April 25, 2023
The third legislative session as your Maryland State Senator has officially come to an end. I wanted to take an opportunity to provide you with an update from the 2023 Legislation Session and express my gratitude for your support and words of encouragement over the last few months.
This year, we welcomed a brand-new Administration with Governor Moore and his entire team, along with many new Members in both the House of Delegates and Senate post-election. For the first time in eight years, both the Legislative and Executive Branches are controlled by the same party. A total of 3,064 pieces of legislation were introduced this Session by both chambers. Governor Moore has until May 30th to sign any passed bills into law, veto them, or allow them to go into law without his signature.
We continued to be committed to working in a bi-partisan manner while focusing on common sense policies to better our community. This remains our focus and objective. As a member of the Budget & Tax Committee and the Capital Budget Subcommittee, we were proud to continue working on initiatives at the State level that will have a direct impact to our County. Additionally, we maintained our commitment to oppose bills that would raise taxes on the citizens of Washington and Frederick Counties.
BUDGET FUNDING SECURED FOR WASHINGTON & NORTHERN FREDERICK COUNTIES
Washington County Public Safety Training Center - $2,250,000
· Provide a grant to the Washington County Board of Commissioners for the planning, design, construction, repair, renovation, site improvement, and capital equipping of the Washington County Public Safety Training Center
Hagerstown Field House - $3,000,000
· Provide a grant to the Mayor and City Council of the City of Hagerstown for the acquisition, planning, design, construction, repair, renovation, reconstruction, site improvement, and capital equipping of the Hagerstown Field House
Washington County Museum of Fine Arts - $1,250,000
· Provide a grant to the County Executive and County Council of Washington County for the acquisition, planning, design, construction, repair, renovation, reconstruction, site improvement, and capital equipping of the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts
Robert W. Johnson Community Center - $2,500,000
· Provide a grant to the Board of Directors of the Robert W. Johnson Community Center, Inc. for the acquisition, planning, design, construction, repair, renovation, reconstruction, site improvement, and capital equipping of the Robert W. Johnson Community Center
Meritus School of Osteopathic Medicine - $1,500,000
· Provide a grant to Meritus Health for the acquisition, planning, design, construction, repair, renovation, reconstruction, site improvement, and capital equipping of the Meritus School of Osteopathic Medicine
Plumbers and Steamfitters Journeymen and Apprentice Training School Renovation Project - $750,000
· Provide a grant to the Plumbers and Steamfitters Local Union No. 486 Joint Journeymen and Apprentice Training Fund for the acquisition, planning, design, construction, repair, renovation, reconstruction, site improvement, and capital equipping of the Local Union No. 486 Hagerstown School Renovation project
Washington County Athletic Recreational Community Center ARCC and Athletic Fields – Maryland Stadium Authority Study - $125,000
· Provide a grant to the Board of Trustees of Hagerstown Community College for the acquisition, planning, design, construction, repair, renovation, reconstruction, site improvement, and capital equipping of the Washington County Athletic Recreational Community Center (ARCC) and athletic fields
Hagerstown Community College – Advanced Training Center $294,000
· Provide funds to assist in the acquisition of property and in the design, construction, renovation, and equipping of local community college buildings, site improvements, and facilities
North Hagerstown High School 400m Running Track – Practice Track - $50,000
· Provide a grant to the Washington County Board of Education for the acquisition, planning, design, construction, repair, renovation, reconstruction, site improvement, and capital equipping of the North High 400m Running Track (Practice Track)
Brook Lane Expansion - $1,800,000
· For the purpose of infrastructure improvements may be expended only for renovation and expansion of existing hospital services at Brook Lane Hospital to improve access to care of youth in need of inpatient hospitalization. Funds not expended for one –time infrastructure investments including for renovation and expansion of existing hospital services at Brook Lane Hospital may not be expended for any other purpose and shall revert to the General Fund
Town of Boonsboro – Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure - $1,000,000
· Provide a grant to the Mayor and Town Council of Boonsboro for the acquisition, planning, design, construction, repair, renovation, reconstruction, site improvement and capital equipping of drinking water and wastewater infrastructure improvements
· This action increases a miscellaneous grant for the Town of Boonsboro – Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure project
Chase Six Boulevard – Campus Avenue Realignment and Intersection - $500,000
· Provide a grant to the Mayor and Town Council of Boonsboro for the acquisition, planning, design, construction, repair, renovation, reconstruction, site improvement, and capital equipping of the Chase Six Boulevard – Campus Avenue Realignment and Intersection
· This action adds a miscellaneous grant for the Chase Six Boulevard – Campus Avenue Realignment and Intersection project
Boonsboro Museum of History - $200,000
· Provide a grant to the Board of Directors of the Douglas G. Bast Museum of History and Preservation, Inc. for the acquisition, planning, design, construction, repair, renovation, reconstruction, site improvement, and capital equipping of the Boonsboro Museum of History
Thurmont Little League - $100,000
· Provide a grant to the Board of Directors of Thurmont Little League for the acquisition, planning, design, construction, repair, renovation, reconstruction, site improvement, and capital equipping of the Thurmont Little League facilities
Senate Executive Nominations – This session I was proud to support several constituents who have been confirmed for Gubernatorial Appointments. I want to personally thank these citizens of Washington County for their dedication to our community by serving in these various local and statewide positions.
· Glenn Dale Fishack, Sr. - Amusement Ride Safety Advisory Board
· Kristine E. McGee, Ed.D. - Professional Standards and Teacher Education Board
· Donna Brightman, Washington County Board of Elections
· Carolyn Williams Brooks, Hagerstown Community College Board of Trustees
· Kandace Carpenter, Washington County Board of Elections
· Tammy E. Downin, Washington County Board of Elections
· Claudia Martin, Washington County Board of Elections
· Eduardo Souza, State Board of Massage Therapy Examiners
· Mary Shank Creek, Maryland Agricultural and Resource-Based Industry Development Corporation (MARBIDCO) Board of Directors
· Sila Alegret-Bartel – Maryland Public-Private Partnership Marketing Corporation Board of Directors
· Tekesha Martinez - Maryland Affordable Housing Trust Board of Trustees
· Maureen Grove - Washington County Board of License Commissioners
SPONSORED BILLS THAT PASSED
SB 429 - Business Regulation - Home Improvement Commission - Guaranty Fund and Award Limits - Increasing the funding level of the Home Improvement Guaranty Fund that is administered by the Home Improvement Commission from $250,000 to $1,000,000; increasing a certain Fund threshold that determines whether a fee is assessed to each contractor; and increasing the limit, from $100,000 to $250,000, on the amount of money the Commission may award from the Fund to all claimants for the acts or omissions of a single contractor, subject to a certain reimbursement to the Fund. A Washington County constituent approached our office with this idea for a potential bill. He had a personal experience with this issue and wanted to prevent other Marylanders from experiencing something similar. We worked in partnership with this constituent to get the bill passed.
SB 518 – Tax Sales – Revisions - Authorizing the governing body of a county or municipal corporation to file a motion with a court to request that a certain certificate of sale be assigned to the governing body of the county or municipal corporation in a certain foreclosure action under certain circumstances; providing that, on a grant of the motion by the court, the holder of the certificate of sale forfeits certain rights and the amount paid to acquire the certificate of sale; etc. We worked in partnership with the City of Hagerstown, Cumberland, and Frostburg to get the bill passed, as they approached our office with this legislation in order to help empower the municipal governments dealing with blighted properties.
SB 865 - Economic Development - Western Maryland Economic Future Investment Board and Senator George C. Edwards Fund – Alterations - Altering the composition of the Western Maryland Economic Future Investment Board; establishing an Executive Director for the Board; and altering the manner in which decisions are made regarding certain proposals for funding.
SB 442 - Economic Development – Sports Entertainment Facilities – Financing and Construction - Altering the amount of taxable or tax exempt bonds that the Maryland Stadium Authority may issue for certain sports entertainment facilities from $200,000,000 to $220,000,000; altering the entities from which the Authority is required to have received a request for financing and construction management services concerning a sports entertainment facility; altering the entities with which the Authority is required to enter into an agreement before issuing bonds to finance a sports entertainment facility; etc.
SPONSORED BILLS THAT DID NOT PASS
SB 427 – Correctional Services – Inmate Release - Requiring the Division of Correction to transport a certain inmate from a certain correctional facility to the county of the inmate's address recorded at the time the inmate entered the correctional facility after the inmate is released from a State correctional facility; and requiring the Division of Parole and Probation to supervise any required probation, parole, or mandatory supervision of a certain inmate in a certain county after the inmate is released.
SB 432 – Inheritance Tax – Repeal - Repealing the inheritance tax; and applying the Act to decedents dying after June 30, 2023.
SB 532 - Criminal Law - Overdosing in Public – Prohibition - Prohibiting a person from overdosing in certain public places or on a public conveyance; and authorizing a court to refer a person who overdoses in certain public places or on a public conveyance to drug court or substance abuse treatment rather than imposing a term of imprisonment not exceeding 60 days or a fine not exceeding $500 or both.
SB 533 - Washington County - Admissions and Amusement Tax – Repeal - Repealing the authority of Washington County and municipal corporations in Washington County to impose an admissions and amusement tax. We were approached by multiple businesses throughout the County regarding this tax. We worked in partnership with a local small business to provide testimony is support of the legislation. We plan to work during the interim to continue this conversation at the County level.
SB 950 - Maryland Zero Emission Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Council – Membership - Altering the composition of the Maryland Zero Emission Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Council to include a representative of a light-duty plug-in electric drive vehicle manufacturer and a heavy-duty plug-in electric drive vehicle manufacturer.
CO-SPONSORED LEGISLATION THAT PASSED
SB 959/HB 1290 – Higher Education – Maryland 529 Program – Reform - SB 959 transfers responsibility for the entire Maryland 529 program to the State Treasurer’s Office and abolishes the Maryland 529 board as of June 1, 2023. The Maryland Pre-Paid College Trust program will also be phased out with no new accounts created after June 1, 2023. In addition, SB 959 also develops a claims process within the Treasurer’s Office to receive claims from impacted account holders, complete an investigation and issue settlements.
SB 24 - Department of Transportation - Financing and Commission on Transportation Revenue and Infrastructure Needs (State and Federal Transportation Funding Act) - Repealing a requirement that the Capital Debt Affordability Committee include certain debt that is secured by future federal aid within its review of State tax supported debt; altering the calculation of the maximum amount of debt secured by future federal aid that the Department of Transportation may issue; providing that the maximum amount of debt that may be issued is calculated as of June 30; establishing the Maryland Commission on Transportation Revenue and Infrastructure Needs; etc. This legislation includes funding for constructing improvements to the interstate 81 corridor.
SB 141 - Income Tax - Subtraction Modification for Adoption Expenses – Alterations - Altering eligibility for and the amount of a subtraction modification under the Maryland income tax for a taxpayer who adopts a child during the taxable year.
SB 205 - Education - Libraries – Funding - Providing certain funding for each county public library system for fiscal year 2028 and each fiscal year thereafter. The Washington County Free Library will be included in this recipient list.
SB 493 - Commission to Study Trauma Center Funding in Maryland - Establishing the Commission to Study Trauma Center Funding in Maryland to study the adequacy of trauma center funding across the State for operating, capital, and workforce costs; and requiring the Commission to report its finding and recommendations to the Governor and the General Assembly on or before December 1, 2023. Meritus Medical Center will benefit from this study, as they serve as our local Trauma Center.
CO-SPONSORED LEGISLATION THAT DID NOT PASS
SB 70 - Income Tax - Subtraction Modification - State Law Enforcement Officers - Altering a subtraction modification under the Maryland income tax for the first $5,000 of income earned by certain law enforcement officers to include State law enforcement officers who reside in a political subdivision in which the crime rate exceeds the State's crime rate; and applying the Act to taxable years beginning after December 31, 2022.
SB 261 - Motor Fuel Tax Rates - Consumer Price Index Adjustment – Repeal - For the second year, Senate Republicans proposed a repeal of the annual gas tax increase that is tied to inflation (CPI). On July 1, 2022, Maryland’s gas tax jumped by 19.4% and increased to nearly 43 cents per gallon, making it the fourth-highest gas tax in the Country. As the United States continues to grapple with high inflation, continued sharp increases to Maryland’s gas tax can be expected into the future. Repealing the automatic increase is also a matter of transparency and accountability. Every year, the gas tax increases without public input and a vote of the General Assembly. If legislators want to increase the gas tax, they need to follow the legislative process and be held accountable.
SB 416 - Income Tax - Subtraction Modification - Military Retirement Income - Phasing in, over a period of 2 years, an increase in a subtraction modification under the Maryland income tax to allow for a subtraction of all military retirement income.
SB 461 - Retirement Tax Elimination Act of 2023 - Senate Republicans again championed the elimination of all retiree income taxes. The retiree tax reduction passed last year was a first step, however, $1,000 is not enough to keep our retirees in their home state. Retirees play critical roles in our communities as volunteers and mentors. As Governor Moore stated, “Maryland is no one’s farm team.” We need to make Maryland affordable and keep those that call Maryland home here and not lose them to nearby retirement-friendly states. Senate Republicans supported Governor Moore’s proposal to provide retiree income tax relief to our veterans and believe that all retirees deserve the same.
SB 522 - Education - Accountability and Implementation Board – Membership - The Accountability and Implementation Board (AIB) is the body responsible for overseeing the implementation of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future – the $32 billion, ten-year overhaul of the state’s public education system. In September 2021 when the AIB members were approved, our members were deeply concerned that board did not include representation from any of Maryland’s rural jurisdictions. The enormous amount of tax dollars being spent by the AIB are being provided by all Marylanders, not just those living in Central Maryland. Every Marylander deserves to have a representative on the Board that is knowledgeable and has experienced the challenges and opportunities facing public education from all areas of the State. Having broad geographic representation on the Board is imperative to realizing success in every jurisdiction within our state, and SB 522 would have ensured that the AIB has one representative from Western Maryland (Allegany, Carroll, Frederick, Garrett or Washington Counties), one representative from Southern Maryland (Calvert, Charles or St. Mary’s Counties), one representative from the Eastern Shore (Caroline, Cecil, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s, Somerset, Talbot, Wicomico or Worchester Counties), and one member from each of the counties with the largest student populations in the State.
SB 564 - Criminal Law - Theft of a Handgun - Making the theft of a handgun a felony has been a long-standing priority of the Senate Republican Caucus. This measure was amended into public safety legislation in previous years but was later stripped out in the House of Delegates. SB 564 would have made the theft of a handgun a felony, not misdemeanor, and established penalties for a first conviction of 2 to 5 years imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $1,000. Subsequent convictions would carry imprisonment of 5 to 10 years and/or a fine of up to $2,500.
SB 566 - Family Law - Fundamental Parental Rights - Establishing that a parent has the fundamental right to direct the upbringing, education, care, and welfare of the parent's child; and prohibiting the State or a political subdivision from infringing on a parent's fundamental right to direct the upbringing, education, care, and welfare of the parent's child unless the State or political subdivision can demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence certain factors.
SB 744 - Crimes and Corrections - Penalties and Procedures (Violent Firearms Offender Act of 2023) - The Violent Firearms Offender Act passed the Senate during the 2021 Session (SB 852) but died in the House. SB 744 was a reintroduction of the amended bill that received bipartisan support two years ago. SB 744 would have increased the penalties for committing crimes with an illegal firearm from 3 years to 5 years of prison time and raises the maximum fine from $2,500 to $10,000. It also would have repealed the unconscionable “drug dealer loophole” where drug dealers receive a lighter sentence than someone else convicted of the same offense. It also would have created penalties for someone who sells or gives someone a gun knowing that they will use it to commit a crime.
ADDITIONAL NOTEWORTHY STATEWIDE ISSUES
ADDRESSING MARYLAND’S VIOLENT CRIME CRISIS
A violent crime crisis continues to plague our State. In Baltimore City alone, there were 88 homicides and 187 non-fatal shootings in 2022, and violent crime is on the rise throughout Maryland. We know that the majority of these crimes are committed by repeat offenders who fear no consequences for their violent actions – a sentiment perpetuated by the “defund the police” movement and so-called “police reform” legislation that was passed last year.
Senate Republicans continued to stand with our law enforcement professionals and support commonsense legislation that would get repeat, violent offenders off our streets. This year, the Joint Republican Caucus offered a package of bills that would address Maryland’s violent crime crisis, including the continued rise in juvenile crime.
One measure in the House package, House Bill 753 – Juvenile Gun Offenses Accountability Act of 2023, focused on the juvenile reforms made last year that prohibit the prosecution of most minors under the age of 13. Under current law, minors ages 10-12 can only be prosecuted for crimes of violence. This was the issue at hand when a 12-year-old brought a gun, loaded magazine, and ammunition to a school in his backpack earlier this year in Anne Arundel County. Because of last year’s bill, the 12-year-old could not be charged with a crime. HB 753 would allow minors aged 10-12 to be charged with gun crimes. Unfortunately, this bill did not make it out of the House Committee.
The Republican legislative package also includes initiatives to make the theft of a gun a more serious crime. Currently, Maryland’s theft statute is based on the value of what was stolen, not on the item itself. House Bill 750 – Gun Theft Felony Act of 2023 makes the theft of any gun a felony. In addition, Senate Bill 744 – Violent Firearms Offender Act of 2023 is a reintroduction of the version of the Violent Firearms Offenders Act that passed the Senate during the 2021 Session. This year’s Violent Firearms Offenders Act had bi-partisan co-sponsors this year and includes provisions that would increase penalties and the level of sentencing for certain criminal acts. I cosponsored SB 744, but it unfortunately never made it out of the Senate Committee.
This year, Maryland has a new Attorney General who has wasted no time in expanding the powers of his office through a number of bills this session. SB 290/HB857 is a power grab by the new Attorney General and grants the Independent Investigations Divisions (IID) new authority to prosecute all police-involved deaths across the State, usurping responsibility from local State’s Attorneys. This is an expansion of the IID’s power, which was created in 2021 as part of “police reform” legislation to investigate all police-involved deaths. Prior to this bill passing, the IID would send a report containing their detailed findings and analysis to the State’s Attorney of the county with the jurisdiction over the incident. The IID did not decide whether to prosecute an involved officer and could not bring criminal charges, the local State’s Attorney retained sole prosecutorial authority. Under the new law, the IID would be able to prosecute police officers and removes the local State’s Attorneys from the process, unless the IID decides not to bring charges. None of Maryland’s State’s Attorneys supported the bill, and 23 out of 24 testified against it.
Senate Republicans opposed the bill on the grounds that it violated local control, furthered the anti-police agenda and was a blatant power grab by the new Attorney General. Senate Republicans attempted to amend the bill to add more transparency and accountability to the IID by requiring the head of the IID be subject to Senate Executive Nominations, but despite having bipartisan support, those amendments failed. Unfortunately, SB 290 passed 27-20 in the Senate and 99-37 in the House over bipartisan opposition. I voted against the legislation.
Additionally, SB540/HB772 gives the Attorney General new powers and scope to investigate and seek civil restitution in claims of Civil Rights violations and bring on class action suits against an entity committing civil rights violations to more than one individual. A civil rights complaint will be investigated by the Attorney General and the Attorney General may subpoena any witnesses or pertinent documents or information that may be pertinent to the investigation. Civil actions may be filed in the Circuit court in which the complaint originated in, and the Attorney General may also seek that restitution be paid to any complainants and that the defendant reimburse all investigative costs and legal fees. Any fines collected from Civil Rights enforcement will go into a new ‘Civil Rights Enforcement Fund’. The Civil Rights Enforcement Fund would be used for the Attorney General or the Maryland Civil Rights Commission to investigate or prosecute future civil rights violations or used in education and community outreach initiatives. In addition to being another power grab by the Attorney General, SB 540 also requires the General Assembly to give the Attorney’s Office more than $1 million to fund several new positions to carry out the new responsibilities granted in this law. I voted against SB 540 in the Senate, but unfortunately, the bill passed 36-9 in the Senate and 100-34 in the House. This bill ultimately made it to Governor Moore’s desk.
THE BOOST PROGRAM
This session, the Budget Conference Committee voted to protect the BOOST Program. The BOOST, or Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today, Scholarship Program awards scholarships for low-income kindergarten – 12th grade students to attend a participating nonpublic school. At the conclusion of the Conference Committee on March 31, 2023, it was decided that the BOOST Program will receive $11.5 million in FY24, with $9 million going to scholarships and $2.5 million available to participating schools for safety, textbooks, nurses and other school health expenses. This decision reflects another $1.5 million in funding the program. Additionally, language that would have phased-out the BOOST Program has been removed.
As a result of the Conference Committee vote to preserve the BOOST Program, 3,200 Maryland children will be able to stay in their schools and thrive for the long term. None of this would have been possible without the BOOST families who fought for this program as well as members of the Senate and House Republican Caucuses who made this issue one of their top three priority issues of this Session. The compromise made in the Conference Committee revealed how we can work together across the aisle and use all the resources available to us to negotiate and do what is best for Maryland’s students and families. I was proud to support this effort.
MINIMUM WAGE – THE FAIR WAGE ACT
Accelerating the Maryland’s Minimum Wage was one of Governor Moore’s top priorities for the 2023 Legislative Session. SB 555 (The Fair Wage Act) increases the minimum wage to $15/hour on January 1, 2024, a year ahead of schedule. The General Assembly removed Governor Moore’s proposal to tie future minimum wage increases to inflation, and it also slowed down implementation of the proposed increase from October 1, 2023, to January 1, 2024. While these adjustments were a positive for Maryland’s job creators, additional amendments sponsored by Republicans, including one that would have maintained a slower implementation timeline for small businesses with less than 15 employees were rejected.
Senate Republicans opposed SB 555 because of the negative impact on Maryland’s job creators who must raise wages earlier than expected, not just for minimum wage workers, but all workers to avoid wage compression or even wage inversion, where lower-skilled employees are earning close to or more than those with more experience. Job creators, especially small businesses, are already contending with the rising cost of doing business due to inflation, increased borrowing costs, impending new expenses related to Maryland’s new Paid Family Leave program and other factors. The General Assembly should not be adding to their struggles. Raising the minimum wage also impacts taxpayers as wages for state employees will also increase. An additional $218 million in FY24 and $109 million in FY25 are budgeted to cover the cost of increased wages for state employees. While I voted against this legislation, the bill unfortunately passed 31-14 in the Senate and 102-38 in the House.
WEARING, CARRYING, OR TRANSPORTING FIREARMS
SB 1 – Wearing, Carrying, or Transporting Firearms is a de facto ban on the wearing and carrying of a firearm in Maryland. The bill prohibits wearing and carrying at a private dwelling unless you have express permission from the property owner. It also sets up numerous locations where the wearing and carrying of a firearm is prohibited. Some are traditional locations such as schools and government buildings, but the bill also creates “special purpose areas” that include areas such as amusement parks, stadiums, racetracks, video lottery facilities, museums, and anywhere that serves alcohol including restaurants. A court challenge is expected to SB 1 on the grounds that it violates the Second Amendment and the holding in the Bruen decision. I voted against this legislation, but it unfortunately passed 31-16 in the Senate and 93-42 in the House.
It has been my honor to serve as your State Senator during this legislative session and I believe we have made incredible progress. I look forward to continuing my work on your behalf and encourage you to contact our office if you have ideas for legislation or encounter issues with any state agencies. Please feel free to contact me by calling the district office at 240-313-3929 or send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org