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During session, I try to make weekly updates to keep my constituents informed. I will also post other news stories and materials here.

End of 2019 Session Wrap-Up

April 19, 2019

As the gavel came down for the final time at midnight on the 2019 legislative session, the mood was somber and reflective as the General Assembly mourned the loss of Speaker and District 30 Delegate, Mike Busch. I am glad to have had a chance to serve with him and get to know him over the last 5 years. While we differed on many political issues, I will forever admire how he consistently conducted business with fairness and professionalism.

As the session started this year, I was named the Deputy Minority Leader of the House.  Serving on the leadership team for the Republican Caucus, I supported fellow members by developing the minority position on legislation, negotiating with the majority party on legislative differences, directing minority caucus activities and coordinating and leading debate for the minority party on the house floor. I am humbled by the trust and faith that my colleagues have shown by selecting me to serve in this position.

The legislative session, as it always does, includes both wins and losses.  As your representative, it is my duty to keep you informed and aware of legislation that has the potential to both help and harm our community.  For this reason, I want to highlight certain legislation and provide you with a brief overview of the past session.

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County Tax Rate Comparison for Southern Maryland

April 08, 2019

I have been asked numerous times how much St. Mary's County residents pay in taxes compared to other Southern Maryland Counties.  Click here for that breakdown.   

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Session Update - March 27, 2019

March 27, 2019

Now that crossover week has concluded, over the next two weeks, we are gearing up to see bills coming up for final passage or be shelved for another year.  I am continuing to watch some legislation that I think is noteworthy and will continue to share them with you until the final bell rings on the 2019 convening of the General Assembly.

Healthcare

HB 759-Pharmacy Benefits Managers - Pharmacy Choice  

I believe in consumer choice.  I am very pleased to say that my bill has passed out of the House and is now in the Senate.  This bill will prevent the large PBMs (Pharmacy Benefits Managers) like CVS from forcing you to use their pharmacy only. This bill will increase consumer choice and stop the practice of large pharmacy conglomerates from unfairly eliminating competition from local and independent pharmacies.

HB 819-Maryland Health Insurance Option (Protect Maryland Health Care Act of 2019)

I have long opposed the Individual Health Insurance Mandate because it unfairly penalizes the self-employed. I was extremely concerned when Maryland Democrats attempted to push a state version this legislative session. I am glad to report a bipartisan solution has turned a very bad bill to a good bill. The mandate was stripped and replaced with a checkbox for taxpayers to indicate if they would like to receive Healthcare information. I wish all legislation could work this way.

HB 697- Health Insurance – Consumer Protections and Maryland Health Insurance Coverage Protection Commission

This bill was intended to codify the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in State Law, but this would have had the potential of causing many problems.  No one has any idea what the Federal government might do in the future regarding the ACA.  The reimbursement alone for two large programs of Obamacare is Medicaid expansion and subsidies for the individual market would cost the State of Maryland $3.2 billion respectively.  The bill was changed to a workgroup to watch for future federal changes.

Transportation

HB 1412- Transportation – Maryland Metro/Transit Funding Act – Alterations

This bill has the potential to send even more money to mass-transit out of the Transportation Trust Fund by repealing the 3% spending cap on the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA).  In 2014, legislation was passed to protect the Transportation Trust Fund from being raided making it a “lockbox”, but this bill essentially allows for the TTF to be pick-pocketed again. Instead of requiring WMATA to stay within budget, this bill allows it to spend freely to be subsidized by the TTF and by the people that fund it.  I oppose this because rural areas of Maryland pay dis-proportionally into the TTF, yet receive no mass transit options. Furthermore, MDOT has advised that the passage of HB 1412 puts at risk its capital program by $1.5 billion through FY24. Additionally, the bill requires MDOT to fully fund the annual $167 million in dedicated capital funding for WMATA, resulting in a $793 million reduction in projects currently planned by MDOT. Combined this bill could impose $2.3 billion dollars negative effect on the states Consolidated Transportation Program, forcing MDOT to cut projects that are programmed to begin in the coming fiscal year.

Education

HB 1413- The Blueprint for Maryland's Future

Of course, I support strong schools and want the best education for our children, but simply spending more taxpayer dollars that will result in future tax increases could prove to be fiscally problematic for our citizens. The Kirwan legislation is a 28-page bill with a price tag of $324,600,000 in FY 2020 and $749,740,000 in Fiscal 2021, with the balance of the $4 billion price tag looming ahead. 

I have two main concerns about the massive increase in education spending: where is the revenue source, and where is the accountability?

The commission’s recommendations outlined in the bill are estimated to cost nearly $4 billion more each year once fully phased in, and virtually no accountability measures have been included in the legislation. In a letter to the House and the Senate, Maryland’s Dept. of Budget and Taxation Secretary David Brinkley advised that the state will experience a cumulative five-year shortfall of $21 billion from FY2021 through FY2025. Putting that another way, Maryland families will be asked to pay an additional $7,000 per family in state and local taxes over the next five years to cover the shortfall.

That’s raising the sales tax by 33%, personal income tax by 15% or property tax by 200%.

For more information be read the article: Washington Post: Maryland can't spend its way to better schooling

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Session Update - March 4, 2019

March 04, 2019

It is getting pretty busy in Annapolis but I wanted to share some updates on my legislation.

HB 1018-St. Mary's County - Public Safety - Special Police Officers Pilot Program

This legislation makes a small change in who can hire and assign Special Police Officers, with the intent to utilize SPO’s as a supplement to our County’s School safety initiatives. It allows a government entity such as the Sheriff, to request a special police officer (SPO) and allows them to be placed at local schools with written consent from the school system.  I believe this could have a strong and meaningful effect on the ability to achieve our goal of having a qualified armed officer at every school that wants them.  I thank the Sheriff and the County Board of Commissioners for their support of this legislation.

HB 609 - Income Tax - Credit for Long-Term Care Premiums

This bill allows a taxpayer to claim a tax credit against State Income tax equal to 100% of the eligible long term care premium paid during the taxable year for long term care insurance covering the taxpayer, spouse, parent, stepparent child or stepchild.

Having an annual tax credit on premiums incentivizes people to plan earlier for long term care and will prevent folks from ending up on Medicaid, having spent their savings and assets for long term care costs.

HB 1261 – Volunteer Fire Company and Rescue Squads - Member Disability and Death Benefits - Appeals Process

This legislation was requested constituents, lifetime volunteer Firemen in Leonardtown. The legislation seeks to establish an appeals board and appeals process for volunteer firefighters and rescue squad members who have been injured and have had their application for benefits denied by the Board of Trustees. Currently, the only thing in place for such cases is to take it to litigation. This bill seeks to provide a median step for a mutual resolution.

Upcoming Hearing

HB 546 Criminal Procedure - Supervised Probation - Convicted Sex Offenders

This legislation would require that a convicted sex offender’s length of parole/probation be the same amount of time that they are required to be on the sex offender registry.

Bill would tie sex offenders' probation to time on sex registry

Hearing on March 6th in Judiciary at 1pm.  If you are interested in submitting testimony, or appearing in person to testify, please contact my office.

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Session Update - Feb 14, 2019

February 14, 2019

Happy Valentine’s Day! I wanted to take a moment to update you on the upcoming hearings for a couple of my bills. If you would like to provide testimony in favor of any of these bills, please get in touch with my office.

HB 1261- Volunteer Fire Company and Rescue Squads - Member Disability and Death Benefits - Appeals Process

Authorizing certain members of a volunteer fire company or rescue squad and certain individuals who are denied payment of a certain disability or death benefit by the Board of Trustees of the Maryland State Firemen's Association to appeal the decision to a certain appeals panel and establishing an appeals panel.

Hearing  2/19 at 1pm - Appropriations

HB 670- Public Safety - Special Police Officers - Employing Entity

This bill allows the Sheriff’s department and a school to enter into a written agreement to employ a special police officer, with limited police powers to provide security at a school.

HB 1018 -St. Mary's County - Public Safety - Special Police Officers Pilot Program

The bill is the same as above but only effects St. Mary's county.  

Hearings for HB670 & HB1018 2/26 at 1pm- Judiciary

HB 609- Income Tax - Credit for Long-Term Care Premiums

This bill would allow a taxpayer to claim a credit against State Income tax in an amount equal to 100% of their eligible long-term care premiums covering the individual, their spouse or parents in the same taxable year.

The bill encourages long term advance planning and will help defray the cost of long term care.

Hearing 2/27 at 1:00 p.m. -Ways and Means

 

In addition to my bills listed above, I want to highlight one piece of legislation that I oppose:

$15 Minimum Wage

Thank you for submitting your testimony and/ or showing up in person to testify on HB 166- Minimum Wage (fight for 15) last Friday. There were large numbers of people on both sides of the issue.

The Senate version of the Minimum Wage bill- SB280, is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Finance Committee on 2/21 at 1pm.

Small businesses are the backbone of Maryland’s economy.  They are the job creators that offer many of the opportunities for people to get ahead both socially and economically in our state.  The fact is that mandating an arbitrary higher minimum wage makes Maryland less competitive and will result in losing jobs. If this bill is successful, Maryland’s minimum wage would be double that of Virginia and Pennsylvania and nearly double West Virginia and Delaware.  The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) projects that change will result in a loss of nearly -100,000 jobs over the next ten years. This change in policy will undoubtedly result in hurting those exact same people it intends to help.

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