News from Annapolis
2016 Session: Week 2                        Delegate Trent Kittleman - District 9A

Highlights of Week 2

Governor Hogan vetoed only a handful of the 692 bills passed last year.  I stood with Governor Hogan and voted to sustain his vetoes.  Unfortunately, the leaders in the House and Senate put politics in front of common sense. 

The bills included:
  • A bill that will allow felons to vote before they have completed their sentences,
  • A bill that prevents law enforcement from pulling over a driver they see smoking marijuana, and
  • A bill that allows immediate seizure of property, an action that police use to seize the money of drug dealers.
    The only hold out is the Felon Voting bill in the Senate. While the veto was overridden in the House, Senate President Miller lacks the votes to override the Governor's veto and is waiting for a vacant Senate seat to be appointed before bringing it up for a vote. Vetoes must be overridden by both chambers.

    To see how the members voted, click the links below:


    Felon Voting:                           House Vote

    Marijuana Bill:                          House Vote     
     
    Seizure and Forfeiture:        House Vote     
     
    Travel Tax                                 House Vote    

Bills of Interest . . . or Interesting Bills
Over 200 bills have been filed in the House at this point -- of the 3,000 or s that have been requested.

HB 88    You might be happy to know that some of your legislators have proposed this bill to prohibit automated cars from going out on the road by themselves.  They must be accompanied by a licensed adult, ready to take over at a moments notice. . . sort of like student driver requirements.

HB 106  This is another in the series of bills designed to expand rights of criminals.  This bill puts ex-convicts into "reentry-into-society status" and on par with all of the other "protected classes" --  race, color, religion, sex, family status, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability -- for the purpose of "fair housing."   It extends the protection of "non-discrimination" to ex-convicts to buy, rent or lease residential space anywhere -- even in an owner-occupied single family household.  For example, when your oldest child goes to college, and you need to rent his room to help with tuition, you would now be required by law to rent to an ex-felon, regardless of his or her crime.  The only "protection" written into the law is the provision that you need not rent to someone whose tenancy would constitutes a direct threat to the health or safety of other individuals, or result in substantial physical damage to the property of others.  But who makes that determination?
 
HB 109  Requires every local school system to include a la carte food and drink items on their monthly dining menus.
 
HB 111  Requires any individual who sells a dog or a cat to provide the buyer with a health certificate, dated no more than 30 days before the sale, from a licensed veterinarian, and to disclose any illness, disease, or condition that the seller knows or should have known about at the time of sale. Violating this law a criminal misdemeanor with a fine up to $1,000. Commercial, non-profit and government entities are not covered by the bill.

HB116  Delegate Tony O'Donnell has put in a bill to repeal the automatic consumer-price-index increase on gasoline that the last administration adoptedThis was one of Governor Hogan's initiatives last year. It's not likely to pass, but it's important to make the effort.

HB 197   The "Maryland Pay Stub Transparency Act of 2016."  Despite the fact that businesses - particularly small businesses - name over-regulation as their number one concern, we still see bills like this.  This bill does the following:
  • Requires wage records to be kept now for at least 3 years (with a penalty of up to$2,500)
  • Expands the types of wage records that employers are required to keep
  • Requires employers to give employees a specified written notice within one week after the first date of employment
  • Expands the information that employers are required to give to employees at the time of hiring and for each pay period
  • Requires employers to provide employees with an explanation of how wages were calculated, initially and upon the request of an employee
  • Requires notices to be provided in a language other than English and any other language deemed necessary.
  • Expands causes of action, and who can bring suit
  • Increases awards and liquidated damage penalties
 HB 177  This bill is titled, "Prohibition on Marking Flags - Repeal." I thought it might be a bad bill, but when I read it, I'm glad the sponsors put it in. Otherwise, might be in cahoots with criminals! Apparently, it's currently illegal to sell, manufacture, give, or possess for sale or give an article of merchandise on which a flag is produced . . . to . . .decorate . . . the merchandise. The way I read this, all of our tee shirts, scarfs, jewelry, and other wearable apparel decorated with the Maryland flag (or the U.S. flag) would be banned. 
HB 178 "Roadside Trees - Preservation and Protection. This bill takes a perfectly good law to protect roadside trees and turns it into an environmental nightmare. The first sign is a new "policy" provision. The first section lists the environmental and ecological benefits, with five specific benefits outlined in subsections. The second, one-sentence section acknowledges that there are some "social and economic benefits." The new law specifically eliminates the option of maintaining or removing a roadside tree "for the purpose of improving the general aesthetic appearance of the right-of-way." Another new provision now prohibits a person not just from maintaining or removing a roadside tree, but also "or in any manner injur[ing] a roadside tree." Next comes the imposition of a fee - of $250 -- for the permit that is required to maintain or remove a roadside tree. And finally, the bill introduces yet another reporting requirement, requiring the Department of Natural Resources to issue an annual report to the General Assembly that gives the number of permits issued, what they were for, and any enforcement actions taken.


The Governor's Budget
On Wednesday, Governor Hogan introduced a balanced budget that funds a record-high funding for education and keeps the commitment to fund Project Open Space., while also funding all the mandated spending demanded by the legislature. Unique to Maryland, the state budget is created by the governor and submitted to the legislature which can only cut and not increase spending.
 
An astounding 83% of the state budget is "mandated spending," put in place by legislators as they create ongoing programs with the requirement of ongoing spending. For example, this year, HB 110 creates a "nonlapsing fund" to "assist local law enforcement agencies in establishing law enforcement explorer programs to give young adults an opportunity to learn more about careers in the field of law enforcement." This nonlapsing fund is to be funded annually by an appropriation of $400,000 from the general fund. While $400,000 may seem like a small amount, and the program may seem worthy, each such program ties up money not only in the current year, but forever after.

Nonetheless, Governor Hogan has been able to fund things of importance as well as to find savings in the 17% over which he has direct control.  Local governments, who suffered for eight years as the previous administration forced them to do more with less, benefit a great deal from Governor Hogan's budget plan. Local aid is increasing to every jurisdiction in the state. This includes an 18% increase local transportation funds, including Highway User Revenue, dollars that were taken from counties in years past to balance the state budget. Local governments have been struggling to get this funding restored so they can maintain local roads, bridges, and infrastructure. Governor Hogan's budget is a positive step for them. Local governments are also benefitting from increases to education aid, with every jurisdiction seeing an increase in per pupil spending, as well as a 10% increase in police aid. 

  • Historic investment in K-12 education for the second straight year.
  • Prioritizes neglected Highway User Revenue funds and invests in roads ad bridges, statewide.
  • Provides overdue tax relief for struggling retirees, working families and small businesses
  • Expands opportunities for job creators and economic deveopment
  • New inestments to fight the heroin and opioid epidemic
  • Record level of investment for Chesapeake Bay restoration
9A District News
Each year, well before session, local legislative delegations meet to consider bills that will apply only to their own county. The delegation then holds a public hearing to solicit the thoughts of the community. Finally, the delegations hold a voting session to determine which of these bills will be submitted as "local bills."
Carroll County
Carroll county proposed a number of local bills this year that met with no opposition from the public or the delegates.  One bill the delegation chose not to introduce was a bill to change the manner in which a vacant seat on the Board of Commissioners is filled to allow for a special election.  After vigorous debate, the legislators were unable to resolve two serious problems with the bill.
 
First, although the concept of a "special election" sounds good, when the actual details of who, what, how, when and where were applied, the complexity of the issue coupled with the goal of limited spending and maintaining the party of the incumbent who left, could not be solved.
 
The second problem that concerned the delegates was removing the task from the party Central Committees. Filling vacant seats is the singular perk of Central Committees. In general, the position is hard work, no pay, and very often, no thanks. But more than that, Central Committee members are elected by the voters, so they can reasonably act in the interest of the voters - without the cost of conducting a special election. 

Howard County
In addition to six bond bills, three liquor bills, and a bill to include county deputy sheriffs in those eligible for certain partial disability claims, there were four bills that garnered considerable testimony.
  1. "Practice of Massage - Regulation."  Howard County is ranked 8th nationally, in number of human trafficking crimes.  One of the primary locations into which trqffickers send these vulnerable young women is into the less-reputable massage parlors that populate parts of Howard County.  This bill, sponsored by Delegate Flanagan, would give police officers a reasonable cause to go into such places - an option that they do not now have.
  2. For the 2nd year in a row, Delegate Miller sponsored a bill to reduce the county income tax rate from 3.2% to 2.7%.
The two most contentious bills both related to the Howard County School System. The first was to change the manner of electing the school board from at-large to by district. The second bill was designed to assist the public in accessing school system records and documents under the Public Information Act (PIA).

Both of these bills were prompted by a significant concern from parents that the school system is denying them information that they are entitled to under PIA, and that their special needs children are not getting an adequate education. The testimony at the December 1st hearing in Howard County. The School Board, the school Superintendent, and many of her administration (including a number of school principals) testified against both bills, arguing that they were complying with the PIA law and that elections by district was not a good idea. A number of parents also testified, most of whom gave personal examples of how they felt the system had failed them and their children.
The delegation met this past week and voted on all but the two education bills. The vote was in favor of sponsoring all of the bills, but Delegate Miller's tax reduction bill. A date for voting on the two school system bills has not yet been set.


General Information
Invitation to District 9 Night in Annapolis
District 9 Night in Annapolis will be on Monday, March 7 from 6:00-8:00pm.  Join me, along with Senator Bates, along with Delegates Flanagan and Miller for a glimpse into our legislative session! Mark your calendars, more information will be coming soon!
Scholarship Information
District 9A residents attending a college, university, trade school or equivalent in the State of Maryland are eligible for the Delegate Scholarship. Current high school seniors and full-time (12+ credits per semester) or part-time (6-11 credits per semester), degree-seeking undergraduate students, graduate students, and students attending a private career school may apply. 
 
Should you have any questions regarding the application process, please call my Annapolis office and ask to speak with Chelsea Leigh Murphy at 410-841-3556.  Please be sure to have your completed application postmarked by April 10, 2016.

Please be sure to have your completed application postmarked by April 10, 2016.

Click here to download the scholarship application for the 2016-2017 academic year. 

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 Ai de:  Chelsea Leigh Murphy