End of Session NewsLetter


End of Session Letter

Highlights of 2017

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.  Now in my third year, I know that I've become a stronger, more effective representative as each year goes by.  The email correspondence you send 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. 
2017: It was a Great Session
Governor Larry Hogan: "It was a great session. . . . . This is the way government is supposed to work .... This was all about

House Speaker Michael Busch "It was a session we can all be proud of," "This year [the Governor's] staff did a great job."

House Minority Leader Nicholaus Kipke , The "most bipartisan" he has seen since he took office. "Despite the partisan efforts to kind of drag us into the D.C. post-election theater, we were able to pass some meaningful bills."
From "A session 'we can all be proud of,' Hogan, Busch, Miller agree," by Len Lazarick MarylandReporter.com, 4/11/17
But there were some BAD BLLS
          Unhappy with the results of the 2016 Presidential Election, the Democratic majority in the General Assembly spent a significant amount of time on legislation to "fight back" against the policies, or assumed policies, of the Trump Administration. In every instance, they put their political agendas before the well being of the citizens of our state.
1.  Giving AG Freedom to sue President at  will
HB 913 - Attorney General - Powers- Maryland Defense Act of 2017.   On a straight party-line vote, Joint Resolution SJ 5 granted Attorney General Brian Frosh a blank check to sue Washington.  In the past, various Attorneys General have been granted authority to sue the federal government on specific issues. However, this legislation goes much further than that and gives the Attorney General wide berth to sue the federal government on any policy with which he disagrees.   This power is not just limited to challenging Executive Orders, but also measures constitutionally passed by Congress.
          This unprecedented move was taken because of an emotional reaction to President Trump and a Republican congress.  The move is unfortunate not only because it threatens the balance of power built into our constitution, but because it also threatens the economic well-being of Maryland, which relies heavily on federal spending in the State.  
          Slap in the Face.   During debate on the resolutions, legislators asked if there would be any additional cost.  The AG assured us that he could perform these tasks with his existing budget.  However, the very day the resolutions passed the House, we learned that House Bill 913 was being heard in Health and Government Operations.  This bill mandates an additional $1 million dollars per year (at minimum) to the Attorney General's budget to hire up to five additional attorneys to handle lawsuits against the federal government.
2.  The Undoing of Dodd-Frank
HB 1134 - Maryland Financial Consumer Protection Commission - this bill creates the Maryland Financial Consumer Protection Commission, a new entity staffed by the Office of the Attorney General comprised of politicians and their political appointees, to study the POSSIBLE impacts of ANTICIPATED changes to federal financial regulation laws. The Commission must report back recommendations to the General Assembly by the end of the year. 
3.  Protecting Obamacare
SB 571 - Maryland Health Insurance Coverage Protection Act: This bill establishes the Maryland Health Insurance Coverage Protection Commission to monitor potential and actual federal changes to Obamacare, assess the impact of such changes; and provide recommendations for State and local action to protect access to affordable health coverage. 
4.  Protecting the Public Broadcasting System
SB 1034 - Maryland Public Broadcasting Commission - Recording and Distribution During Legislative Session - Funding   T his bill sets a dangerous precedent of replenishing lost federal funding with state tax dollars. The bill provides that any loss in federal funding for Maryland Public Television - the difference between the amount anticipated and amount realized - must be back-filled by the General Fund.   The bill also provides funding for a limited amount of video taping of floor sessions during the last two weeks of the 2018 General Assembly Session. 
5.  Fighting Against Democracy
SJ 2 - Constitutional Convention - Amendments - Repeal - These House and Senate Resolutions rescind the four calls for Constitutional Conventions passed by the General Assembly since 1939. Once passed, it is believed such calls never expire. The four calls for constitutional conventions are: a House Resolution in 1939 calling for limitations on the federal taxing power; a Senate Resolution in 1965 calling for legislative autonomy concerning the apportionment of State legislative bodies; a House Joint Resolution in 1973 calling for the allowance of school prayer in public schools; and a Senate Joint Resolution in 1975 calling for a balanced federal budget
6.  Endangering the Public: the Sanctuary Bill
HB 1362 - Criminal Procedure - Immigration - Community Trust - Less than a week after a 14-year-old girl was sexually assaulted in a Rockville high school by two undocumented immigrants, the House of Delegates passed this bill that essentially makes Maryland a Sanctuary State. This legislation prevents state and local law enforcement from complying with immigration detainers. I supported an amendment to exempt from this bill those people who the Department of Homeland Security suspects of terrorism, espionage, or threats to national security; those convicted of gang activity; and those convicted of felonies such as armed robbery, murder, and sexual assault. Unfortunately, this reasonable amendment was rejected.  The bill passed the House and Governor Hogan promised to veto the bill should it come to his desk. After a tremendous public outcry and a great deal of grassroots pressure on the Senate President and the members of the Senate Committee hearing the bill, the bill could not gain enough votes to move out of committee and it died in the Senate.
7.  "Protecting Our Schools" -- from SUCCESS!
 HB 978 - Protect Our Schools Act of 2017  To "protect" Maryland's schools against what they call alleged "Trump/Devos Privatization Agenda", the General Assembly passed - a bill pushed by the state teacher's union that weakens accountability standards and creates barriers for the state to intervene in failing schools. Both the Washington Post and Baltimore Sun Editorial boards have come out against the bill, with the Sun saying "We agree with Mr. Hogan that it represents more direct meddling by the General Assembly into the state school board's business than is wise." Governor Hogan wisely vetoed this disgraceful legislation, but his veto was overridden. 
8.  Protecting Planned Parenthood
HB 1083 - Health - Family Planning Services - Continuity of Care -- This is yet another bill that replenishes lost federal funding with state dollars. In this case, those state dollars will be directed to Planned Parenthood should it be defunded on the federal level.
Paid Sick Leave
        One thing that was abundantly clear at the end of the 2016 Session was that the General Assembly would pass some type of "paid sick leave" bill this year. Similar measures have been introduced over the last several years, and some have passed the House but languished in the Senate. Legislation that nearly passed in 2016 would have been incredibly burdensome to businesses and stifling to job creation in the state.

        In the 2017 Session, Governor Hogan introduced a common-sense paid sick leave initiative ( HB0382 / SB0305 )) that would address the needs of employees without weakening our state's business climate. The Governor's bill chooses the "carrot," rather than the "stick."  It provided tax incentives, as recommended by the Augustine Commission, to encourage even the smallest businesses to offer paid sick leave.  In the bill that passed, employers with fewer than 15 employees must offer unpaid sick leave. 

        Rather than move forward with Governor Hogan's common-sense proposal, the General Assembly instead pushed forward with HB 1 - Labor and Employment- Maryland Healthy Working Families Act. This legislation mandates up to 40 hours of "sick and safe" leave for employees who work for businesses with 15 or more employees. In addition, HB 1 carries heavy fines for non-compliance. The also requires paid sick leave for part-time employees who work as little as 8 hours per week, and it does not exclude temporary seasonal employees.

        One of the major concerns regarding this bill is the fact that some employees may lose their "paid time off."  Many employees get PTO that can be used for any situation - illness, vacation, or simply a personal day.  With the state requiring employers to provide this very regimented, regulated version of sick leave, employers may no longer be able to provide both this mandate and flexible PTO.
HB 879 - Public Integrity Act of 2017.   An unfortunate hallmark of the 2017 Session was the indictments and censures of legislators. Headlines have been filled with stories of legislators and former legislators accepting cash bribes for their votes, or for actively lobbying for legislation from which he financially benefitted. This made it abundantly clear significant ethics reforms were necessary. Governor Hogan introduced HB 897 to help address these issues. The bill requires additional conflict-of-interest disclosures by lawmakers and added new limits on how they can advocate for businesses. The legislation also creates a new citizen advisory board to recommend ways to further tighten ethics laws for lawmakers.
Second Amendment Legislation
HB 1036 -Firearms - Handgun Permit - Preliminary Approval.  For the first time this term, a common-sense change to the 2013 Gun Law passed out of my committee and was approved by the House.  The bill allows an individual who applies for a carry permit to get a "preliminary" approval before he or she spends the time and money to take the 16 hours of training required in the application.  Unfortunately, the Senate did not vote on the bill until the last day of the session and approved a minor floor amendment effectively killing the bill.
HB 159 - Weapon-Free Higher Education Zones.  On the positive side, for the second year in a row, we were able to prevent this bill from passing.  Every college in Maryland already has a policy prohibiting guns on campus, tailored to the individual needs of the school. This bill was not only unnecessary, but was an overreach of mammoth proportions.  Even though the Senate stripped out most of the provisions that were facially unconstitutional, the bill died when a conference failed to reach consensus on the last day. ( For a more complete discussion of the issue, see News from Annapolis: WEEK # 4)
My Legislation
HB 458/SB604:
Visual Impairments - Requirements Student Screening
          It is my fervent belief that WAY too many laws and regulations exist.  They are propagated by city, town, county, state and federal legislators, who, once elected, believe their job is to pass as many laws as possible so that their constituents will re-elect them because, based on the number of bills they get passed, they must be very "successful."  This is nonsense.  Ergo, it is my policy NOT to introduce bills without a very substantial reason.

         This year, I had a substantial reason.  A constituent by the name of Catherine Carter came to me with an issue about the lack of knowledge that exists in the schools, about a group of vision impairments known, generally, as binary vision disorder.  She explained that these impairments can impede a child's reading speed and ability, can cause headaches, fatigue, dizziness, and sometimes even worse symptoms that are often misdiagnosed.  She told me, from personal experience, of the devastating effect it has on the ability of school children to succeed.  She had information on the cost and nature of state-of-the-art screening to diagnose these conditions and that this test could easily be done in conjunction with the vision screening already being done in the schools.  Finally, I learned that 70% to 90% of the most common of these impairments can be corrected through vision therapy - once the parent and child are aware of the diagnosis.
          What made Ms. Carter's story unique, however, is that, in addition to her personal experience, she had researched the issue extensively, brought copious documentation, and even brought an expert in the field to our meeting.  And as I delved into everything Cat was saying and showing me, it became very clear that here was on opportunity to sponsor a piece of legislation that could do some real good for the people of Maryland, at a reasonable short-term cost to the taxpayers, and was capable of returning more dollars in savings than the cost of the program.

To find out what happened to these bills, go to my website: TrentKittleman.com and click on ISSUES & LEGISLATION, Vision Testing Bill.
Highway User Revenue
For more than 40 years, local roadways received 30% of highway user revenues (motor fuel tax and vehicle registration fees).  In 2009, the recession forced cuts to this area and 23 counties' share of funds plummeted from $282 million in 2007 to only $27 million today.  The cumulative loss of local roadway investment since Fiscal 2010 is nearly $3 billion. 
Local governments maintain the lion's share of the roads and bridges in our state. Unlike most other states, in Maryland, local governments own and maintain 83% of the roads. Even recognizing that state arterials have more lanes than local roads do, local governments still own and maintain 77% of the lane miles in Maryland. 
Restoring these dollars has been a priority for Governor Hogan who added more than $50 million in his budget in each the past two years.  Last year the legislature cut that amount in half.  This year, the Senate cut the Governor's $53 million funding to $38 million.  Nonetheless, this is still good news for Carroll and Howard counties
Road Kill Bill - REPEAL
SB 307 - "Road Kill Bill" Repeal - During the 2016 Legislative Session, the General Assembly passed a highly partisan ("Road Kill") bill that gave the legislature an unwarranted role in setting Maryland's transportation priorities.  [for more details, see 2016 Newsletter # 7, "Transportation: The Wrong Direction") The Road Kill bill's convoluted scoring system manipulated the selection criteria to have a strong preference for urban mass transit projects. Had the bill gone into effect, it would have killed all but seven of the 73 major priority transportation projects in the state.

This year, the Governor proposed SB 307 to repeal the 2016 bill.  The legislature did not pass the Governor's bill as is, however the Senate amendments postponed enactment of the bill for at least two years.
"Experimental"  Transportation Plan.    During those two years, the bill requires the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) to develop a project-based scoring system, (as required by last year's law), but only as an "experimental model." MDOT must then use the model to rank the major transportation projects being considered for inclusion in the departments six-year capital program, but need NOT use the model to prioritize projects, as was originally required by last year's law.  Additionally, a workgroup of legislators and transportation officials will study and report on the experimental model. This bill passed unanimously in the House and Senate
Farebox Recovery Goal Repeal
HB 271 - Maryland Transit Administration- Farebox Recovery, Goals, and Performance repealed the requirement that the Maryland Transit Authority (MTA) recover at least 35% of its total operating costs from fares.  This issue is essentially moot, since the MTA has never reached this very modest goal; light rail covered only 18% of its operating costs in 2016.  This is yet another tool being used to funnel money away from road projects. The elimination of the farebox requirement means that more of your gas tax dollars will be used to subsidize mass transit at an even greater rate
Heroin and Opioid Abuse

With opioid overdoses now surpassing deaths from car accidents, firearms and suicides, opioid abuse is a serious public health problem.   We lose five Marylanders per day due to fatal opioid overdoses.
  In January, Governor Hogan introduced a series of initiatives and a budgetary investment of over $20 million focused on prevention, treatment, and enforcement.  
HB 1432: The Prescribers Limits Act of 2017.  
Because prescription opioids prescribed for pain are often the first step to addiction, this legislation attempts to prevent doctors from automatically prescribing a month's supply of these drugs.  It requires that when prescribing opioids for the treatment of pain and based on their clinical judgement, physicians prescribe the lowest effective dose in a quantity that is no greater than what is needed for the expected duration of pain.  The language of this bill will not impede patients who are receiving a regular supply of medication from continuing to do so.
HB 1082 : the "Start Talking Maryland" Act  
The Heroin and Opioid Education and Community Action Act of 2017 requires:
  • The State Board of Education to implement a program of drug addiction and prevention education in grades 3-12.
  • Local boards of education to authorize a school nurse or other personnel to administer overdose-reversing medication on site.
  • Institutions of higher education to establish a policy on heroin and opioid addiction and prevention
HB 1329:  The "HOPE" Act of 2017
The Heroin and Opioid Prevention Effort (HOPE) and Treatment Act of 2017: 
  • Makes certain prescription drugs for opioid use disorders and overdose reversal more readily available;
  • Enhances local oversight of overdoses;
  • Broadens authority of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) relating to controlled dangerous substance (CDS) registration;
  • Develops additional services to treat individuals with substance use disorders;
  • Expands the scope of drug courts;
  • Establishes a 24-hour crisis treatment center;
  • Creates a toll-free health crisis hotline; and
  • Ensures community behavioral health providers receive rate adjustments
SB 539 - Distribution of  Fentanyl
Officially titled the "Distribution of Controlled Dangerous Substances - Fentanyl" bill, it  creates a new felony offense, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, for an individual found guilty of distributing, dispensing, or possessing with the intent to distribute fentanyl or heroin cut with fentanyl.  Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, used by drug dealers because of its high potency and low price.  In Maryland, fentanyl was associated with 738 deaths in the first three quarters of 2016.
Other Issues of Interest
The Budget . It isn't often that the "budget" is merely a footnote to a legislative session, but so long as Governor Hogan can set the spending limit, Maryland will be able to keep the lid on spending.  That doesn't mean we don't have problems - only that as long as the Democrats have a veto-proof majority, the Governor is unable to effect the changes we need to control mandated spending or make real progress on funding pensions .
HB 799: Family Law - Marriage - Age Requirements .   This bill would have imposed a complete ban on marriage by anyone under the age of 18 (of 17, as amended by the Senate).  The rationale for such a restrictive law arose out of the increasing number of young and very young women being forced into marriages, often to men significantly older than they are.  I discussed the issue at length in WEEK # 9 of the Newsletter, and asked readers to respond to a poll - which they did.  WEEK # 10 shows the results of the poll.  Responses were pretty evenly divided between those who would impose the ban outright, and those who preferred an amendment which carefully crafted an exception
SB 1165: Maryland Longitudinal Data System - Student and Workforce Data Linkage - Extension of Time Limit.  
      This bill is an egregious governmental invasion of privacy that slipped through almost unchallenged.  The bill increases the length of time  student data and workforce data may be linked  from 5 to 20 years after the last date on which the student is in school (including universities).   To understand what information is involved and other details about the bill, see the WEEK # 8 article, "Is Big Brother Here to Stay?"
HB 1240: Individualized Education Programs - Burden of Proof in Due Process Hearings and Studies After several years of trying to convince the legislature to switch the burden of proof from parents to the school systems in complaints concerning (1) the delivery of services under the child's current IEP or (2) proposed changes to the child's IEP, parents succeeded in getting the state at least to study the issue.  HB 1240 requires the state to contract with a public or private entity to conduct an independent study of the IEP process in the State, including the procedures relating to the identification, evaluation, and educational placement of a child, the provision of a free and appropriate education, and related dispute resolution procedures.
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