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Dear Constituent,

On midnight Monday, the 2022 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 District 5 Delegation. Our top goal is to keep you informed and represent our shared values in Annapolis.

State Budget and Local Funding

Operating Budget

This year, Governor Hogan submitted his Fiscal Year 2023 (FY 2023) Budget, including funding for economic development as well as grants for The Arts and tourism – two sectors still recovering from the COVID economy. This budget also boosted Maryland’s savings by putting an extra $2.6 billion into Maryland’s Rainy-Day Fund and left a $211 million cash balance in the General Fund. Funding is included to reduce the number of autistic youths on the Autism Waiver waiting list, and an increase in provider rates for those who care for vulnerable populations including the elderly, the developmentally disabled, and those in foster care. Funding was restored for providers serving victims of crime. The budget again made record investments in public schools and saved funds for the long-term costs of the expensive Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Implementation- Maryland’s Education Reform. Cash was used to fund $800 million in Capital projects, reducing the amount of borrowing the State would otherwise have to do.

Capital Budget

The Carroll County Delegation worked in a bi-partisan fashion in the General Assembly and with Gov. Hogan to secure key funding for a series of important community projects ranging from helping critical infrastructure upgrades to fixing school playgrounds, and improving quality of life resources for veterans in the county. Below are highlights of the projects that will receive Capital funds.

  • $63,261,000 – New State Veterans Home in Sykesville
  • $6,721,000 – Carroll Community College (Career and Tech Center)
  • $3,251,000 – Carroll Community College (System Renovation)
  • $3,434,283 – New Windsor Wastewater Treatment Plant Enhanced Nutrient Removal Upgrade
  • $3,000,000 – Carroll County New Law Enforcement Building
  • $1,300,000 – McDaniel College (Educational Environmental Spaces)
  • $1,000,000 – Carroll County Youth Service Bureau (Treatment Center Renovation and Addition)
  • $1,000,000 – Westminster - Wakefield Valley Park Improvements
  • $611,000 – Taneytown Roberts Mills Road Water Main Replacement
  • $400,000 – Carroll County Ag Center Shipley Arena Renovations
  • $250,000 – Carroll County Farm Museum Improvements
  • $200,000 – Westminster Historic Clock Tower Restoration
  • $250,000 – The Friends of Cascade Lake – Cascade Recreation and Adventure Park
  • $136,346 – Taneytown – High School Park Skatepark Rehabilitation
  • $113,000 – Westminster Municipal Pool Inclusive Spray Ground Development
  • $100,000 – American Legion Sykesville Memorial Post 223 Building Renovations
  • $100,000 – Sykesville Linear Park Natural Play and Learning Area Improvements
  • $75,000 – Manchester Christmas Tree Park Playground Improvements

Carroll County Delegation Legislative Bond Initiatives

Below are the projects that received funding through Legislative Bond Initiatives:

  • $250,000 - American Legion Post 223 Building Repair
  • $250,000 - Building Upgrade to House Homeless Veterans (CCVIP)
  • $50,000 - Westminster Elementary PTO Playground
  • $50,000 - Hampstead Elementary PTO Playground

Additional Funding for Critical Infrastructure Improvements

  • $5,000,000 for the Town of Union Bridge to fund upgrading the town’s sewer plant and move it out of the flood plain
  • $4,000,000 for the Town of New Windsor to replace its 115-year-old water main
  • $1,000,000 for Carroll County Government for piping infrastructure and the expansion of the water treatment process at the Fairhaven and Raincliffe Water Treatment Plants

Tax Relief

One of the best things about this year’s budget is that it includes $350 million in annual tax relief. This includes an income tax credit for seniors over 65, a work opportunity tax credit for businesses who hire individuals with barriers to employment, and sales tax exemptions on diapers, baby products, medical devices, oral hygiene products, and diabetic products. While we would have preferred a more expansive tax reduction that would have benefitted more households, in a high-tax state like Maryland any tax cut is a good thing.

Senior Tax Credit

Seniors who are 65 and older making up to $100,000 in retirement or other income, and married couples making up to $150,000 will be getting a $1,000/$1,750 tax credit, meaning that amount would come off of the taxes they would owe. We have been fighting for tax relief for our retirees for years, and would like to see the General Assembly continue to expand these efforts, but this is a step in the right direction. Delegate Krebs was lead sponsor of The Retirement Income Tax Relief of 2022 to exempt the first $55,000 of retirement income which would have given individuals a 3 times larger tax reduction.  Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful but not giving up.

Gas Tax Holiday

The Maryland General Assembly passed a 30-day pause in Maryland’s gas tax, which will save Maryland .37 cents per gallon for one month. The bill was signed by Governor Hogan on March 18th, and will stay in effect until April 17th, 2022.   Republicans in the House attempted to extend the gas tax holiday for 90 days that was supported by the Governor and Comptroller, but it was defeated along party lines. Republicans in the Senate and House also attempted to have the automatic gas tax hikes that happen every year stopped but, again, our efforts were defeated along mostly party lines.

Military Retirement Relief

Will increase additional exemptions on military retirees from the first $15,000 of income to the first $20,000.

Sales Tax Exemptions to help Working Families and Seniors

Multiple sales tax exemptions have been passed for child care products such as diapers, car seats, baby bottles, and critical health products such as dental hygiene products, diabetic care products, and medical devices.

HB282 Sales and Use Tax - Diapers - Exemption

Exempts the sale of diapers, diaper rash cream, and baby wipes from sales taxes. This tax exemption will provide financial relief to Maryland families that purchase these everyday necessities.

HB268 Property Tax - Exemptions for Business Personal Property - Alterations

 Delivering some tax relief for small businesses, this legislation will prohibit the State Department of Assessment and Taxation from collecting personal property information or requiring the submission of a personal property tax return from home business by exempting personal property with a total original cost below $20,000. In addition, these eligible small businesses will no longer incur costs associated with filing a personal property tax return. 

Victories from the 2022 Session

Often, our biggest victories are the bad legislation that we are able to defeat.  Here are some examples:

SB669 Pregnant Person’s Freedom Act of 2022 - defeated

Explicitly stated that someone who terminated their pregnancy could not be charged with murder or manslaughter of the viable fetus. There were serious language issues with this bill, which included the potential for someone to commit infanticide and not be charged. This bill did not make it out of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, and was defeated.

HB1171 Declaration of Rights - Right to Reproductive Liberty - defeated

This bill would have enshrined the right to an abortion in the Maryland State Constitution. With some of the most liberal abortion policies in the country already, this bill was effectively a reactionary political statement to some other states limiting or banning abortions. HB1171 was passed out of the House of Delegates, but did not get voted out of the Senate Finance Committee, so the bill was defeated.

SB839 Maryland Voluntary COVID-19 Vaccine Passport - defeated

Would have required the Maryland Department of Health develop and implement an outreach and marketing plan to raise awareness of Maryland MyIR Mobile as a voluntary vaccine passport technology that may be used for verifying proof of COVID-19 vaccination status by an individual, a business, and any other public or private entity in the State.

HB18 Maryland Paint Stewardship (The “Paint Tax”)- defeated

Would create the establishment of a Paint Stewardship Program by the Department of the Environment to create a uniform paint stewardship assessment (tax) for architectural paint (all paint for houses or businesses) sold in the State.  Was passed by the House but never voted out the Senate Committee due to the Democrats’ fear of a repeat of last year’s floor fight on this bill that was led by Senator Ready.

Good legislation we supported:

SB636 Maryland Department of Health - Waiver Programs - Waitlist and Registry Reduction (End the Wait Act) - passed

This bill aims to reduce the number of registrants for certain waiver programs including the Autism Waiver Program. Throughout the years Maryland families have been struggling to receive financial, developmental, and educational assistance to family members with special needs. Families with children who are diagnosed with developmental disabilities turn to waiver programs that would benefit their child during youth. Waitlists can stretch to the thousands and the wait time can take years, even decades. This bill would cut the waitlist by 50% beginning in the year 2024 and provide more funding to waiver programs in order to maximize support to the vulnerable populations in Maryland families.

HB945 Carroll County - Multi-Drawing Raffles - passed

This bill was put in by Delegates April Rose and Haven Shoemaker on behalf of our local fire halls. The bill alters the number of weekly drawings allowed in a multi-drawing raffle that certain organizations in Carroll County may conduct. It raises the number of weekly drawings allowed from 30 to 52. The pandemic had a severe effect on our local fire companies and their ability to fundraise, this bill will allow the fire companies to recoup some of the revenue that has been lost during the past two years.

Recreational Marijuana in Maryland

Legalization of “recreational marijuana” was one of the most anticipated issues of the 2022 Legislative Session. Two bills moved forward. HB 1 - Constitutional Amendment - Cannabis - Adult Use and Possession is a referendum for voters to approve an amendment to the Maryland Constitution legalizing recreational marijuana. HB 837 – Cannabis Reform , was touted as the “nuts and bolts” of how recreational marijuana would be implemented and was supposed to address the associated licensing, criminal justice, taxation and public health implications.

Unfortunately, HB837 was not ready for prime time and failed to address many of these policy concerns. The bill allows individuals to legally possess up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis. Possession of between 1.5 and 2.5 ounces would be subject to a civil citation, and any amount over 2.5 ounces would be subject to existing laws regarding possession with intent to distribute. Individual households can grow up to two marijuana plants. The bill also permits expungement of past convictions of marijuana possession and increases fines for smoking marijuana in public.  We opposed this legislation.

More regulations will follow in future years 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 ballot question established by the passage of HB1.

Bad News from the 2022 Session

SB528 Climate Solutions Now Act of 2022-passed (We opposed)

This 52-page bill is full of radical and dramatic restrictions and changes on how we get energy in our state, heat our homes and go about our daily lives. The "lowlights" of the bill include eliminating natural gas as a heating and energy source in newly constructed commercial buildings starting as soon as 2023, with the goal of retrofitting existing buildings by 2030 as all-electric. As drafted, it also will set goals to have single family homes be rid of fossil fuel energy over time with big reductions due in 2030 as well as a number of other provisions to reach a goal of having Maryland be net-zero emissions by 2045. The bill will, among other things, result in job losses for employees and businesses closing who are involved with natural gas, heating oil and fuel. This action will likely cause the price of heating oil to rise astronomically in the years ahead.  The sponsor and supporters of the bill acknowledged that even if Maryland reaches these costly carbon free goals, there will be no measurable effect on our climate.

HB937/SB890 Abortion Care Access Act - passed (We opposed)

This bill allows for a wide range of health professionals to become licensed in performing abortion procedures. Maryland currently is one of the most assessable in the nation for abortions. The stated goal of this legislation is to increase the number of abortions (to allow for the many out-of-state abortions they are expecting) in Maryland and allow for non-physicians - including midwives and physicians assistants - to perform abortions at any stage of the pregnancy. It also mandates $3.5 million in taxpayer funds be given each year to an outside organization to train and educate health professionals on the performance of abortions. While the bill doesn't specify the organization, it seems likely that it will end up being Planned Parenthood.

SB275 - Labor and Employment - Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program - Establishment (Time to Care Act of 2022) – passed (We opposed)

This bill 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. While the bill certainly has good intentions, it goes too far. It covers a wide variety of “family,” well beyond biological, adopted, step, or custodial. Under the bill, a person could take time off to take care of a long-lost foster sibling, for example. The bill also throws a lot of uncertainty at Maryland businesses with over 15 employees.  With no requirement to how long a person may have been employed at the business prior to taking leave, in theory the employee could start their 12- week leave just a few days after becoming gainfully employed. Benefits will be funded by mandatory contributions (payroll tax) by all workers and employers beginning in 2023. This bill fails to balance the needs of the employees and the employers, making it a bad bill for Maryland. $700,000 was included in the budget for the Department of Labor to lead an actuarially study to determine how much the payroll tax would be for the employers and employees.  The Republicans fought to have the study done first, before passing the legislation so that our constituents know what the costs are going to be of this new entitlement program.

HB425/SB387 Public Safety - Untraceable Firearms – (We opposed)

This bill requires the serialization of guns created from kits and criminalizes possession and sale of un-serialized ghost guns notwithstanding the fact that they are used in a statistically insignificant amount of crime. Republicans in the Senate were able to heavily amend the bill to provide some protections to hobbyists who build guns at home but the bill still requires registration and serialization.

Disappointments

HB1280 Public Schools - Mathematics Credit - College Preparatory Computer Science or Computer Programming Course – Sponsor Del. Rose - Passed in the House but stalled in the Senate

Would allow computer science or computer programming classes to count toward one of the math credit requirements for graduation. This is a practical bill that will allow students flexibility to learn valuable, marketable skills to succeed in the workforce.  There needs to be a higher value placed on computer science and computer programming education in the state’s graduation credit options.

Biggest Disappointment - Lack of Action on Effective Anti-Crime Legislation

Unfortunately, the Democratic majority in Annapolis has refused to take action on the Violent Firearms Offender Act, which would implement harsher penalties for repeat violent criminals. With record crime in Baltimore City and spreading to other jurisdictions, the majority party forced through several “soft-on-crime” proposals that make it harder to deal with juveniles who commit serious crimes. We joined all of our Republican colleagues in supported Governor Hogan’s efforts to address were vocal throughout the entire Legislative Session on the need to take action and fought hard for policies that would improve public safety, support our police and hold criminals accountable. Sadly, these appeals largely fell on deaf ears as the Democratic Majority refused to pass any real common sense, anti-crime initiatives.

Conclusion

It is an honor and a great responsibility to serve you in the Maryland General Assembly and fight every day for conservative principles. We will do our best to continue updating you with future developments. If you have questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out to any of our offices anytime.

 

Sincerely,

                                                       

Senator Justin Ready                                                           Delegate Susan Krebs

                                 

Delegate  April Rose                                                          Delegate Haven Shoemaker