Crime Bills
End of Session NewsLetter

 

End of Session Letter

Highlights of 2018

January 11th - April 10th

 

 Delegate Trent Kittleman - District 9A - trentkittleman@verizon.net

Please forward this email to your family and friends, and encourage them to sign up to receive the weekly News from Annapolis by sending me an email at TrentKittleman@verizon.net.

Dear Neighbor,
        THANK YOU, once again, for the opportunity to be here in Annapolis to serve as your Delegate. I particularly appreciate the email correspondence you send. It gives me important feedback and is a critical part of what I do. I try to answer everyone promptly, but will take extra time if I feel it is warranted to give you a thorough answer.
        In each of the last three years, I have published a weekly online newsletter (News from Annapolis) during the 12 weeks of the legislative session. It is available to everyone who sends me their email address, and each Newsletter can be viewed from the Home Page of my website, TrentKittleman.com.   
        All of the articles in this End-of-Session Newsletter are taken from one of those 12 newsletters. If you're particularly interested in a topic, you will be able to read more in the Newsletter issue referenced.
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Remarkable Improvement in Maryland's Economy
 -- thanks to Governor Hogan!
  • Four years of balanced budgets and no new taxes or fees.
  • Tax, toll, and fee relief totaling $700 million,
  • Provided record education spending for K-12 funding in all four years.
  • Created our nationally recognized workforce development program 
  • Gone from losing 100,000 jobs to gaining nearly 130,000 jobs. 
  • Maryland now ranks 2nd in the rate of private sector job growth
  • Maryland ranks 3rd in the rate of job creation
  • Maryland ranks 4th for entrepreneurial business growth
  • Maryland's unemployment rate stands at just 3.9 percent - the lowest rate in a decade
  • Moved Maryland's overall economic performance rank from # 49 to # 7 in the entire nation!
  • We have been breaking records at the Port of Baltimore for three straight years.
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Redistricting
Supreme Court hears Maryland Redistricting Case
            After four years of trying to bring some degree of rationality back into the process of redistricting in HB356, the Governor's efforts have again been foiled by the majority party . There is still hope, however, that a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court might intervene. Just recently, the Supremes heard the Maryland case of Benisek v. Lamone.
        "This case is unlike any previous challenge to partisan gerrymandering," the Republican voters' lawyer, Michael B. Kimberly, wrote in his appeal in September. "The fact that a gerrymander successfully changes the outcome of an election is strong evidence that the burden inflicted is real."
        " Benisek concerns a rather brazen move by Maryland Democrats to buy themselves an extra representative in Congress In 2012, after the new map was in place, an upstart Democrat unseated a Republican who had spent 20 years in the House of Representatives. It wasn't close: the Democrat won by 21 points, two years after his rival had won re-election by 28 points
        "Justice Elena Kagan explains the reversal of fortunes: the 'Maryland legislature...shuffle[d] 360,000 people out and [brought] in 350,000 people. The result of that is that the district went from 47% Republican and 36% Democratic to exactly the opposite, 45% Democratic and 34% Republican'. This was not happenstance. 
          "' How much more evidence of partisan intent could we need?' Justice Kagan asked Michael Kimberly, the lawyer for Maryland."  Let's hope the nine justices don't come up with a satisfactory answer to that question.
 
Prevailing Wage Laws
               The "prevailing wage" is the hourly rate of wages paid in the locality, and is almost always equal to the Union rates, which are often as much as 30% higher than those of private employers. All contractors on State government construction projects must pay employees the prevailing wage. The prevailing wage law adds considerable expense to most government projects, particularly in the cost of schools.
            The existence of the Prevailing Wage doesn't seem to be necessary to solve any problem; numerous employees work for private employers that may or may not equal the union rate. They do fine.           
            Nonetheless, expanding the Prevailing Wage into new areas seems to be one of the legislative majority's favorite bills.   Every year, there are more.
            To read about the 2018 prevailing wage bills, go to my website, News from Annapolis Week 11.
 
Crime Bills
Truth in Sentencing
          Maryland's criminal justice system seems to be suffering from a unique case of schizophrenia: defendants found guilty of nonviolent crimes are given a specific sentence -- but are eligible for parole after serving just 25% of that time.
           Defendants convicted of violent crimes are sentenced to "life in prison," but are eligible for parole after serving 50% of their sentence (15 years).  
    
      Defendants convicted of any crime other than rape or child sexual abuse can accumulate "diminution credits" at the rate of 10 days per month that further reduce the time served. 
           The current system is unfair to the victims of crime who want to know that the person who victimized them not only receives a fair sentence, but serves it as well.
        The current system is not fair to criminals because defendants are often talked into plea bargains because of the possibility of early parole -- but almost never get paroled early.      
"Diminution Credits"
          A defendant might receive an "active" prison sentence of 10 or 15 years for an offense, but be released before the entire sentence is served based on diminution credits ("dim credits").    
          Inmates can earn dim credits for good behavior.  Each credit reduces his/her sentence by one full day.
  •  An inmate convicted of a nonviolent crime can earn 10 days per month off his sentence, or four months of credit per year!   
  • An inmate convicted of certain crimes of violence can earn up to 5 days a month, or 60 days a year.
  • An inmate convicted of crimes such as rape or sexual offenses against minors is not permitted to earn dim credits.
          But that's not all.  Prisoners are also able to earn five additional days of dim credits for "work-task or special-project credits, and another five days a month by participating in educational programs.
          Inmates are "limited to 20 days' credit per month from all programs."  Twenty dim credit days per month is equal to eight months per year.  In other words, an inmate has the opportunity to reduce his sentence by two-thirds of a year for every year served. 
          Although certain very violent crimes entitle the inmate to accumulate "only" 5 days per month worth of dim credits, it still adds up. 
          When you add in the potential for parole after serving just 25% of a sentence for a nonviolent crime, the actual judge-imposed sentence means very little.   
Violent Crime.  Two years ago, the Legislature passed the bipartisan "Justice Reinvestment Act," revising how we treat nonviolent criminals.
            This year, on the Saturday before Sine Die, my Committee (Judiciary) was able to pass two bills that go after violent, repeat offenders and gun violence -- provisions that were the backbone of Governor Hogan's crime bill.  The Senate will be voting on the bills on Monday - Sine Die, the last day of session.  If passed, the bills will:
  • Expand the wiretapping authority of Maryland prosecutors to gun investigations.
  • Increase penalties for witness intimidation - a significant problem in Baltimore.
  • Make it easier to prosecute sellers of fentanyl, a major contributor to a nationwide spike in overdose deaths, as volume dealers.
Add a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence for a second offense of using a firearm during a felony.
 
 AG Frosh wasting millions of taxpayers' dollars to sue the President
            Since the Legislature gave him the unilateral power last session to initiate lawsuits against the federal government, AG Frosh has been a busy beaver.
            Attorney General (AG), Brian Frosh, has sued the Trump administration at least 20 times to date, using taxpayer money to gain notoriety on the national stage.  
            Recently, AG Frosh spoke at event and called President Trump, "lawless, self-interested, RACIST, and a LIAR."   It is patently inappropriate for an elected official, who is supposed to represent all of the citizens of Maryland, to use such bombastic language against the President of the United States, whomever he or she may be.
       It is even more inappropriate to be using taxpayer funds to create the forum in which to display his intolerance - much less to send out Press Releases touting his latest efforts.
            Most recently, the AG has joined a New York lawsuit challenging the legality of parts of the new federal tax law.
            "These lawsuits have been on a variety of topics, from joining a suit to stop the rollback of a mandate that required free birth control to be provided, health subsidies, net neutrality, student loans, to illegal immigrants.
            "The suits have been wide-ranging and all have been funded by your taxpayer dollars. Frosh is having the opportunity to do all of this thanks to a constitutional amendment law that was passed in the  Maryland General Assembly  last year changed the Maryland Constitution and now gives the Of fice of the Attorney General wide-ranging powers to sue to the federal government without approval from either the Governor or the General Assembly. In other words, the Democrats in the legislature basically deputized Frosh as an unconstitutional fourth branch of government."
from "Maryland's AG is abusing his office for crass politics,"
by Brian Griffiths, The Capital Gazette, April 8, 2018
 
Maryland's struggling pension fund now required to become "politically correct" 
        Maryland's Pension Fund returns are among the lowest in the Nation.  Last year, we had a 10.02% rate of return; the Standard & Poor 500 returned a bullish 14%.
           Over the past 10 years, the returns fell into the bottom 10% of the fund's peer group of other state pensions system.
           "The primary reason for Maryland's pension funding shortfall is that the fund consistently under-performs its investment target," the Maryland Public Policy Institute said in a press release .
            So how did the General Assembly react to this problem?  
            It passed HB 993: MD Pension Climate Change Risk Act that requires the Pension System's Investment Policy Manual to research and include details regarding the management of climate risks when investing the System's assets.
        In addition, it requires the Pension System's Board of Trustees to conduct a climate risk assessment of the Pensions Systems' investments every 4 years. 
          This bill is pure political whimsy that endangers our already-underfunded pension system.  Climate change is a legitimate issue for our time, regardless of where you stand on the issue.  So is gun violence, abortion, domestic abuse, and certain other issues that tend to dominate our culture for a period of time.
         There is a place to address these issues; the State Pension System is NOT that place! 
 
In-depth look at the Federal/State tax conflict
What does the federal tax reform change in the current federal law?
 
        The most significant changes in the new federal tax reform law that affect individuals and families are the following:
  • The federal law doubles the Standard Deduction from $12,000 to $24,000 (for married couples; $12,000 for individual files)
  • The federal law eliminates the personal exemption
  • The federal law caps state and local taxes (SALT) deductions at $10,000
  • The federal law doubles the child tax credit has been doubled from $1,000 to $2,000 per child, and is now available to a broader group of people.
       By doubling the standard deduction, the new law is likely to result in many more people choosing the Standard Deduction as opposed to itemizing, which is both complex and time-consuming.
      MarylandersMUST use the Standard Deduction on their State return IF that is what they use on their federal return.
      The PROBLEM is that many more Marylanders itemize as opposed to using the standard deduction. 
            Governor Hogan plans to protect Marylanders from the Federal Tax Bill Problem .
            "Our goal will be to leave that money in the pockets of hard-working Marylanders," Hogan said in an opening statement at a Board of Public Works meeting. "I am confident that our partners in the General Assembly who have expressed concern over the impact of this tax reform bill will support us unanimously in protecting Marylanders who could be negatively affected. Protecting taxpayers should be a bipartisan issue."
            Unfortunately (but not unsurprisingly) the legislature disagreed.
What Miller & Busch don't want you to know: 
They're NOT Giving it back!
By Delegate Herb McMillan, March 27, 2018
"What they said:
            "We're going to have a Maryland solution to this crap that happened on Capitol Hill. Our people are not going to pay a tax on a tax on a tax." 
            "We're going to flesh this out. We're out here in front...we want to have a solution on how we can help Marylanders retain their tax dollars." 
Speaker Mike Busch, January 16, 2018 Baltimore Sun
            "Here's a breakdown of how the $547 million increase in Maryland state tax revenue (resulting from Federal Income Tax changes) has already been spent or restricted for use by the BURFA (Budget Reconciliation and Finance Act, SB 187). . . . (For simplicity, I'm using rounded numbers.)

 The complexity of tax laws make it easy to make statements that are "true" yet not accurate.  The above in one such "fact"
@ +550 million Increased Tax dollars Maryland received due to Federal Tax Law Changes
@ -150 million Revenue Write-down. The Board of Revenue Estimates determined state revenue from income taxes last year wasn't as high as projected. Rather than making spending reductions to adjust for this reduced revenue, the "tax cut" money you were supposed to get back was spent to cover this shortage.
@ -100 million This money was spent to pay for mandated spending the governor had cut in his BURFA, but the legislature restored. Governor Hogan agreed to the restoration.
@ - 200 million This money was restricted to spending on future education costs; it cannot be used to "make state taxpayers whole", as promised.

           "$100 million is what's left "to make taxpayers whole" out of $550 million; and that's "wholly" unacceptable.

            "This $450 million "stealth" Maryland state income tax increase will decrease the benefit of the Federal tax cut for working families. Less than 19% of the state's "tax cut" revenue will be returned to the people who earned it - despite public commitments to the contrary

            "Now, if the Federal tax changes jacked up  Maryland  tax revenue by $550 million, and you're keeping/or restricting $450 million of it, I really don't see how you're helping Marylanders get back their tax dollars; what you're doing is taking them."
 
            To read about what Governor Hogan's "Protecting Maryland's Taxpayer Act" proposed, go to my website and click on Week 3.
            For a comprehensive analysis of the federal impact on Maryland taxpayers, including a link to the Maryland Comptroller's "60-Day Report" on the issue, go to my website and click on Week 
 
The Good . . .
HB 165/502: "Property Tax Credit - Widow or Widower of Veteran" 
            Last year, the legislature passed a bill to give veterans over 65 years of age a credit on their property taxes, "not to exceed 20% of the county...property tax," for up to five years.  The bill neglected to apply the right to that tax credit for widows or widowers of the veteran.  This bill corrects that oversight.
            [Note: if you are interested in political gamesmanship, here is an example.  I filed my bill early on, evidenced by its low number (165).  The day my bill was heard, the (Democrat) bill being heard right before mine was identical to mine, but filed well after my bill (HB 502). I'll let you guess which bill was passed.]
           Nonetheless, the important thing is that the bill passed, and widows or widowers of veterans will be able to qualify for this reasonable tax credit.
Bill revoking parental rights of rapists Signed into Law by Governor Hogan
            Maryland was among six states without any law on the books to let rape victims terminate an attacker's parental rights when a child is conceived by rape.   This is the 10th year a bill to bring Maryland into the fold has been introduced. Nine times the bill has failed; this year was different.
          Designated  HB-1  in the House and SB-2 in the Senate, the bills had the support of leadership, and was quickly passed by both the House and the Senate. Governor Hogan proudly signed the bill into law on February 13th.
        The law allows rape victims to ask a court to terminate the parental rights of the rapist, even if their attacker has not been convicted.   A woman will need to provide "clear and convincing" evidence a rape has occurred. Although this is a lower standard of proof than the "beyond a reasonable doubt" threshold required in criminal cases, it is a higher standard than "preponderance of the evidence." More than two dozen states have similar laws.
Bill to ban youth football in elementary and middle schools DEFEATED
             House Bill 1210 that was introduced this year would have banned not only youth football, but all contact sports in elementary and middle schools, out of a concern for head injuries. News from Annapolis Week 5 included a yes/no survey and also asked for your thoughts.  Sixty percent of the respondents were against such a ban.
          The comments were thoughtful.  For example, one respondent wrote: "[I] Support putting restrictions on plays, such as heading a soccer ball and deliberate helmet to helmet contact.  Don't support banning all contact sports across the board.  Lots of benefits to sports as well, including flag football as an alternative to tackle football."
            Another bill (HB 552) would have required extensive training and regulation. The primary objection to both the ban and "extensive regulation" was government intrusion into our lives.  As a respondent wrote: "I could support it [extensive regulation], but it is a personal decision, not the Legislature's. Can we get the government out of our personal lives?"
            Both bills were defeated this year in committee.
Sanctuary Bill Defeated, Again
            HB 1461 was introduced this year with the same provisions as last year's bill, but with a new name; this year's version was titled the "SAFE Act" (Supporting All Families Everywhere).  The sponsors had to work hard to come up with that acronym, and even harder trying to rouse support.  This year, they weren't even able to get a Senator to cross-file the bill.  Moreover, this year two bills were introduced that would have specifically prohibited   Maryland from becoming a sanctuary state"
           HB 1549  was introduced by 9A Delegate Warren Miller.  Its title was: "Sanctuary Laws" for Illegal Aliens - Prohibition."
           HB 1308  was introduced by Minority Whip, Kathy Szeliga.  It was titled:  Undocumented Immigrants - Transfer to United States Department of Homeland Security, and called the "Keep Our Communities Safe Act of 2018."
            They both died -- but so did the "SAFE Act."  I doubt this bill will come back next year
 
 . . .and the not-so-good
HB 420: In-State Students - Scholarship Expansion
            The issue of illegal or undocumented immigrants continues to divide Marylanders, as the Legislature persists in awarding them more and more benefits.
            The title of this misleading bill should be "Those who pay in-state tuition - Scholarship Expansion." This bill is cleverly crafted to open up almost $90 million of college scholarship aid (through the Delegate Rawlings Educational Excellence Award) to undocumented students by redefining the "in-State" eligibility criteria to include anyone "eligible to pay in-State tuition."
            Ever since 1996, federal law prohibits undocumented immigrants from obtaining a post-secondary education benefits that U.S. citizens cannot obtain. 
            The Fiscal Note to HB 420, prepared by the legislature's Department of Legislative Services, states:
          "To get around the federal law, states that have passed in-state tuition benefits for undocumented immigrants, have crafted legislation that bases eligibility on where a student went to high school [meaning someone eligible for "in-state tuition"], not immigration status."
        Maryland gave undocumented immigrants the right to pay "in-state tuition" in 2011, under the Maryland Dream Act.
                 And HB 420 adds specific language that an individual is eligible for an award under the Delegate Howard P. Rawlings Educational Excellence Awards Program (Subtitle 18-303) if the individual is eligible for in-state tuition.
Delegate Trent Kittleman
District 9A, Western Howard County and Southern Carroll County (Sykesville)
Room 202, Lowe House Office Building
6 Bladen Street,   Annapolis, MD 21401
410-841-3556  *   Trent.Kittleman@House.State.MD.US
Interim Office
3000 Kittleman Lane,  West Friendship, MD 21794
301-661-3344  *   trentkittleman@verizon.net
Administrative AideChelsea Leigh Murphy
Friends of Trent Kittleman, Bill Oliver, Treas.