News from Annapolis
2017 Session:  Week 7                        Delegate Trent Kittleman - District 9A
  • Clean Energy? Story of the Veto: Part IV 
  • Making MARYLAND a "Sanctuary State"???
  • Do we have the right to choose to die?
  • Updates on other Major Legislation
            • Paid Sick Leave
            • Redistricting
            • Septic System Regulations
  • Goings on in Annapolis
  • Legislative Scholarship Information
Next week: Special Edition on Education
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Story of 'Clean Energy' Bill Veto: Part IV
Myth # 4: "The cost increase is small and won't matter!"
"It's not enough to worry about?"
        Legislators like to look at one bill at a time. Seems reasonable.  It isn't.  A "small increase" in a tax or fee can easily be dismissed.  What cannot and should not be dismissed is the cumulative effect of bill after bill after bill that imposes yet another "small charge," until all these small fees add up into "real money!"

What will the "Clean Energy" bill cost Maryland Taxpayers ?
          Compliance with the existing clean energy bill that requires Maryland to attain a 20% use of renewable energy by 2020 has experienced what the Maryland Public Service Commission calls an "exponential" increase in costs. From $14.7 million in 2011, the cost rose to $126 million in 2015, and this is just for the major compliance cost: the purchase of RECs (Renewable Energy Credits).  Almost all of this increase will be passed along to the taxpayer . . . for the "privilege" of creating jobs and cleaner air in other states. 
Can Marylanders afford more fees?   

        We hear the same refrain every time the majority wants to spend more for the next worthy cause: it's just pennies a day.  It's time to take a realistic look at the economic status of Marylanders.  During the presidential campaign, there was a clear difference of opinion as to whether the country was doing better or worse economically, and we all know that statistics can tell you whatever you want to hear, if you have an agenda. 
         In the Fall of 2016, the United Ways of Maryland issued a report on their in-depth study of "Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed" Marylanders (acronym, "ALICE").  The Senior VP of the United Way of Central Maryland, Sandy Monck, wrote in the introduction to the report:

        "Maryland is one of the most culturally diverse places in America.  We have some of the wealthiest communities in the country but also some of the poorest. . . .
        "But that's the issue.  We often don't know who is struggling.  Sometimes, they are hiding in plain sight.  . . .
        "The ALICE population represents hardworking people we interact with every day: fellow Marylanders who have a job -- or two or three -- yet cannot afford basic necessities to remain stable and self-sufficient. . . .
        "ALICE individuals and families teeter on that critical dividing line between the haves and have nots.  All it takes is one crisis -- a health emergency, a car breaking down, an increase in monthly rent, [ AN INCREASING ELECTRICITY BILL]  -- and they will very likely fail."
35% of Marylanders are just "Getting By" --      
        According to the findings of the study, in addition to the 10% of Marylanders below the federal poverty level, there is another 25% that qualify as ALICE households. That means that at least 35% of Marylanders are just "getting by" and subject to economic failure with every extra dollar they must pay out.      

-- and that's WITH government subsidizing 50% of income for that 35%!
     The bare-minimum Household Survival Budget (HSB) that Alice uses as its base accounts for only a very modest living in each community, and does not allow for any savings.   Even so, the average annual HSB for a Maryland family of four (two adults, one infanct, one pre-schooler) is $61,224 -- more than double  the U.S. family poverty level of $23,850.

        "The total annual income of both poverty-level and ALICE households in Maryland in 2014 was $17.1 billion, including wages and Social Security.  This is only 45 percent of the amount needed just to reach the ALICE Threshold of $38.2 billion statewide.  Government and nonprofit assistance made up an additional 40%, or $15.2 billion, still leaving an unfilled gap of 15% or $5.9 billion."
ALICE Report for Maryland, page 7 [pages not numbered]

        These are worrisome numbers.  But these aren't just "numbers;" these are real people having real difficulty providing for themselves and their families.  There are two ways this condition is going to improve: (1) growth in the private sector economy, and (2) a government that STOPS ignoring the impact of its costs, and begins to reign in spending.         
Making Maryland a "Sanctuary State" ?
Two foot stack of paper on the left are the signatures of 11,000 citizens of Maryland AGAINST this bill
11-hour Hearing. . . 

        HB 1362, the so-called "Maryland Law Enforcement and Governmental Trust Act." was heard before our Judiciary Committee this past Tuesday.  The bill,  which has been cross-filed in the Senate, would: 
  • prohibit local law enforcement officials from asking crime victims and suspects about their immigration status,  
  • prevent the State from disclosing nonpublic information about crime suspects to federal immigration authorities. 
  • prevent local law enforcement from (1) transferring an individual to federal immigration authorities for purposes of immigration enforcement, (2) detain an individual, or (3) notify federal immigration authorities of release information without a judicial warrant. 
At the end of a long night, over 30 people stayed to testify against HB 1362, most of whom were legal Asian immigrants.  
"End of Life Option"
Should we have the right to ask for aid in dying?

       The House is again considering a bill that would allow those who have less than six months to live to request aid in dying through the use of pain-free drugs.  
        It is unlikely that the bill will become law this year because a companion bill in the Senate was withdrawn.  But the issue isn't going away.  
        It is, without doubt, the most wrenching moral issue we have faced in this 4-year term.  During the seven-hour hearing, we heard from supporters and opponents of this bill, all of whom were extraordinarily passionate about this issue.
        Supporters tend to believe in allowing individuals maximum freedom, which would include the right to choose to die, and I tend to lean that way.  Most opponants  believe that taking one's own life is wrong; indeed, I felt that religious conviction concerning life was the most compelling testimony given by those in opposition.  These two perspectives present a very difficult moral choice.  
        On the other hand, there are very practical concerns that worry all of us.  The most significant concern is the potential for selfish or inappropriate influences to be levied on people who are close to death.  
        Although the bill provides for a number of protective measures to address these concerns, there is always the fear that someone within six months of death may be unduly influenced to take his or her own life, or even feel compelled to do so to spare the family from going through the agony of his or her final days, or to limit medical costs.
           To further address this very real concern, I have proposed an amendment  that would require people to consider this issue well in advance of any situation in which they would be eligible to request aid in dying.  It would require that before such a request can be made, the individual must have signed an Advance Directive specifically indicating their wish to have access to the choice to request aid in dyingThis advance directive must be dated at least one year in advance of any such request.  
        The amendment also provides for an individual to sign an Advance Directive specifically indicating that they do NOT want access to aid in dying.  While the latter Directive could be changed, it would certainly provide evidence if there is any controversy over the legitimacy of a change made when the individual becomes very sick or disabled.
        At this point, I don't know whether my amendment will be accepted, and because of the withdrawal of the companion bill in the Senate, it is unclear whether there will be any further votes in the House.  Nonetheless, it is an issue with which we we will untimately have to deal.  
Update on Major Legislation 
Paid Sick Leave Bill Passes House

        Despite overwhelming testimony from a wide variety of individuals and entities, the House chose to ignore the concerns and pass the bill essentially as written.  
        On the floor of the House, Republicans offered several common-sense amendments that would have improved the bill, while keeping it virtually intact.  Each one was defeated, generally on party-line votes:
  • Help employees of small employers.  Borrowing from Governor Hogan's alternative proposal, one amendment would have offered small employers (14 or fewer employees) a $20,000 tax incentive to offer their employees PAID sick leave.  It is unconscionable that the majority party refused to accept this method of extending the benefit to employees of small businesses!
  • Conform "small business" with federal law.  Federal law defines a "small business" as one with fewer that 50 employees.  This is reasonable, and other states that have passed such a bill have used a higher threshold than Maryland's 15.  This was also defeated along a party-line vote.
  • Protect services for the elderly and disabled.  This amendment would have allowed employers with between 15 and 49 employees whose business is providing necessary personal services to elderly or disabled individuals to take a state income tax credit of $15 for every hour of sick leave earned under this bill, not to exceed $20,000 in any given year.  Once again, defeated along party lines.
  • Exempt Seasonal Workers.  As written, the bill applies even to employees such as the young people who go to work in Ocean City over the summer.  Once they've worked their first 90 days, they are eligible to take the sick leave they've accrued.  Since they only have a week or two left, it is quite possible that many of them will take advantage of the days off, leaving Ocean City stores -- and customers -- without help.  Again, the majority had no answer, but defeated the amendment.
  • Eliminate treble and punitive damages from penalties.  In another common-sense amendment, Republicans attempted to return the penalty provisions to normality.  The amendment required an employer found guilty of violating any provision of this law to pay damages equal to the amount of any unpaid earned sick and safe leave owed to the employee and any actual economic damages, as well as reasonable court costs.  It also protected the employer from being liable as an individual.  As passed, however, the bill not only provides for the penalties stated above, but the Commissioner: "MAY, IN THE COMMISSIONER'S DISCRETION, DIRECT THE PAYMENT OF AN ADDITIONAL AMOUNT UP TO THREE TIMES THE VALUE OF THE EMPLOYEE'S HOURLY WAGE FOR EACH VIOLATION; AND MAY, IN THE COMMISSIONER'S DISCRETION, ASSESS A CIVIL PENALTY OF UP TO $1,000 FOR EACH EMPLOYEE FOR WHOM THE EMPLOYER IS NOT IN COMPLIANCE WITH THIS SUBTITLE."

Let's hope that the Senate shows some common sense!

Congressional Districts 1, 2, 3, and 4 are patently absurd.  It's time to STOP this nonsense!

        Maryland ranks near the top for gerrymandering - with some of the most partisan legislative and congressional districts in the country. 
        This past Friday, Governor Hogan held a press conference to introduce a bill to form a non-partisan redistricting commission. It's time to make government serve the people instead of special interest groups.
        Even former Governor O'Malley, the architect of the current partisan election maps, is admitting that Maryland needs redistricting reform!!  This is a non-partisan issue that 73% of Marylanders support. Governor Hogan is right - let's get this done this year
The Battle of the "BAT" 

       If passed, HB 281 and SB 266 will have a dramatic effect on the cost of new homes in areas such as District 9A, where few new homes are able to connect to county or municipal sewage systems. 

Quick Overview of the Issue.  In 2009, the Legislature passed a narrowly-taylored law requiring new homes built within the critical areas of the Bay to use "Best Available Technology" ("BAT") to construct on-site septic systems. 
        BAT septic systems cost $8,000 to $10,000 more than conventional systems on installation, and require electricity and maintenance agreements that can cost hundreds of dollars a year.  Nonetheless, the additional cost was deemed worth it to protect the Bay.
          In 2012, under Governor O'Malley, the Department of the Environment promulgated new regulations that went well beyond the scope of the original legislation and expanded the required use of BAT to any septic system in Maryland.  When Governor Hogan was elected, he scaled back the costly regulation to apply only to areas critical to the quality of the Bay -- consistent with the original legislation.
        HB 281/SB 266 would undo the Governor's revisions to the regulations and reinstate the costly 2012 requirement to use BAT for all septic systems in Maryland.  The expanded regulations are both unfair and unnecessary, and do little to help the Bay.  For instance, conventional septic systems in Western Maryland contribute LESS nitrogen to the Bay that the costly BAT systems in the Critical Areas.

Current Status of the Bills: Looking Good.  Hearings have been held on the bills in both the House and Senate.  No votes have been taken in the House.  It's another matter in the Senate.  After passing out of committee on a straight party-line vote, the bill failed to get enough votes on the floor of the Senate, losing 23-22.   Although one Senator (who voted against the bill) called for a re-vote, he does not plan to change his vote.  Moreover, even if the bill were to squeak by, it seems clear that it does not have enough votes to survive a Gubernatorial veto.  And finally, Senate President Mike Miller voted against the bill.

Caution!  Although this is good news, lets hope we haven't won the battle only to end up losing the war.  An article in the Baltimore Sun reported that Senator Thomas "Mac" Middleton pointed out that Virginia requires that conventional septic systems be cleaned out every three years.  "Wouldn't that be a better alternative?" he's quoted as saying.  My pocketbook doesn't think so!
Goings on in Annapolis
Lunch with the Howard County Chamber of Commerce
        This past Wednesday, Howard County legislators were invited to lunch with members of the Chamber of Commerce at Harry Browne's.  At this time of year, it's hard to find time, but a number of us made it and thoroughly enjoyed the food and conversation.  I sat and talked with several representatives of BGE.  ( So glad they were okay with the summary of the surcharges included on our BGE bills that appeared in last week's Newsletter!). 
Carmen & me
NAMI - National Alliance on Mental Illness: Education-Advocate-Listen-Lead

        NAMI  is the nation's largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.   READ MORE  about this wonderful organization.
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