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Leadership

2018 Regular Session Report

Now that my first term in Annapolis is complete, I wanted to take this time to share with you a report on what was accomplished during the 438th Session of the Maryland General Assembly. As I left the Chamber on Sine Die just after midnight, I was reflective on the past four years and what a privilege it has been to serve as your Delegate and your voice in Annapolis. Every day as I stepped foot on the House floor in our Historic State House, I thought about the very few individuals who have been given the public’s trust to do the people’s work. I hope you know that I have taken this job seriously and have done my utmost best to be prepared every day and keep you informed on the issues that you have told me matter the most to you and your family.

This year over 3,200 bills were introduced. I am proud to tell you that 10 of my bills were passed and are awaiting the Governor’s signature. I had a few other bills pass that I worked on with other legislators so this has been a very productive session. Additionally, 3 of my 4 bond bills for Harford County capital projects were funded for a total of $471,000. They are as follows:

HB 333 - Allocates $125,000 to the Sexual Assault/Spouse Abuse Resource Center (SARC) in Harford County for renovation and expansion of SARC’s Safehouse Shelter. The project will increase the current facility by adding 13,398 sq. ft. and increases the available emergency beds from 28 to 40. The expansion also includes much needed additional family living, student study, and kitchen space.

HB 970 - Awards $250,000 to establish the Aberdeen Proving Ground Discovery Preview Center at the Aberdeen Train Station. This is similar to the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore's Inner Harbor. The project is a public-private partnership. Education, technology, and heritage come together to help enhance our mathematics, engineering, and technology (STEM) workforce develop by using APG’s contributions to society as a teaching tool. The Preview Center will be the first phase of a full 10,000 square foot Discovery Center that is planned to open in 2022 in the Aberdeen area. The Center will provide area students and visitors the opportunity to interact with technology and STEM professionals in meaningful ways to encourage career development, training opportunities, internships and job placement to enhance our county’s future workforce.

HB 1713 - Allocates $96,000 for the renovation and property improvements to the recently acquired Historic Havre de Grace Colored School. The Colored School Foundation in partnership with the non-profit Community Projects of Havre de Grace, Inc. now owns and maintains this historic facility. These funds will be used in order to upgrade the school to a safe and visitor ready condition. By upgrading the school, alumni will have a place to tell their story of the struggle for civil rights, education in Harford County during segregation, the progress we’ve made as a community over the last 53 years, and the challenges we still face.  The last segregated class graduated from this school in 1965.

Protecting Maryland Taxpayers

As a fiscal conservative, I have always worked to ensure that your tax dollars are used in an efficient and effective manner. In addition, I have worked with my colleagues to protect the citizens of Maryland from tax increases, and sponsored legislation to support of military veterans.
 
HB 327 – Military Income Tax Relief
As introduced, the bill would have exempted all military retirement income from state taxes, The House amended the bill to phase in full exemption incrementally over the next four years until completed in 2022. This is the first time such a bill has passed one Chamber. The Senate again amended the bill to eliminate full exemption but expand our existing pension exemption from $10,000 per year to $15,000 per year and lowered the age for claiming the pension exemption to age 55, down from 65 years old. While the amended bill did not get us to 100% tax relief, it is a giant step forward.  Having represented APG for 12 years, I am well aware of the contributions our veterans and their families have made to our freedom therefore it was my honor to be the lead sponsor of this bill along with a former Marine, Delegate Pat Young of Baltimore County. Passed and will be signed into Law.

HB 365 – Restoring Personal Exemptions
Without this legislation, 92% of all Marylanders who claim personal exemptions would have paid $1.2 billion more in State and local taxes this year, and nearly $800 million more in taxes per year starting next year due to the recently passed Federal tax bill. House Bill 365 will save 92% of Marylanders roughly $400, on average. This bill was passed by the General Assembly unanimously and is headed to Governor’s desk for his signature.

HB 570 & SB 318 – Increasing the Standard Deduction
The General Assembly unanimously increased our standard deduction by $250 for single taxpayers and $500 for joint filers; the first increases in three decades. To account for inflation, these bills will increase the standard deduction every single year moving forward. These bills will save almost 60% of Maryland taxpayers close to $90 million every year.

Health Care
From the initial announcement of a Freestanding Medical Facility several years ago, I have been a vocal proponent for access to health care for the surrounding communities in Harford and Cecil Counties most effected by the impending closure of Harford Memorial Hospital. Since that time I have watched this proposal develop and have been in continual contact with community leaders, the leadership at the Maryland Hospital Association, Upper Chesapeake Health and the University of Maryland Medical System in order to advocate for a full service hospital. I continue to have concerns and demand that the process be open and transparent to all concerned citizens and stakeholders. In response I have sponsored legislation in past sessions and again this year I sponsored House Bills 614, 1540 and 1621. Unfortunately, these bills did not receive a vote as they faced stern opposition from the Maryland Hospital Association. Disappointingly, no local officials took a position on any of my healthcare legislation

HB 614 - Hospital Employee Retraining and Economic Impact
This bill would require hospitals that close or downsize to fund a worker retraining and job placement program for the employees that are displaced. This retraining would insure that health care professionals in rural communities (such as the closure of Harford Memorial Hospital) are better prepared for changes and not left in the unemployment line. Some 700 workers are employed at Harford Memorial Hospital. The total training fund of $1.5 million will come from .01% assessment placed on all hospitals in Maryland since they would likely benefit from a newly trained workforce. Maryland’s hospitals revenues last year totaled nearly $15 billion, so I think this is reasonable. The Senate sponsor and I agreed to work together to negotiate amendments. We were successful in passing an amended bill out of the Senate but time ran out to move it through the House. The same thing happen to this bill last year.  Thanks to Senator Brian Feldman, District 15 Montgomery Co. for your tireless help, guidance and partnership on this bill. 
 
HB 1540 - Health Care Facilities - Closing or Partial Closing - Public Notice
This bill would have required the Maryland Health Care Commission to publish a notice of the proposed closing or partial closing of a health care facility within 10 days after receiving the notice from the facility to all elected representative in the service area. The Commission would be required to ensure that the proposed plan is available to the public for review. In addition, the Commission would be required to publish the notice in a locally circulated paper for 2 weeks in the region of the proposed closure and provide a written/mailed notice of any informal meetings or public hearing.  Notice would also be required to be posted at the health care facility and public facilities in the geographical area. This legislation also sets requirements of what is to be included on the notice of closure or partial closure. 

HB 1621- Harford Memorial Hospital Closure - Economic Impact Study.
If enacted, this legislation would have directed the Department of Commerce to conduct a study on the economic impact of the closure of Harford Memorial Hospital in Havre de Grace, and the transfer of its services to another location. It also would have required the Department to develop a revitalization plan for the City and report all its findings to members of the Senate Finance Committee and the House Economic Matter Committee. The closure of Harford Memorial, which covers 9 acres of downtown Havre de Grace, has a direct impact on our residents, businesses, and greater tax base of the city, therefore I believe this study would have been an important tool as to how we move forward after the hospital downtown closes. 

Education

SB 1122 - Casino Lockbox: The General Assembly passed legislation allowing voters to decide whether all of the State’s casino money should be spent on K-12 public education. If this is approved by referendum, Senate Bill 1122 would require the State to gradually increase education funding until fiscal year 2023, when 100 percent of casino funds would be used for supplemental education spending. This funding is important to insure that our students are learning in safe and modern facilities, and that our teachers are given the proper tools to educate more effectively, and are provided more adequate compensation packages.

SB 1265 - Maryland School Safety Act: This legislation provides additional funding for school safety, adds active shooter training to school emergency drills, collects data on current implantation of school resource officers (SRO), and directs the Maryland Center for School Safety to conduct school safety evaluations and determine how many SRO’s are needed in each school.

 

The Budget
We passed a responsible and bipartisan budget that is fiscally responsible and balanced. It is aimed at controlling spending, attracting new businesses to the state and creating jobs. The state has made strides this year in closing the structural deficit and adding to our savings account. Once again, there was no tax increases, raids on funds or expansion to the structural deficit. We were able to preserve and expand funding for education, school construction, health care, and programs that provide assistance to small businesses negatively affected by highway construction projects. The budget includes $7.6 billion dollars in aid to local governments, tax reductions for seniors, working families, first responders, and veterans, and $30 million additional dollars for school safety. Additionally, I’m proud to report that funding has been preserved for the Chesapeake Bay Fund.

Supporting Police and Public Safety:
I have always been proud to support the men and women who provide safety, security, and freedom for our community and country. These individuals truly represent some of the best our nation, state and county has to offer. Provided below are summaries of the bills I sponsored.

HB 83/SB 73 - Deputy Sheriffs and Correctional Officers – Collective Bargaining
The General Assembly passed SB 73 authorizing a representative of the Harford County Deputy Sheriffs and Correctional Officer’s Union in the Office of the Sheriff of Harford County to bargain collectively with the Harford County Sheriff and the Harford County Executive on wages and benefits packages. Last session, I was proud to have worked with our Sheriff's Deputies to draft and sponsor similar legislation (HB 1431) to grant this authority. While the bill passed the House and Senate unfortunately, the bill did not get back to the House by midnight with the Senate amendments on the last day of Session therefore it died. I'm so pleased the House and Senate delegations were able to pass the bill this year. – Passed and signed into Law

HB 971 - Local Pension Systems - Special Disability Retirement Allowance
This bill would establish that local pension plans provide law enforcement officers a 66.67% disability retirement pension following a line of duty injury, if they are no longer able to work. This bill was later amended to 50% disability retirement pension in committee. This bill is in response to a police officer shooting in Aberdeen that resulted in the officer taking early retirement on disability, then quickly discovering that Aberdeen’s disability pension was much lower as a percentage of a police officer’s wages than many other larger departments. This is not a unique case to Aberdeen, and is found in many smaller departments throughout the state. The bill passed the House, but ran out of time to get a hearing and vote in the Senate.

HB 1542 – Employment in the State’s Defense Industry – Study            
Requiring the Department of Commerce, in conjunction with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation, to conduct a study on employment and economic impact of the State’s defense industry. As we face the next Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) in 2022 we need to be prepared with economic and employment data to protect the jobs that exists and grow our defense workforce. The last study on the defense sector was completed in 2011. Passed and will be signed into Law.

HB 1543 - Tow Trucks – Driver Safety Act
This bill was in response to the significant increase in accidents regarding tow truck drivers responding to other accidents, including the unfortunate loss of life that took place on the Tydings Bridge on I-95 last summer. This bill would have required a registered tow truck manufactured on or after October 1, 2018 to be equipped with a yellow or amber light or signal device. This bill also sets a requirement to a registered tow truck operator to display reflective paint or markings on the rear of the vehicle. The bill passed the House but regrettably ran out of time to get a vote in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. Fortunately the Committee Chairman has said that he will work with me and cross-file the bill next session.

Public Accountability, Ethics & Worker Protection

HB 615 – Municipalities – Charter Amendments – Procedures
Requires municipalities to hold a public hearing and give advance notice of the public hearing when the governing body is considering amending the municipal charter. Currently a municipality is only required to give notice to the public within 40 days after a charter amendment has been adopted. No public hearing was previously required by state law. I want to thank the Maryland Municipal League for their support and working with me to draft a bill all parties could support. Passed and will be signed into Law.

HB 1469 – Ethics – Boards of License Commissioners
Establishes that certain training requirements provided by the State Ethics Commission apply to members of local boards of license commissioners or liquor boards, and expands the financial disclosure requirements for the members on the local boards. This bill is to prevent future corruption cases recently reported from various boards across the State, and is an extension of legislation I sponsored last session. Passed and will become Law

HB 1539 - Contractor Payment Protection Act
Gives a general contractor a mechanism to hold a sub-contractor or their subordinate contractor jointly liable for failure to pay employee wages, and requires the faulting subcontractor to compensate the general contractor for any wages, damages, interest penalties, or attorney's fees owed as a result of the subcontractor's violations. This bill will protect general contractors from unreliable subcontractors, will ensure wages are paid, and supports small businesses and new businesses with limited cash flow. Thank you to Senator Kathy Klausmeier of Baltimore County, for your support and sponsoring the cross-filed legislation in the Senate. Passed

Economic Matters

I am fortunate to be assigned by the Speaker to the Economic Matters Committee, and to the subcommittees on Alcoholic Beverages and Business Regulation. Among the issues our committee deals with is oversight of the Public Service Commission, utilities and communication regulation. Some hot topics include offshore wind, regulation of internet advertising, and Net Neutrality. One important bill for our community was HB 1126.

HB 1126 – Public Service Commission – Overhead Transmission Lines
This bill will require the Public Service Commission to consider certain factors prior the issuance of a permit and Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity for an overhead transmission line. This includes the effect on air quality, the study of alternative routes for transmission lines the applicant considered, and a justification for each route rejected, including the estimated capital and operating costs of each alternative route. This is in response to the proposed Transource power lines application through North Harford, and the outcry by the community to preserve protected land for agriculture. Passed

• Consumer Protection
As one of two delegates in the entire House of Delegates assigned to the Cyber Security Council, I continue to work on bills to protect consumer, businesses, and our electronic infrastructure from known and unknown threats in this digital age. HB 710 prohibits a consumer reporting agency from charging a fee for the placement of a security freeze requested by a consumer or a consumer representative, and prohibits a consumer reporting agency from charging a fee for the temporary lift or removal of a security freeze that has been placed on the consumer's credit report. I was happy to work as the lead co-sponsor on this bill with its sponsor, Delegate Ned Carey from Anne Arundel Co who is also assigned to the Cyber Security Council. Passed

• Alcoholic Beverages
Over the past several months Comptroller Peter Franchot has become the self-imposed promoter of the craft brewery industry in Maryland. While his advocacy is noble and I support his intent, his constitutional duty as the sole regulator of alcohol make it inappropriate for him to take on such a role. It is important to note that alcohol is one of the most regulated industries in which the State and Federal Government must provide oversite. Under State Law, the Comptroller’s powers are so broad that he has the power to investigate, search, seize, and confiscate property. This is some of the broadest powers of the government. As a legislator, it is my belief that these powers must remain in check.

No doubt you heard that two former legislators where investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), charged, and found guilty of misuse of power to influence state legislation. One was a member of my committee. When I found out, I sponsored sweeping ethics reform legislation in the 2017 Session and it was signed into law.  Once again this year because I take the responsibility of public officials seriously, I sponsored additional ethics legislation that passed and is awaiting the Governor’s signature. Given these circumstances, I could not support any legislation derived from the State’s Chief Alcohol Regulator, Comptroller Peter Franchot. I have, and will continue to have a positive working relationship with him, and the craft beer industry.  Moving forward I will work with industry leaders and craft beer makers to draft legislation during the interim for next year.

As a member of the Alcoholic Beverages Subcommittee, I worked with small businesses and advocates to introduce a package of bills to support both the agricultural and business communities here in Harford County and across Maryland. I’m pleased to report that all 4 bills I introduced passed and will be signed into Law.

HB 270 – Brewing Company and Winery Off-Site Permits – Harford County Farm Fair
Adds the Harford County Farm Fair to the list of county fairs that allow a brewing company or winery with a valid MD license to have an off-site events permit. This bill will support Harford County’s growing independent and small breweries and wineries by allowing the sale of samples of craft brewery beverages and wines.

HB 972 – Class 4 Limited Winery License
This bill supports MD Agriculture and MD's wineries. This bill requires a class 4 limited winery license holder that advertises as a "Maryland made wine" to use at least 51% of the grapes or fruit grown in MD or have at least 20 acres of grapes or other fruit in cultivation in the State for use in wine production. The Secretary of Agriculture each year may grant a 1 year exception for weather or unforeseen circumstances. 

HB 1343 – Allowing Stadium Alcohol – Vendors
This bill applies to the alcohol sales at Ripken Stadium. Currently, beer, wine, and liquor are permitted for sale on the club level only. Beer is the only alcohol permitted to be sold on the general admission level. This bill will allow the general admission customers access to wine and liquor at the vendor booth and only beer sales by roaming vendors in the stands. This legislation puts Ripken Stadium on par with all other sports stadiums in Maryland in regards to the sale of alcoholic beverages.

HB 1498 – Harford County – Alcoholic Beverages Licenses - Social Organizations
Adds to the Harford County Alcoholic Beverages Code regarding Class C-3 licenses by expanding the 6 and 7 day license to include social organizations, and setting standards and minimums for such social organizations that hold a Class C-3 license. This bill supports small businesses here in Harford who choose to sell alcoholic beverages for social gatherings at their place of business.

Heritage/ Cultural / Tourism

HB 1503, Canvasback duck - Designation as the State waterfowl
Would have designated the canvasback duck as the Maryland State Waterfowl. l received support by many of my fellow delegates but never received a vote in the House committee it was assigned. I even tried amending another bill on the House Floor (the amendment failed).  However, I am not dissuaded. Some things in life take time, and this is no exception. Our district stretches from the Susquehanna Flats in Havre de Grace to the banks of the Gunpowder River near Joppatowne, and I will continue to advocate for preserving our rich cultural history while looking to the future to find innovative ways to link our waterfront communities together.

A few state-wide issues of interest are as follows:
 
HB 1 – Earned Sick Leave (2017) The General Assembly overrode Governor Hogan’s veto of the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act, which requires companies with 15 or more employees to provide up to five days of earned sick leave annually. Companies with less than 15 employees will simply have to provide unpaid leave under the same conditions. Companies with an existing policy that exceeds the requirements may maintain their current policy. Over 700,000 Marylanders will benefit from this common-sense legislation that gives working families peace of mind by not forcing them to make the impossible decision of missing out on a paycheck, or taking care of a sick child or relative because everyone gets sick.

Highway User Funds Restoration - HB 807 The General Assembly passed legislation to increase the amount of highway user funds distributed to Baltimore City, the counties, and municipalities. These increases in funding will start in fiscal year 2020 and scale up through fiscal year 2024. At full phase in, this legislation will provide $60 million per year to Maryland’s counties and $37 million per year to Maryland’s municipalities. These much needed restored funds will be used to maintain and replace aging highway infrastructure in our communities.

Rape Survivor Protection Act - HB 1 (2018) This legislation protects victims of sexual assault by allowing the court to remove the parental rights of their attacker. The success of this bill was the result of many interested parties and advocates working together to draft a piece of legislation that passed the General Assembly unanimously. I was proud to co-sponsor this bill originally sponsored by my seatmate, Delegate Kathleen Dumais. Maryland joins 30 other states by enacting this important piece legislation.