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On midnight Monday, the 2021 Maryland General Assembly Session officially came to a close. The purpose of this letter is to 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. My top goal to keep you informed and represent our shared values in Annapolis.

The State Budget

Operating Budget

Governor Hogan’s Fiscal Year 2022 (FY 2022) Budget is structurally balanced and does not raise taxes while making record investments in K-12 education and our community colleges. It provides substantial tax relief to struggling Marylanders and small businesses, expands resources for crime prevention and fighting the opioid epidemic and lays a strong foundation for the state’s economic recovery.  The FY 2022 Budget limits state spending growth and does not raid money from “special” funds like Program Open Space or the Bay Restoration Fund. The overall budget does grow because of a large amount of federal dollars that have come in but overall state dollars spent are basically level from last year.

Capital Budget

The Carroll County Delegation worked in a bi-partisan fashion in the General Assembly and with the Governor to secure key funding for a series of important community projects ranging from helping underprivileged youth to improving public safety. Below are highlights of the projects that will receive Capital funds. The resources brought to Carroll County for these important local projects is a product of teamwork and communication between our delegation, legislators in both parties, and the Hogan administration.

  • $9,463,000 – Construction of Carroll Career & Technology Center
  • $1,500,000 – Grant to Carroll County Government for Local Parks & Playground Improvements
  • $1,200,000 – Way Station Behavioral Health Center – HVAC System Replacement
  • $1,000,000 – Carroll County Public Safety Training Center
  • $756,000 – Carroll Hospital Center – Surgical Peri-Operative & Post-Anesthesia Care Project
  • $200,000 – Hampstead War Memorial Park Revitalization
  • $145,000 – Morgan Run Trout Stream Accessibility Improvements
  • $50,825 – New Windsor Town Park Renovations

Carroll County Delegation Legislative Bond Initiatives                                     

  • $175,000 – Hampstead Volunteer Fire Department
  • $120,000 – Carroll County Youth Services Bureau
  • $25,000 – Freedom Elementary School Playground

Victories from the 2021 Session

SB496/HB612 Relief Act– Passed and signed by the Governor

The Recovery for the Economy, Livelihoods, Industries, Entrepreneurs, and Families (RELIEF) Act delivers more than $1 billion in tax relief and economic stimulus for struggling families and small businesses who are suffering as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Highlights include:

  • Those who filed for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) will receive $300 payments per individual, or $500 per family
  • The RELIEF Act will increase the state’s match to the federal EITC for taxpayers with dependents from 28% to 45% for three years. That means a family with two or more kids that earns $25,000 a year will see a yearly credit increase of roughly $1,100
  • $1,000 payments to those waiting on unemployment insurance benefits
  • Removes state and local income taxes on unemployment benefits received during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Businesses will not see an increase in their unemployment insurance rates due to COVID-19-related layoffs
  • Business will have a temporary reprieve on paying state sales tax and eliminating taxes on pandemic-related grants and forgiven loans
  • $300 million in other targeted relief funds to support food banks, utility payment assistance, restaurants, entertainment and tourism venues

SB439/HB125: Jordan McNair Safe and Fair Play Act – Passed

I was proud to be the lead sponsor of SB 439. The bill establishes a right for student-athletes to profit off their name, image and likeness and requires Maryland’s University System to adopt and implement guidelines related to the physical and mental health and academic well-being of student athletes. Right now, in America, every college student who is not an NCAA athlete has the right to earn money in any legal way they want, this bill will ensure that all students have this right.

SB811:  – Lower State Unemployment Taxes for Small Businesses 2021-2023  – Passed

Pre-sets the rates for that small businesses pay in unemployment taxes in the upcoming years. This keeps our small businesses from bearing the cost of the significant increase in unemployment seen during the pandemic.

SB886/HB460: Transfer of College Credits -- Passed

This bill requires the Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC) to require a receiving four-year public institution of higher education (example: Towson, University of Maryland, or Frostburg) that denies the transfer of a credit or course to provide the student a rationale for denial. Over the years, there have been problems with community college credits being rejected by in-state schools. This hurts students and make their education costs higher. SB 886 will help correct this issue. 

SB88/HB304: Sanctuary Legislation – died in Committee

I will never support Maryland becoming a Sanctuary State. This legislation would have prohibited State and local governments, and State and local agents from cooperating or entering into an immigration detention agreement.  If an individual were arrested by State or local police, the arresting agency would not be allowed to hold that person or contact ICE, even if they were known to be dangerous. In the end, the General Assembly did pass some things that aid illegal immigrants (over my ‘no’ vote), but this specific legislation was thankfully defeated.

HB127: Paint Stewardship Assessment Program (Paint Tax) – Sent back to Committee after Ready Floor Debate – Died on Sine Die

This bill would have established a fee on every can of paint sold in Maryland (a “Paint Tax”) to fund an unnecessary program. It made it to the floor of the Senate. I spoke against the bill and by holding the bill up, explaining what it would mean to consumers and offering an amendment to strip the tax out, the Democratic Senate leadership did a maneuver known as “re-referring” the bill back to the committee it came from, which effectively killed it.

Bad News from the 2021 Session

The Fight to Support Law Enforcement:

Police “Reform” legislation was the biggest, highest profile battle during this Legislative Session. To be clear, I oppose the defunding or neutering of our police departments. That will not help in already unsafe communities.  The Senate’s Judicial Proceedings Committee worked on nine bills, mostly single-subject legislation, that balanced the need for more transparency and community involvement in policing with respect for the unique work and sacrifices of law enforcement officers.  I did not agree with all of the nine bills, but I voted for six of them and the package was at least mostly fair and considered what law enforcement had to do to execute their jobs effectively.

Unfortunately, the House of Delegates then crammed on several provisions that will put officers in a really tough spot as it relates to using force, dealing with complaints, and many other issues.  After a series of complex negotiations and back and forth debate, the Senate Democrat leadership caved into the radical House Democrats and left-wing groups pushing to punish police and passed these distorted bills.  Eventually, a combination of heavily amended House and Senate bills passed both chambers. I voted against these final bills for reasons I will outline below in breakdowns on each one.

Summary of Major Police “Reform” Legislation:

HB0670 - Police Discipline and Law Enforcement Programs and Procedures

  • Strikes the current Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights (LEOBR) and replaces it with a complicated, multi-step system that will involve a number of different boards, and appellate processes.
  • Involves civilians (meant to increase community confidence in the policing process)
  • Undermines protection of police officers from retaliatory activism. 
  • Extends the State civil liability cap also to claims of violation of Constitutional rights, more than doubling the cap (from $400K to $890K).

SB0600 - Surplus Military Equipment and Investigation of Deaths Caused by Police Officers

  • Prohibits purchase of weaponized surplus military equipment.
  • Provides for a new investigatory unit under the control of the Office of the Attorney General to investigate cases of Police-caused deaths rather than having them investigated by experienced police officers on the scene.  
  • Copy of a report of their investigation is to go to the State’s Attorney’s office that has jurisdiction to prosecute within 15 days. 
  • Local state’s attorneys would still decide whether to clear officers or bring criminal charges.

SB0178 - Search Warrants and Inspection of Records Relating to Police Misconduct (Anton's Law)

  • Adds significant restrictions on the use of warrants (including no-knock warrants) which can endanger police executing those warrants while not substantially protecting citizens.  
  • Police Officers’ personnel files available for public inspection with respect to administrative discipline and even anonymous complaints (whether or not sustained).
  • Publicizing unsubstantiated – unsworn – accusations against police officers is an unwarranted attack on their privacy, and is not done in the case of any other public official.

SB 0071 - Body-Worn Cameras, Employee Programs, and Use of Force

  • Requires use of body cameras by all county police departments by 2025 (task force to study time line of use in municipalities)
  • Provides for counselling and mental health services and support for police officers. 
  • Standard adopted for “Use of Force” by police officers, which changes the perspective from that of the reasonable police officer to one of the “totality of the circumstances.”
  • Use of force is required to be ‘proportional’ – and to adjust to the force being used against the officer.
  • Officer may only mirror (and slightly exceed) the force being used by the suspect, with the suspect given the first swing/shot. 
  • Penalty for misjudgment of what is later determined to be reasonable under the “totality of the circumstances” is criminal for the officer (punishable by up to 10 years in prison), together with the possibility of civil liability. 

Governor Hogan rightly vetoed these so-called police “reform” bills, and I supported his veto. But the General Assembly overrode him on a mostly party-line vote. The final outcome of this legislation does not serve Maryland well

SB478/HB16: Prohibition on Immigration Detention Centers

This bill prohibits immigration detention centers in Maryland.  Currently there are two existing facilities in Frederick and Worcester Counties.  Not only would this be a direct hit on the economies in these two counties (they both receive approximately $5 million a year from the Federal Government) but would force individuals that need to be held to be sent out of state – costing even more. This bill could have been even worse but key amendments that my Republican colleagues were able to get on the bill took out some of the Sanctuary State policies that were in it. Still, it’s a bad bill that pushes a pro-amnesty agenda. I hope Governor Hogan will veto it.

Reducing Life Without Parole Sentencing:

SB 494: Juveniles Convicted As Adults – Sentencing – Limitations and Reductions

SB 202: Correctional Services – Life Without Possibility of Parole - Imprisonment

These two bills made major changes to the potential parole of people who have been sentenced to life in prison. SB 494 gets rid of life without parole for ANY juvenile sentenced as an adult. There are only 13 current people in Maryland prisons that fall under that criteria and they are serving life without parole because of incredibly evil, heinous crimes. SB 494 says that a juvenile can never again be sentenced to life without parole, they have to always have the option of parole and changes the sentence of those serving life without possibility of parole now.

SB 202

This bill takes the governor out of final decisions about paroling a 1st degree murderer or rapist, child predator or any other criminal who received life with possibility of parole. SB 202 gives the unelected parole commission the final say and allows for these prisoners to be up for parole as early as 20 years into their sentence – and that amount can be less with good behavior and education credits. Both of these bills are outrageous, especially when viewed in the context of how the General Assembly went after our police and then also refused to pass bills to crack down on repeat violent criminals. I fought against these bills as hard as I could and expect Governor Hogan to veto them as he should.

Important Anti-Crime Legislation – Going After the Bad Guys for a Change:

SB 852: Violent Firearms Offender Act of 2021- Passed the Senate but not the House

I believe that we need to protect our 2nd Amendment rights while going after those who break the law and harm people. I and my Senate Republican colleagues introduced a crime package to combat the violent crime crisis that continues to plague not just Baltimore City, but the entire State. Included in our package was my legislation, SB 560 to make theft of a handgun a felony (see below). The major Senate Republican proposal, SB0852 – the Violent Firearms Offender Act of 2021 – was a commonsense bill that was the part of Governor Hogan’s 2020 Crime Package that passed the Senate last year with a 43-4 vote, but never received a hearing in the House of Delegates.

An amended version of SB0852 passed the Senate in 2021 with a 32-15 vote. As amended in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, SB852 enhances penalties for using guns in violent crimes, closes the drug dealer loophole, increases penalties for knowingly selling a gun to someone who commits a crime and creates tougher penalties for the use of assault weapons in a crime and illegally possessing and selling firearms. Measures to make the theft of a firearm a felony and several measures impacting bail for repeat violent offenders were amended out of the bill.

Despite pressure from Governor Hogan and Senate Republican Leadership, the Speaker of the House and the House Rules Committee she controls refused to even have a hearing or committee vote on SB0852, so it did not pass.

SB560: Criminal Law – Theft of a Handgun – No movement out of committee

I was the primary sponsor on this legislation that would have imposed a felony conviction for the theft of a handgun. It’s clear to see that handguns are popular with criminals for obvious reasons – among them effectiveness and concealability.  We need to get illegal guns off of the streets of Maryland and reduce the crimes they are used to committee. 

Election Integrity:

SB 838: Proof of Identities - Polling Places – No movement out of committee

I sponsored SB 838 which would require identification at polling locations.  It expanded the use of government ID to include a utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or any other government document that shows the voter’s name and address and is dated within three months before the election, a voter notification card, or the specimen ballot mailed to the voter by a local board of elections. Unfortunately – despite passing a number of other election-related bills to expand absentee and mail voting, the Senate Education, Health & Environmental Affairs Committee did not vote SB 838 out of committee. I will keep fighting for election security in the next Session.

SB0036 – Election Integrity Act – Absentee Voting – Use of an Agent – Agent Requirements and Prohibitions – No movement out of committee

SB0036 aimed to protect against ballot harvesting by requiring that an agent designated to pick-up and deliver an absentee ballot must be a family member or part of the immediate household of the voter. It would also have prohibited a campaign volunteer or candidate from serving as a voter’s agent as well as prohibited an agent from picking up or delivering more than three absentee ballots. Unfortunately, SB0036 did not receive a committee vote.

SB0340 - Election Law - Offenses Related to Voting – Penalties – No movement out of committee

SB0340 attempted to strengthen the punishment for those convicted of voter fraud, voter intimidation, voter suppression and voter impersonation to include the loss of the right to vote for a four-year period. Unfortunately, SB0340 did not receive a committee vote.

SB0233 - Election Law - Absentee Ballots - Envelope Prohibitions, Ballot Status Information, Signature Verification –Bill not moved out of committee, some pieces incorporated into other bills

SB0233 would have prohibited a voter’s party affiliation from being printed on external areas of an absentee (mail-in) ballots as done in the 2020 elections and developed a robust, private and secure, absentee (mail-in) ballot tracking system throughout the entire journey from the time a ballot is requested, processed through the postal service, received at the Board of Elections and finally verified and counted. In addition, SB0233 would have required the Board of Elections to study the best practices of the numerous other states that implement signature verification for safeguarding elections and then report their recommendations to the General Assembly on the best method to implement signature verification for absentee (mail-in) ballots in future elections. Elements of SB0233 were also part of several pieces of Democrat-sponsored legislation but unfortunately, SB0233 never received a committee vote.

HB 369: Election Law – Foreign Manufacture of Election System – Notification and Termination of Contract – Passed

For many years, I have been extremely concerned about the fairness and transparency of American elections. House Bill 369 requires “election service providers” to provide a report when any manufacturing of components of the election system occur outside of the United States. Additionally, a report is required anytime a material change to a component in any stage of manufacturing occurs outside of the United States. Basically, under this legislation, the public will have knowledge when election systems have any foreign connection or involvement. This will help to ensure greater transparency of our elections.

Small Business

SB0205/HB0012 - Alcoholic Beverages - Sale or Delivery for Off-Premises Consumption

Governor Hogan’s Executive Order allowing restaurants to offer carry-out and delivery alcohol service with a food purchase was a success story of the COVID-19 pandemic.

SB0205 enables the counties and Baltimore City to authorize restaurants to continue carry-out alcohol service in closed containers for off-premise consumption through June 30, 2023 – thus extending provisions of Governor Hogan’s Executive Order for another two years. Our members proudly supported extending this lifeline to Maryland’s restaurants as they continue to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic.

SB0205 passed both chambers and is awaiting action from Governor Hogan.

SB0821/HB1232 - Alcoholic Beverages - Manufacturer's Licenses and Off-Site Permits

The bill establishes a manufacturer off-site permit that may be issued to the holder of a Class 1 distillery license, Class 3 winery license, Class 4 limited winery license, Class 5 brewery license, Class 7 micro-brewery license, Class 8 farm-brewery license, or Class 9 limited distillery license. The permit holder may provide samples of (in specified amounts) and sell (for on- and off-premises consumption) alcoholic beverages products that are manufactured by the permit holder. The annual permit fee is $100.

SB0821/HB1232 passed both the House and Senate with wide margins. 

Updates to Maryland’s Tax Credit Programs

Senate Republicans proudly supported efforts by the Department of Commerce to revamp several existing tax credit programs so they would be better utilized and assist more Maryland business.

SB0019 - Economic Development - Biotechnology Investment Incentive Tax Credit Program – Alterations, Study

SB0160 - Economic Development - Cybersecurity Investment Incentive Tax Credit Program - Expansion, Extension, and Study

SB0186 – Economic Development – Job Creation Tax Credit – Credit for Hiring Veterans

SB0196 – Economic Development – Research and Development Tax Credit - Alterations

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. I appreciate receiving your opinions, questions, and input. Please feel free to contact me anytime at (410)- 841- 3683 or [email protected]. I look forward to hearing from you.