CALL TO ACTION: TAX INCREASES COMING
March 15, 2024

House Democrats seem to have veered off track. As I've mentioned in recent interviews, HB1515 appears to be a deep fake, and it seems clear that Annapolis Democrats had no intention of passing that bill. Today, as reported to the Baltimore Banner, House Democrats unveiled their budget, which includes other massive proposed tax hikes. https://www.thebaltimorebanner.com/politics-power/state-government/maryland-budget-taxes-disagreement-H7AVKQ6MDNGZJCEBBS26SNYOSM/

Here's what House Democrats are proposing:

  • Legalizing internet gambling, also known as "iGaming": $300 million
  • Changing vehicle registration fees so that large vehicles pay more: $250 million
  • Enacting a corporate tax reform known as "combined reporting" on LLCs: $225 million
  • Applying the vehicle excise tax to trade-ins: $155 million
  • Increasing the vehicle excise tax from 6% to 6.5%: $100 million
  • Increasing a vehicle registration surcharge to fund trauma centers: $85 million
  • Increasing tolls: $75 million
  • Adding a 75-cent fee on rides through ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft: $45 million
  • Increasing fines for endangering road workers: $30 million
  • Increasing registration fees for electric vehicles: $20 million
  • Adding an excise tax on firearms and ammunition: $20 million

A total of $1.3 billion in new taxes is proposed to fund the costly and failing Kirwan Education policy and address the deficit in the Transportation Trust Fund caused by mass transit.

We are only a few days away from crossover and will be on the House Floor voting on legislation on Saturday. Marylanders are struggling with the high cost of everything from groceries to utility bills and can not afford these reckless financial decisions. All Delegates represent the citizens of Maryland. I highly suggest emailing and calling the ruling party Delegates and telling them you can not afford the results of their failed policies. Tell them to vote NO to any tax or fee increases.

Here is a link to the members of the General Assembly: https://mgaleg.maryland.gov/mgawebsite/Members/Index/house

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ELECTION GAMING
March 13, 2024

Free and secure elections are the cornerstone of our representative government, and we must be committed to ensuring that every American's voice is heard at the ballot box. I want to inform you of three election bills of concern that further game the system.

HB 627- Election Law - Automatic Voter Registration - State Correctional Facilities: This bill turns Maryland State Correctional Facilities into an automatic voter registration agency to register inmates to vote when released. You read that correctly, inmates, or should I say freshly released.

I offered an amendment that would do the same for the Department of Natural Resources so that automatic voter registration can be offered to anyone purchasing a hunting or fishing license. As the proponents of HB627 stated, the bill intends to ensure that all qualified individuals should be given the means to register to vote; logically, you would think that would extend to hunters and fishermen. To no one's surprise, my amendment was voted down party lines. I voted NO to the bill. https://www.youtube.com/live/Xv6Il6W3VQM?si=WZOjKlh8ucVeyWza&t=2201

HB 700 – Election Law - Election Judges - Revisions: While this bill may appear harmless in its attempt to engage young individuals in the electoral process, it sets a concerning precedent by assigning critical election judge duties to those below voting age. We must examine the prudence of entrusting the sanctity of the electoral process to those who have not reached the maturity and experience required to cast a ballot themselves. The prospect of compensated service for students without parallel emphasis on rigorous training and accountability mechanisms could inadvertently lead to a degradation of the electoral oversight integral to fair elections. The bill also imposes an unfunded mandate on local governments. I voted NO to the bill.

HB 641 – Election Law - Curbside Voting: HB 641 proposes the ability of curbside voting. Without a Voter ID requirement, this bill increases potential voter fraud. I voted NO to the bill.

The integrity of our election system is the thread that binds our democracy together. We must thoroughly evaluate the potential for these bills to undermine our commitment to fair, equitable, and secure elections. We must also be steadfast in ensuring that each measure we contemplate and pass reinforces the pillar of trust between the government and its citizens.

These bills will now be heard in the Senate Education, Energy, and Environment Committee.  https://mgaleg.maryland.gov/mgawebsite/Committees/Details?cmte=eee

Please contact the committee members to express your concerns.

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STEERING MARYLAND AWAY FROM AUTOMATIC GAS TAX HIKES
March 05, 2024

I want to share my published editorial in today's Baltimore Sun regarding my proposal to eliminate the automatic gas tax and increase the farebox recovery rate for mass transit. This summer, on July 1st, Maryland motorists will once again be hit with a tax hike, expected to pay an additional $30 million in gas taxes. It seems unfair to me that motorists will once again be forced to pay more at the pump. Yet, the WMATA Metro, for instance, only achieves a 6% farebox recovery rate, meaning that 94% of the transportation costs for riders are subsidized. They are subsidized by those who drive cars.

My article was written before the recent news that the long-delayed Purple Line, now $3.6 billion over budget, will require an additional $425 million. In my view, the heavy reliance on subsidies for mass transit is straining our state's transportation budget and is unjustly burdensome for those Marylanders facing escalating fuel taxes. https://www.baltimoresun.com/2024/03/05/steering-maryland-away-from-automatic-gas-tax-hikes-guest-commentary/

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GET OUT OF TROUBLE FREE CARD
February 29, 2024

On Monday morning, I received numerous text messages alerting me to the "T-bone and Heather " radio show, which, at the time, discussed disruptive student behavior at our public schools. Since Annapolis updated the behavior discipline guidelines, dealing with disruptive student behavior has been a persistent challenge. HB615 stands out as one of the most disconnected and insensitive bills I've encountered in years. This bill prohibits the punishment of students for disruptive and threatening behavior in both K-12 schools and colleges. (Link to the bill)

You might ask yourself, how in the world, in today's chaotic education setting, do Democratic politicians think this would be a good idea?

Yesterday, I offered an amendment to HB615. The amendment said that any student violating the behavior subsection shall be prohibited from participating in or attending extracurricular activities for a year.

The amendment had no criminal component but was designed to be another tool to provide for some consequences and accountability for those students who engage in disruptive behavior. I am pleased to mention that the amendment aligned with the position supported by MABE (Maryland Association of Boards of Education) about the bill. MABE is the association that represents all locally elected school boards in the state of Maryland.

The amendment set off a firey half-hour debate in the House. Once again, the committee had difficulty explaining the bill's benefits and why they contended that the amendment was unjustified. When faced with trouble and their backs to the wall, the floor leaders predictably ran to their safe haven talking point of claiming racism. As unbelievable as it sounds, the committee said that this simple, non-criminal amendment would contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline and claimed racism. The message is that it is now racist to insist on proper civil behavior and penalties in schools.

Watch the video yourself: https://youtu.be/QKR9U0MqCJk

The amendment was voted down mostly down party lines, with one Democrat voting with me and with another Democrat running off the floor, skipping the vote. The bill now moves to the third reader and is set to pass the House and move to the Senate tomorrow.

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HALFWAY THROUGH SESSION
February 27, 2024

We are just over the halfway point of the 2024 Legislative Session.  This session has been jam-packed as a record amount of over 3,400 legislative bills have been filed.  Halfway through the session, the House of Delegates passed 111 bills, but only 7 were Republican initiatives.  All Republican legislation that passed has been minor bills, ranging from requiring motorcycle passengers' feet to reach the foot pegs to renaming fish.  In the coming weeks, I hope more meaningful Republican legislation is considered.

I believe the middle-class Marylanders took a beating in Annapolis last week.  The ruling party, with the help of a handful of misguided Republicans, passed significant legislation that will impact your healthcare, education, transportation, and the small business community.

HB198 - Funding Allocation to WMTA - While significant transportation projects have been cut around the state, House Bill 198 gives $237 million to the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMTA).  That is a 34% increase and a crazy amount of money since only 9% of Maryland residents utilize mass transit.

A recent statewide poll from Gonzales reconfirms that 64% of Marylanders want our state government to focus on fixing roads and bridges.  Yet, the Transportation Trust Fund is facing a nearly $3.8 billion shortfall, primarily because of mass transit.  As you can imagine, I voted No; however, the bill passed and is now in the Senate.

HB558 - Changes in Educational Curriculum - House Bill 558, as amended, makes gender identity and sexual orientation its stand-alone curriculum and disallows parents to opt out their children.  The absence of parental notice or control over such a sensitive area of education represents a substantial departure from established norms of family engagement in schooling.  I voted No; however, the bill passed and is now in the Senate.  You can watch my floor speech here: https://youtu.be/_KXj5UeJ4r8

HB785 - Insurance Purchase Without Legal Residency - The passage of House Bill 785 permits nearly 400,000 undocumented immigrants in Maryland access to purchase health insurance through the Maryland Exchange.  While expanding healthcare access is a noble goal, this legislation has profound consequences.  Proof of residency is usually needed in Maryland for services, but this law doesn't require it, possibly leading to fraud.  The primary issue for me is the concern over future access to healthcare providers.  This legislation could add hundreds of thousands of new people to the insurance rolls.  In contrast, we have not added a single doctor to provide healthcare at a time when we are experiencing a shortage of healthcare providers.  I voted No; however, the bill passed and is now in the Senate.

The entire floor debate on HB558 and HB785 can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/live/oixNqXVTgRE?si=y8WM1vKsamzdveQU&t=1718

HB368 - Legal Action Against Public Accommodation Businesses - Finally, House Bill 368 expands legal action against places of public accommodations.  It encourages lawsuits by awarding punitive fines to the complainant, potentially leading to social justice groups targeting businesses for personal financial gain.

This bill essentially paves the way for financial exploitation, and I voted No; however, the bill passed and is now in the Senate.

Conclusion - I am committed to representing your interests, protecting our shared values, and ensuring a fair and transparent legislative process.  Thank you for entrusting me with this responsibility.  Please do not hesitate to contact my office with any concerns or suggestions.

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HEALTH INSURANCE FOR UNDOCUMENTED
February 19, 2024

I am happy that Sinclair Broadcasting has recently purchased the Baltimore Sun newspaper. I am excited for the future and for Sinclair to return a once-great newspaper to prominence. However, I am disappointed to read this story written by Hannah Gaskill, who, incredibly, never even took the time to interview a single opposing view for her story.

https://www.baltimoresun.com/2024/02/16/bill-to-allow-undocumented-marylanders-to-apply-for-health-coverage-through-the-state-advances/

The truth is we spent a considerable amount of time on this bill over the last couple of weeks, both on the subcommittee and in bill hearings. The bill was intensely debated. On Friday, HB728 was voted out of committee in a party-line vote. 

HB728 allows for the nearly 400,000 undocumented immigrants who allegedly live in Maryland to purchase health insurance on the Maryland exchange. (Yes, almost 400,000. Another data point in Ms. Gaskill's article got wrong.)

There are numerous concerns surrounding this bill. Let's acknowledge that offering incentives to undocumented immigrants may attract more individuals. Well-informed individuals witness the ongoing border chaos through nightly news coverage, and Maryland is no exception in facing challenges to manage the situation. A few weeks ago, Governor Moore signed a letter with eight other Democratic governors begging the Biden Administration for more money and resources for immigration aid.    

First, advocates' claims that taxpayer subsidies do not contribute to covering the premiums of undocumented immigrants are incorrect. The rates across the entire individual market are reduced due to a reinsurance plan implemented in 2018, funded by taxing private insurers. It is accurate to state that if HB728 is approved, the taxes imposed on Americans' insurance plans will provide discounted rates for individuals in the individual market, including undocumented immigrants.

Second, the issue with HB728 is that no residency verification is required for those undocumented immigrants applying for coverage. An applicant simply needs a Maryland P.O. Box or the address of a friend who lives in Maryland to receive coverage. There is no requirement to provide past paid utility bills, tax returns, or any other residency verifications required by Maryland law for so many other benefits. 

Third, and the most concerning thing for me, is the concern over future access to healthcare providers. This legislation could add hundreds of thousands of new people to the insurance rolls while we have not added a single doctor to provide healthcare. The lack of provider access hit home for me over the summer. As many of you know, I had a little healthcare scare, and from the time I was given the original referral for a biopsy, it took nearly seven weeks to get the appointment. Many constituents, especially in the aftermath of COVID-19, have complained about how long it takes to obtain an appointment to see a specialist. Adding hundreds of thousands of new people to the insurance rolls will only exacerbate the problem of receiving quality medical care in a timely manner.  

This third point may seem cruel or harsh at first reading, but I believe we have a moral obligation and responsibility to take care of our citizens first.  We should not expand coverage of life-saving resources with the rest of the world at the expense of our mothers, fathers, grandparents, friends, and citizens. I often avoid Presidential politics in my newsletter because the topic can be polarizing. Still, many people, including myself, believe in and support an American First agenda. Well, this bill falls into the American Last category. 

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MAJORITY OF MARYLANDERS FAVOR
February 19, 2024

I hope you are doing well. One thing that frustrates me is how conservative ideas and solutions are often misrepresented as radical or uncommon by the Democratic Party, their allies in the media, and sometimes even by members of the Republican Party.

I would like to share some important insights from the latest statewide Gonzalez poll. Part 1 of Poll: https://www.marylandmatters.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/Gonzales-Poll-Part-1-Maryland-Statewide-February-2024.pdf

The fact that a statewide poll supports our conservative legislative agenda should give us confidence. While our views may differ from those of the Left, I find it refreshing and encouraging that we find common ground with the majority of Marylanders on important issues across all demographic sectors.

Poll Results

Transportation

On the topic of transportation, I have been harping for a few years about the problem of mass transit disproportionally draining the Transportation Trust Fund. In my opinion, the Transportation Trust Fund is being asked to do too much, and overwhelmingly, the public wants their bridges and roads maintained and improved. I have introduced legislation to do just that, so I am pretty excited to have a statewide poll that reinforces those convictions.

QUESTION: Transportation Funding Higher Priority Which of the following should receive the higher priority regarding transportation funding in the state? Maintaining and improving the roads and bridges in Maryland, or Maintaining and improving mass transit in Maryland, such as buses, light rail, and MARC trains?

Public Safety - Theft of a Firearm

It has been a frustrating few years for law-abiding gun owners when activist groups like Moms Demand Action have time and time again focused on gun violence but refuse actually to support legislation that cracks down on criminals. For at least the last five years, the House Republicans have tried to close this loophole of the theft of a firearm. In Maryland, firearm theft is treated the same as if a criminal stole a TV or some other item with a monetary value less than $1,500. Our attempts to increase the penalty have consistently been voted down by the Democratic majority. As it turns out, the voice of Maryland is clear and resolute on this issue: an overwhelming majority, 88% to be precise, stand with us in believing that possession of a stolen gun should not just be illegal but classified as a felony.

To read the rest please click the READ More link below:

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