News from Annapolis
Delegate Trent Kittleman - District 9A
February 23, 2021
  • Education Part VI: "Teachers' Unions Hurting Kids"**
  • Big Brother Gets Stronger
  • Electric Vehicles Don't Use Gas!
  • Legislation Updates
  • Tips on Testifying
  • Kittleman Legislative Scholarship
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**Due to the length of the next installment of Education: Part VI, it will be coming out tomorrow in a Special Edition of the Newsletter.
Big Brother Keeps Getting Stronger!
Collecting data on students & teachers
In 2010, Senate Bill 275 created a database for the purpose of collecting "certain student data from all levels of education and into the State's workforce." It is called the Maryland Longitudinal Data System. ("MLDS")
 By definition, "Longitudinal studies employ continuous or repeated measures to follow particular individuals over prolonged periods of time—often years or decades."

According to the sponsors, the reason for the database was to collect "individual-level student data and workforce data" to "effectively organize, manage, disaggregate, and analyze individual student data; and (2) examine student progress and outcomes over time."
The original bill included certain safeguards to individual privacy, such as following: 
Discipline Records were NOT to be included
“Student data" does NOT include: (I) Juvenile delinquency records:
(II) Criminal and CINA records: (III) Medical and Health records, and
(IV) Discipline records." 
The collection period was limited to 5 years
"The linkage of student data and workforce data for the purposes of the Maryland Longitudinal Data System shall be limited to no longer than 5 years from the date of the latest attendance in any educational institution in the state."
Changes to the Law
In 2016, it was concluded that there were "data gaps" the remedy for which was to begin collecting (1) student discipline data, and (2) private school and homeschool data for pre-K-12.
In 2017, the legislature passed, by a vote of 100 to 37, House Bill 680, the "Extension of Time Limit" bill striking the 5-year limit and extending it to 20 years: "The linkage of student data and workforce data for the purposes of the Maryland Longitudinal Data System shall be limited to no longer than [5] 20 years from the date of latest attendance in any educational institution in the State."

Despite the specific assurance in the original bill that this data would be kept no more than five years, the legislature extended that time limit to 20 years
Security of the Data
     According to the sponsors, the reason we are collecting such extensive data on students and teachers is to analyze what teaching works best to lead students to a good job later in life.
     Maybe it's worth it.
     But I have very serious concerns about the government collecting such extensive personal data on children starting from about three years of age and continuing for the next 34 years.
      There are all sorts of levels of privacy protection set forth in the bills, and I have no doubt that these efforts are sincerely applied and maintained. Nonetheless, more and more computerized data has been hacked by ransomware, among others is always -- and apparently, fairly easily -- subject to being hacked, stolen, or sold. 
     This is an issue that demands more public discussion. Now may be the time to engage.
"Not long ago, a breach that compromised the data of a few million people would have been big news. Now, breaches that affect hundreds of millions or even billions of people are far too common. About 3.5 billion people saw their personal data stolen in the top two of the 15 biggest breaches of this century alone. The smallest incident on this list involved the data of a mere 134 million people."
Why should we care?
Few of today's youth understand the inherent danger of "government." I do and so do our citizens who have emigrated from almost any other country.
It's far easier to see the potential planning benefits of collecting tons of data about people. It is harder to see--or explain--the potential misuse of this information when a government gradually decides it needs more control. . .to do more good . . .for the people. Remember:
A government big enough to give you everything you want is strong enough to take everything you have.
Thomas Jefferson
Electric Vehicles don't use gas!
How will we fund the TTF without the 'gas tax'?
Gas Taxes Support the Transportation Trust Fund
While there is some degree of controversy over the effect on the environment if we all switch to electric vehicles ("EVs"), one outcome is for sure: 10% to 14% of the revenue that accrues to the Transportation Trust Fund will go away.
Motor vehicle fuel taxes are a significant source of revenue. As Maryland continues to incentivize the purchase of electric vehicles, gasoline sales--and sales tax--decline. As the graph below shows, there has been a steady increase in the use of EVs between 2012 and 2018. Moreover, Maryland has committed to a goal of 600,000 EV to be registered by 2030 and anticipates that there will be 300,000 EV's registered by 2025.
What this means is that the state will have to look at other ways to address the shortfall in motor fuel taxes. A recent study identified the five options described below.
1.Raise the existing motor fuel tax
Advantages: the tax structure is already in place, so there is no need to create new programs;

Disadvantages: it unfairly penalizes anyone choosing to retain his/her gas-powered car for a long period of time.
2.Carbon Pricing.
The aim is to put a price on carbon emissions so that the costs of climate impacts and the opportunities for low-carbon energy options are better reflected in our production and consumption choices.

Advantages: Carbon pricing programs can be easily implemented through legislative or regulatory action at the local, state or national level.

Disadvantages: This option affects a broader group of people than just automobile owners, and could negatively impact other sections of the economy.
3.Mileage-Based User Fees.
Mileage-Based User Fees (MBUF) or Vehicle Miles Travelled (VMT) are an alternative to the gas tax. As the name implies, the state would charge a fee for every mile a car traveled.

Advantages: Both gas-driven cars and EVs would pay the same fee.

Disadvantages: (1) Although several states either have or are testing this option, it would require Maryland to come up with recommendations, including cost estimates, on how to gradually transition from gas taxes to a road usage charge; (2) Drivers of gas-driven cars can make some impact on the cost of driving by shopping for the losest price, but joining a discount program, or by modifying the way the drive. There is no comparable flexibility in charging based on miles driven; and (3) It raises the issue of privacy.
4.Electric Vehicle Registration Fees.
Over 20 states have existing or proposed fees on EV's that are in addition to the general registration fees.

Advantages: (1) It's an easy solution to put into practice, and (2) It puts the fee squarely onto the "newcomer" in the field.

Disadvantages: These fees range from $50 to $200 per year, and can have a significant impact on the affordability and accessibility of EV's, thereby in conflict with the State's goal of encouraging the adoption of EVs.
5.Charging Fees.
Drivers of EVs would be charged a fee based on the kilowatt-hours consumed by the vehicle and would involve EV sub-metering to separate the electricity used for charging the vehicle from the general electricity used by the car.

Advantages: Utility companies can offer variable rates for time-of-use rates thus enabling them to create demand response participation where EV drivers can charge their vehicles during off-peak periods to reduce the cost of the charging fee.

Disadvantages. (1) A pilot program in California found that none of the submeters provided by the third parties met the accuracy standards set in the pilot program; (2) there would be an extra cost to consumers of purchasing submetering equipment of between $1,640 and $2,723; (3) the extra charge would thereby be in conflict with the State's goal of encouraging the adoption of EVs.
Higher Education - Standardized Tests - Prohibition of Use in Student Admissions
. ..........This bill prohibits a public institution of higher education from requiring an applicant to submit a standardized test score as part of the admissions process. The University of Maryland School of Medicine or any other public medical school is exempt from this prohibition. The bill takes effect July 1, 2021.
State and Local Government and Private Employers – Teleworking

One positive thing to result from the pandemic is learning that "telework" works.
Taking advantage of our recent experience with teleworking, this bill, as originally written, encouraged private-sector employers to develop and implement telework policies, and established the intent of the General Assembly to authorize a tax credit to assist private-sector employers in offsetting the costs incurred for the development and implementation of a telework policy, if federal funds are made available for that purpose.

Unfortunately, government being what it is, amendments were added to the bill rendering it a mandate and including mandated spending of $1 million a year.

WHY? Why does the government always think it has to force businesses and individuals to do the "right thing? Here we have broad proof that businesses, both large and small, have come up with creative ideas to cope with the COVID restrictions, and have been pleasantly surprised to learn that we actually get more work done when we don't have to commute!

The original bill encouraged that creative spirit; the amendments say, 'we don't think you'll allow teleworking after the pandemic, so we have to force you to do so.'

What a shame.
Election Law: Employee Time Off for Voting
Of all the bills proposed this session, this wins the prize for least-needed!
Once upon a time, we had an "Election Day." A lot of us loved Election Day because it gave us a feeling of camaraderie, having all of America going out to vote together.

But the super-majority decided that was unfair because some people were unable to take off work or get to the polls on a particular day. So they created "Early Voting."

Although Early Voting did not actually begin until 2006 (because of a court challenge), the bill creating Early Voting was passed in 2005. SB498 passed the Senate by a vote of 35-12 and the House by 84-51, with substantial opposition from both Republicans and Democrats. This first bill required:
  • Early voting polling places to be open for voting for 5 days, 8 hours a day, the Tuesday before a primary or general election through the Saturday before the election.
  • Larger counties were required to have at least three polling centers, and, and smaller counties to have at least one polling place
  • A voter was allowed to vote at any early voting location in the voter’s county of residence, thus requiring that each polling place have available every ballot combination of candidates possible in that county.

Over the years, early voting has been increased to 8 days, from Monday a week before the election to the Monday preceding the election, and the polls are now required to be open 13 hours, from 7 am to 8 pm.

Vote by Mail. In addition to the 117 hours during which the polls are open, Maryland also offers the right to submit an absentee ballot. For a long time, absentee ballots were restricted to Marylanders who had a legitimate reason they could not be present to vote on election day.

The requirement for a "good excuse" disappeared as the hours for voting expanded, and, as we saw in 2020, absentee ballots -- now termed "voting by mail" are encouraged for everyone.

Nonetheless, this year we have taken up a bill with the following provision: "if on a day that an employee chooses to vote in person...[and] the employee does not have 2 hours of continuous off-duty time during the time the polls are open, the employer ...shall allow the employee to be absent from work...for a period not exceeding 2 hours to vote. And "the employer shall pay the employee for the 2 hours absence from work!"

Believe it or not, this bill passed by a vote of 91 to 38.
"The Child Care Provider Support Act,"

This bill focuses on an important segment of our economy. However, the bill mandates an expenditure of $25 million annually, without an end date. Fortunately, the Administration has taken a more focused approach. On February 12, Governor Larry Hogan announced that under the most recent federal aid package, the Maryland State Department of Education is establishing a $60 million grant program to help providers pay operating costs and recoup lost revenue. Licensed child care centers and registered family child care providers will be able to apply for relief fund grants to defray increased operations costs during the coronavirus pandemic.
Housing Corporations, Condominiums and HOAs - Reserve Studies
This bill requires the governing body of a cooperative housing corporation, condominium, or HOA to have a Reserve Study done and to "provide funds to the reserve in accordance with the most recent reserve study, [and] must review the reserve study annually for accuracy."

The bill also gives the Governing bodies "the authority to increase an assessment levied to cover the reserve funding amount required – despite any provision of the articles of incorporation, declaration, bylaws, or proprietary lease, as applicable, restricting assessment increases or capping the assessment that may be levied in a fiscal year."

A number of states have adopted regulations requiring HOA's to have a Reserve Study done in order to give the homeowners some advance notice of capital and maintenance expenses anticipated over the following five years. Unfortunately, the sponsor of this bill refused to allow any accommodation for small HOAs with fewer than 30 homes and minimal common areas and amenities. These small HOAs will now be required to pay to have a Reserve Study done even if the future capital and maintenance needs of the HOA are less than the cost of the Study!
the way they think . . .
The attitude of the legislative majority noted above is problematic. It's one of we act in the interests of others; you only act on your needs. In other words, "we know what's best for everyone." It's evident in their approach to spending. I often point out, 'it's not your money we're spending; it belongs to the taxpayer." Particularly when passing a "feel-good" bill, there is often a lack of appreciation for the taxpayer.

We need to begin weighing each expense against the question, "does this spending justify our taking tax dollars from the Marylanders who are out of work or whose hours have been severely cut back?"

What reminded me of this legislative mindset was a comment made by one of the leaders in the majority party. We were debating a bill to outlaw contests in which people are given prizes for killing the most, coyotes, foxes, or raccoons. This sort of restriction is a legitimate function of government.
But what the leader said in response to a question from a western Maryland delegate about this restriction was . . . .
"Well, we permit farmers to kill dangerous animals on their properties!"
Is this something a farmer, or any homeowner, should need the permission of the State to perform? Maybe, but I can tell you, if it comes to this, we're going to have an awful lot of people becoming criminals--starting with me. If there is a dangerous animal on my property, coming after one of my grandkids, you can bet your bottom dollar on what I'm going to do!
Legislative Scholarship
District 9-A Residents
High school seniors, current undergraduate students at a 4-year college, a community college, or a private career school are eligible to apply for a Legislative Scholarship.
Please EMAIL your applications to Trent.Kittleman@House.State.MD.US
For questions regarding the application process, call my Annapolis office and speak with Chelsea Leigh Murphy, my Legislative Aide, at 410-841-3556.
District 9A
District News will return next week.