redistricting process, districts were drawn to stifle political debate and deprive citizens of the opportunity to fairly participate in the election process. In response to the U.S. District Court’s order to redraw the 6th District in time for the 2020 election, the Governor signed an executive order that created a bipartisan commission to examine Maryland’s redistricting process. That work is ongoing and the Supreme Court is reviewing the case.

SB128/HB437: Labor Day School Start -- Gubernatorial Veto Override

The majority of Marylanders supported Governor Hogan’s 2016 executive order that public schools begin after Labor Day. The Maryland General Assembly overrode the Governor’s veto of legislation  to rescind the Governor’s 2016 executive order. Starting school before Labor Day is detrimental to tourism and agricultural areas.

SB537: Expand the Dream Act – Passed

One of the “under the radar” bills that passed this session was the Expand Maryland Dream Act, which wipes away many restrictions placed on illegal-immigrants receiving in-state tuition at Maryland four year universities. The standards of eligibility previously in place [mandatory attendance of Maryland high school for three years, prior completion of community college education, and others] were necessary to ensure fairness and proper assimilation into the Maryland School system. I voted NO, just as I have in years passed with similar legislative initiatives.

 

Ready Legislative Initiatives

 

SB561: Laura & Reid’s Law -- Passed

See explanation in “Victories from the 2019 Session” above.

SB0706: Legally Owned Firearms Replacement Act – Unfavorable

I was the primary sponsor on this legislation that would have authorized a person to replace a lost or broken assault weapon that was legally owned. This bill would have provided an adequate recourse that did not exist under previous law. I believe law abiding gun owners deserve the right to replace their legally owned firearms. Unfortunately, this bill was given an unfavorable report by the Judicial Proceedings Committee and did not make it to the Senate floor.

SB0408: Police Protection Act – No movement out of committee

This legislation protects our police by preventing Court commissioners from releasing defendants on their own recognizance when charged with 1st or 2nd degree assault of a law enforcement officer. Assaulting a police officer is a crime that warrants holding the person charged for the 24 hours it takes to see a judge.

SB0951: Income Tax Rates – Reductions – No movement out of committee

Maryland’s crushing tax burden makes it hard to raise a family, retire here, or run a small business.  In an attempt to make our state more family and business friendly, I introduced SB951 to cut our state’s income taxes by .25%. Unfortunately, this bill was never voted on in the Senate Budget and Tax Committee. I plan to continue to fight next session and in the future for lower taxes.

SB228: Pretrial Release Restrictions – Sex Offenders -- Passed

SB 228 makes a small but important clarification in the language governing the pretrial release of a criminal defendant. Current law didn’t allow a court commissioner to order the with-out bail holding of a person who was “required to register” as a sex offender but had not, currently the law said only “registered”. A small change to the law makes a substantial difference. A commissioner will now be able to hold defendants that could have used the wording to their advantage.

 

Notable Firearm Legislation

Maryland remains one of the most hostile states towards 2nd Amendment rights in the nation. In response to the recent mass shootings, the legislature submitted many gun bills that do nothing to curtail violence, but harm the rights of law abiding gun owners.

 

SB1000: Handgun Permit Review Board Repeal – Passed (Ready Opposed)

This legislation abolishes the State’s handgun permit review board. As amended, appeals of Maryland State Police decisions on concealed carry permits will now be sent to the Office of Administrative Hearings. This hazardous bill eliminates strong civilian oversight over our police, and circumvents the only real check our citizens have to appeal concealed carry permit decisions by the State Police. 

SB737: Rifles/Shotguns – Background Checks – Defeated  (Ready Opposed)

This bill required gun owners to complete a background check before the second-hand transfer of a rifle or shotgun is completed. This is yet another attempt to burden the lives of law abiding gun owners while doing nothing to make our streets safer. Statistically, long guns are rarely used in crimes and secondary sales of long guns by law-abiding citizens has been standard for years. I feel that this bill unfairly penalizes individuals who bought their weapons legally and desire to exercise their fire-arm ownership in a way they see fit. I voted against this legislation. Fortunately, the bill passed each house with significant differences thanks to amendments my pro-second amendment colleagues and I were able to get on the bill.  The two sides could not agree so the bill failed on the last day of session.

SB166: Repeat Firearms Offender Act of 2019 – (Ready Co-Sponsor) No Committee Vote

I believe that we need to protect our 2nd Amendment rights but there needs to be stricter laws against those who abuse this right. I cosponsored SB166 to strengthen the sentences against those who use a firearm for the purposes of committing crimes of violence and/or a felony. This bill does not infringe upon the constitutional rights of law-abiding gun owners and strengthens the current law against those who commit these crimes. Unfortunately, the bill did not get a vote in either the House or Senate.

Conclusion

It is an honor and a great responsibility to serve you in the State Senate. Each year I have been in Annapolis, I have fought for smaller government, lower taxes, traditional values, and common sense in government. Regardless of whether we see eye to eye on every issue, I appreciate receiving your opinions, questions, and input. Please feel free to contact me anytime. I can be reached at (410)- 841- 3682 or Justin.Ready@senate.state.md.us. I look forward to hearing from you.