News from Annapolis
2017 Session:  Week 9                       Delegate Trent Kittleman - District 9A
  • Too many bills...too little time
  • National Politics Infects Annapolis
  • Bill to Ban Marriage under age 18
  • Common sense gun laws
  • The Budget: the Good & the Bad
  • Legislative Scholarship Information
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Too many bills ... Too little time ...
Just 22 days left in Session. . .
       At colleges, fraternities have a "hell week;"  in Session, we have "cross-over week."  The House worked until after 4 p.m. this past Saturday, and we will be back at work first thing Monday morning. This leaves me only one day in which to write my Newsletter -- but I'll do my best!
National Politics Continues to Infect Maryland General Assembly
Protection of the "Affordable Care Act" 
(. . . otherwise known as Obamacare.)

        On a 90-50 party-line vote, the House Democrats passed HR 9, urging Congress to "protect the Affordable Care Act."
         Before the election, even Democrats, including President Obama and former President Bill Clinton, acknowledged that there were a great many problems with Obamacare, chief among which were the massive cost increases, the dramatically increasing deductibles, and the dwindling choice of health care providers.
        Now, Congress is working to find a solution.  
        Why on earth should the Maryland House of Delegates take a stand against a DRAFT of a bill that CONGRESS is looking at as a PIECE of the solution???  
Ban on Marriage Under Age 18
I need your opinion . . . . .

        This past week, the House heard HB 799, a bill imposing a complete ban on marriage until the age of 18.
           "The bill, itself, and a proposed amendment provoked massive a substantial and emotional debate among delegates that cut across party lines. The battle lines generally fall between lawmakers who feel the bill would needlessly restrict the right of young people to marry, and those who see that restriction as a necessary cost of stopping forced marriage."  (The Star-Democrat, "House debates child-marriage restrictions.")
        There are good arguments on both side of this issue, and I am very interested in YOUR opinion on this bill.  Here are the two sides, as we debated the issue:

Pro: Child Marriage Ban.    Often, child marriage is forced marriage, whether arising out of human trafficking, cultural mores, or simply parents who feel they have no other choice.  " Child marriage  is a human-rights abuse that undermines girls' health, education and economic opportunities and increases their risk of experiencing violence.   
        "Children can easily be forced into marriage or forced to stay in a marriage, because they face overwhelming legal and practical barriers if they try to leave home, access a shelter, retain an attorney or bring a legal action."   READ MORE
        Here are the statistics.       
        "More than 3,100 children were married in Maryland between 2000 and 2014.
 * 146 of them were married at age 15 or even younger (even though marriage below 15 is illegal).
 * An overwhelming majority of the children married - about 85% - were girls wed to adult men; more than a third of the men were 21 or older.
 * At least 69 child marriages began with a statutory rape: They involved a child age 15 or younger who married a spouse four or more years older, based on a pregnancy/parenthood exception."
           The Maryland Catholic Conference testified in favor of the bill because they believe it would increase the success rate of marriage.  " Specifically, the conference wants to minimize marriage annulments, most of which it says arise from 'lack of discretion of judgment when the couple attempted to marry.'"(from the Star-Democrat article referenced above.)

Con: Child Marriage Ban.   The current law is as follows: 
The minimum marriage age in Maryland is 18, with these exceptions:
 * Children age 16 and 17 can marry if they have a parent's "consent" OR "the woman to be married" is pregnant or has a child.
 * Children age 15 can marry if they have a parent's "consent" AND "the woman to be married" is pregnant or has a child.

          One of the prinmary objections to the bill is that the parents are in the best position to determine whether they should permit their 15, 16-, or 17- year-old offspring to marry     
        "Is that really what we want our parental rights to come to?" said one witness during a debate on a similar bill in Virginia. "I think that is a huge infringement on parental rights and responsibilities and that's why I will not support this bill."
          Others believe in the "autonomy and empowerment of youth," and "that young people are in the best position to determine whether they're safe, and also whether they want to be married." ( NPR Radio, April 5, 2016)

        Another reason to oppose the bill involves pregnancy.  Although becoming pregnant is not always a good reason to marry, if a young couple wants to do so, they would no longer have a choice.  This issue becomes more problematic if one of them is deployed in combat.  The military will not provide spousal benefits unless the couple is married.     

Effort at Compromise.  The amendment that was introduced that would have created two exceptions to the ban:
 *  An individual under age 18 who is either emancipated by court order or serving in the military, and
 *  Individuals age 16-17 obtains a certificate from a licensed counselor or therapist who has evaluated the individual and states that they are not under any influence or coercion.
           The amendment failed to pass on a 64-72 vote that crossed party lines in no discernable pattern.
Common Sense Gun Laws
Article Headline

        For the first time since I have been a legislator, the Judiciary Committee allowed us to vote on -- and pass -- three GOOD pieces of legislation related to firearms.
          The bills are now on the Floor of the House for a vote.  Two of the three occasioned some concern and were "special ordered," (meaning that the discussion on the bills was put off for a couple of days.)  Here are the three bills:
  • HB 877.  This bill allows the police to establish an alternate expiration date for a carry permit to coincide with the expiration of the license of a licensed private detective, security guard, or special police officer.
  • HB 891.  This bill addresses the unusual and unnecessarily high number of training hours required for a handgun carry permit, reducing the initial number of training hours from 16 to 6 and for a renewal license, from eight to two.
  • HB 1036.  This bill makes the most sense of all.  Currently, in order to apply for a handgun wear and carry permit, you must complete -- and pay for -- the 16-hour training course.  This is a very speculative expense, since so few people qualify under the state's subjective "good and substantial reason" criteria.  HB 1036 establishes a "preliminary" permit.  This allows the police to determine if you qualify under all the criteria except the training course.  If you qualify for the preliminary permit, you then have 120 days in which to complete your training and obtain your carry permit.  If you fail to complete the training within the 120 days, the preliminary permit expires.
Let's hope these three bills make it through the House and Senate.  It would a wonderful showing of good faith in bi-partisanship!
The BUDGET: the GOOD & the BAD
The Good
          The one really good thing about the Budget is that Larry Hogan is the Governor, and the Governor sets the bottom line for spending.   Therefore, this year's budget is reasonable and will not force or allow others to call for a tax or fee increase.
          The Legislature can eliminate line items and replace them with other spending, but cannot increase the total amount of the budget.  I voted for the Budget bill (HB 150), as did all but six members of the House.

The Bad
        Expected revenues are down.  That's never a good thing.  With lower revenues, the Governor was unable to include all of the "mandated" spending items required by legislation.   Mandates now require 83% of the total budget.
          When the budget  does not fully fund all mandates, an omnibus bill known as the Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act is required to adjust spending mandates and formulas to balance the budget.   The Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act, HB 152 known as the "BRFA" (pronounced BUR' FA) is where the mischief occurs .  I voted against the BRFA, along with 28 others.

            In my Week 11 Newsletter from last year, I reported on the $290 million of NEW mandated spending for Baltimore City, alone.  How to accommodate all of this new spending in addition to normal growth and inflation, especially in a year where revenues are down was a huge challenge for the Governor.  
          In a continued effort to address the issue of spending mandates as well as provide a fair and balanced budget, the Governor addressed each of the new program mandates in a thoughtful and rational way.  Unfortunately, the House Appropriations committee ignored this effort, and restored virtually all of the new programs with mandated funding through the BRFA.  In order to balance the budget they cut funding across the board for multiple existing government services to provide the additional revenue needed to reinstate the funding mandates for all of the new programs from last year.  Below are just three examples.
  1. Enoch Pratt Extended Hours Mandate.
      The Governor eliminated only the specific mandated spending.  The House restored the $3 million mandate for the next five fiscal years.
  2. Next Generation Scholars Program.  The Governor eliminated only the specific mandated spending.  The House restored the full spending mandate of $5 million for the next six fiscal years.
  3. Public School Opportunities Enhancement Program.  Governor eliminated only the specific mandated spending.  The House restored a mandate of $5,000,000 for FY 2018 and $7,500,000 for FY 2019-2021.
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 under-graduate students, graduate students, and students attending a private career school may apply. 
Click here for the application. For 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, 2017.
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  *
Administrative AideChelsea Leigh Murphy