My 2023 End of Session Letter to Constituents.
April 19, 2023
It is a privilege to serve you in the Maryland House of Delegates. The 2023 Legislative Session came to a close at Midnight on April 11. The legislative session, as it always does, includes both wins and losses. During the last election, I spent countless hours door-knocking constituents' homes. While many politicians focus on polling, there is no substitute for hearing someone's views in their own words when they open their doors! Constituents told me about several issues of concern, such as the high cost of living, violent crime, the deterioration of our education system, and the overall direction our State and our country were heading. Constituents were also frustrated by lip service from politicians who said all the right things to get elected but did the opposite once elected. I want you to know that your concerns were voiced throughout this entire legislative session. My commitment to uphold and fight for our shared values and beliefs was unwavering. As your representative, it is my duty to ensure you are kept informed and up to date. Below I outline several bills which have the potential to both help and harm our quality of life. I will explain each and include how I voted and the significance of its passage or failure.
CRIME & PUBLIC SAFETY
HB 233/SB 226 - Criminal Law - Child Pornography - Accessing and Intentionally Viewing
This bill was a priority legislation from our group of Conservative Republicans and probably was our biggest win of the session. The legislation closes the loophole in the law that makes it legal to view child pornography by streaming video. The current law in Maryland is that while downloading child pornography is illegal, streaming and viewing is not. This bill languished in committee for nearly 80 days as the Judiciary Committee seemed reluctant to move it. After enormous public pressure was applied, the bill was finally voted out of the committee. Though the House Bill did not make it, the Senate Cross-file passed and is on the Governor's desk for a signature. I voted YES.
SB1 - Criminal Law - Wearing, Carrying, or Transporting Firearms - Restrictions
Maryland has made a determined and oppressive attempt to reclaim its authority after the Supreme Court Bruen ruling abolished the State's restrictions on concealed carry. The legislation was revised just before its public hearing, leaving people with no time to read it or provide meaningful input. This bill is a de facto gun ban. It violates Second Amendment rights by creating a gun-free zone across Maryland. It carves out certain areas, such as schools, hospitals, and any place serving alcohol, where it is always unlawful for permit holders to carry firearms. It also prohibits wearing, carrying, or transporting firearms on private property and public accommodations without express consent. Penalties for violations are severe even when no crime has occurred. I voted NO. The bill passed but will indeed be challenged in court.
HB 750 - Gun Theft Felony Act of 2023
After several failed attempts in recent years, Republicans are still trying to pass a critical piece of legislation that would make stealing firearms a felony. Unfortunately, despite our persistent efforts, this bill could not reach the Floor for consideration.
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Finally, however, we got a vote on the record by presenting the bill as an amendment. Unfortunately, the majority party rejected it.
HB 736 - Criminal Procedure - Crime of Violence (No Bail for Repeat Violent Offenders Act)
This legislation would prohibit a judge from authorizing the pretrial release of a defendant charged with a crime of violence if they have a pending charge or have been convicted in the past ten years of such an offense. This legislation is an important step in increasing public safety. Preventing repeat violent offenders from being released pending trial will help to protect innocent victims from potential harm and reduce the likelihood of further crimes of violence being committed. Additionally, by improving the enforcement of existing laws and regulations relating to the crime of violence, this legislation will send a strong message that such offenses will not be tolerated and are punishable by severe consequences. Tragically, the Majority Party killed the bill in committee without a vote.
HB1180/SB 652 - Criminal Law - Felony Murder - Limitation for Youth
This bill prevents anyone under twenty-five from being charged with felony murder. Violent crime is at historic highs across the State, and the answer is not to go even softer on violent criminals. Thankfully, the bill did not move out of committee.
HB 772/SB 540- Civil Rights Enforcement- Powers of the Attorney General
This bill empowers the Attorney General to file suit against businesses for civil rights violations. Usually, this is reserved for federal civil rights cases. When federal officials refuse to pursue this, our radical Attorney General can go after these businesses. This enables the total weight and resources of the State to be potentially used against any business owner who disagrees with the administration. I offered a very reasonable amendment that would pay back businesses their legal fees should they win the lawsuit or the lawsuit be found ungrounded. Democrats rejected this amendment on a party-line vote. I voted NO to the bill; unfortunately, the bill passed.
TAXES & COST OF LIVING
HB 554 - Income Tax - Subtraction Modification for Military Retirement Income
Maryland is making strides to support its military veterans, as the income tax subtraction modification for retirees under fifty-five years of age has been increased up to $12,500 per taxable year. Those aged fifty-five and above can expect a modified subtraction limit of $20,000 annually. I was happy to co-sponsor and support this bill. I am pleased to report that the legislation passed.
HB 422 - Motor Fuel Tax Rates-Consumer Price Index Adjustment-Repeal
I was the primary sponsor of this legislation. Maryland's fuel tax is connected to the Consumer Price Index (CPI). As inflation increases, so does our fuel tax. Last year fuel tax increased by .07 cents per/gallon of gas. This year the tax is predicted to increase another .07 per/gallon and leave Marylanders paying the second-highest gas tax in the nation. Though this bill did not make it to the Floor for a vote, I did offer it as an amendment to HB 673, which repeals the requirement that MTA increases fares every two and five years based on CPI. It seems reasonable that while transit riders receive relief, so should drivers who pay increasingly higher taxes at the gas pump. Unfortunately, the majority party rejected the amendment.
HB142/ SB 270 - More Local Tax Relief for Working Families Act of 2023
This bill raises the maximum cap for county income taxes from 3.2% to 3.7%. Whenever I see bills to authorize simply giving counties the ability to raise the tax cap, I am confident they will raise taxes. I oppose this continuous push to make Maryland too expensive. Fortunately, the bill died in committee.
HB 547/ SB 552- Family Prosperity Act of 2023
This bill allocates additional taxpayer money to the Earned Income Tax Credit, with a sizable amount reserved for illegal aliens. This money could be better spent helping our citizens. This plan is an insult to all those who followed the proper process for immigrating to this country, and it is unfair to expect our taxpayers to foot the bill for people who have broken our immigration laws. This bill is part of Governor Moore's legislative agenda. I voted NO. The bill passed.
HB988 - Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program - Modifications
In 2022, Maryland enacted Family and Medical Leave Insurance to pay benefits to individuals who take leave for medical reasons for themselves or a relative. This legislation establishes the "FAMLI" fund, paid for by businesses, EMPLOYEES, and the SELF EMPLOYED to pay these benefits and any administrative costs of maintaining the fund. You will see your pay decrease starting in 2024, when your employer will be required to begin making deductions for your share of the cost. This is an expensive program that you will be paying for out of every paycheck for benefits you may never receive. Inflation is rising, and essential items such as gasoline and groceries are becoming increasingly expensive. It is up to you how best to use your paycheck to meet your needs. I voted NO. The bill passed.
One of the reasons that I enjoy my committee assignment is that there is a great opportunity to have genuine bipartisanship on the bills that come before us. For example, one topic which is vitally critical to Marylanders is mental and behavioral health. These important bills represent a lot of hard work and cooperation. I am proud to have co-sponsored and supported these bills.
HB 1148 / SB 582 – Treatment and Access (Behavioral Health Model for Maryland)
This legislation takes positive steps to improve access to behavioral health care services. This includes establishing a Commission on Behavioral Health Care Treatment and Access, creating a Behavioral Health Care Coordination Value-Based Purchasing Pilot Program, extending provisions relating to telehealth services, requiring the Maryland Health Care Commission to study and make recommendations regarding telehealth, and applying for federal grant funds and inclusion in the State certified community behavioral health clinic demonstration program. In addition, the Governor must include an annual appropriation of $600,000 for the pilot program in the budget bill for fiscal 2025-2027. These initiatives will ensure increased access to quality behavioral care services throughout Maryland. I co-sponsored this bill and voted YES. The bill passed and is on the Governor's desk for signing.
SB 558 – Recovery Residence Grant Program – Establishment
This bill seeks to create a Recovery Residence Grant Program under the MDH, inviting competitive grants for recovery residences so they can provide operations, services, and programs. I voted YES. The bill passed and is on the Governor's desk for signing.
HB 322 / SB 255 – Public Health - Home- and Community-Based Services for Children
This legislation requires MDH to take steps to expand access and provide reimbursement for wraparound, intensive in-home, and case management services through the 1915(i) Intensive Behavioral Health Services for Children, Youth, and Families Program. Beginning in 2024, the Behavioral Health Administration will fund one hundred slots in the mental health case management program for children or youth in need of services and at risk of out-of-home placement who are not eligible for Medicaid. This is a positive step to ensure access to much-needed behavioral health services. I co-sponsored this bill and voted YES. The bill passed and is on the Governor's desk for signing.
HB 811 / SB 914 – Hospitals - Testing for Fentanyl (The Josh Siems Act)
This legislation requires that if a urine drug screening is necessary for medical diagnosis, hospitals also test for fentanyl. This ensures accountability and accuracy of records. In addition, de-identified results detected in the testing process are required to be reported by hospitals to the Maryland Department of Health. I co-sponsored this bill and voted YES. The bill passed and is on the Governor's desk for signing.
HB 418 / SB 283 – Mental Health - Workforce Development - Fund Established
This legislation establishes the Behavioral Health Workforce Investment Fund, which will reimburse the expenses of educating, training, certifying, recruiting, and maintaining behavioral health professionals and paraprofessionals. This investment presents an opportunity to capitalize on a more plentiful workforce equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to serve our communities adequately. The Maryland Health Care Commission, in coordination with specified stakeholders, must conduct a comprehensive behavioral health workforce needs assessment. I co-sponsored this bill and voted YES. The bill passed and is on the Governor's desk for signing.
HB 588/SB 365 Health Insurance - Qualified Resident Enrollment.
This bill subsidizes healthcare for illegal immigrants. Maryland taxpayers will pay the immense cost through higher insurance rates. This bill is a significant part of the majority party's agenda, championed by several top members of the General Assembly. I argued against this bill on the Floor and voted NO. I am happy to report that the bill did not pass this year - a huge victory!
HB283/SB460 - Maryland MEDICAID - Gender-Affirming Treatment (Trans Health Equity Act)
Requires taxpayers to pay for children to receive surgery to change their gender. Medicaid currently covers such procedures for those over eighteen. Unfortunately, this bill was written specifically to include minors to permit them to enter hazardous and controversial procedures with taxpayer dollars. My colleagues and I spoke out against this bill every step of the way. This legislation is dangerous and has the potential to damage children irrevocably. Amendments were offered, including one prohibiting these therapies and surgeries for anyone under eighteen, but Annapolis Democrats rejected it. I voted NO. Disturbingly, this bill passed.
HB 705/SB 798 - Declaration of Rights - Right to Reproductive Freedom
This legislation enshrines abortion in the Maryland State Constitution. It must be noted that Maryland holds some of the most progressive and tolerant laws on abortion nationwide. I voted NO. The bill is a constitutional amendment and, as such, will be posed as a referendum question in the next election.
HB 953/SB 618 - Public Health – Overdose and Infectious Disease Prevention Services Program
This bill authorizes the creation of taxpayer-funded, government-run, "safe injection sites." I will continue to advocate for programs and policies that will save lives. However, this terrible idea has been tried in several other areas of the country and has created multiple problems and severe public concerns. These sites have resulted in considerable costs to American taxpayers with collateral damage and limited success. This proposal remains an integral part of the majority party's agenda. I am pleased to report that we have again defeated this legislation.
HB 1232/SB 372 - Health Occupations - Pharmacists - Administration of Vaccines
The bill gives pharmacists the permanent authority to vaccinate children three and older without parental consent. In addition, the bill allows a "caregiver" to bring a child to a pharmacy for a vaccination. In other words, a babysitter could have your child vaccinated without your knowledge. I voted NO. Thankfully, the bill did not pass.
HB 878 - Public Schools - Student Telehealth Appointments - Policy and Access
This bill authorizes and mandates that the boards of education provide for minor-aged students to have telehealth appointments without notifying their parents. Note that another bill, HB 576 would allow schools to hide incidents involving students at school to hide their gender identity and to protect school faculty from being held civilly liable for any results. I voted NO. The bill did not pass.
I am pleased that HB 1232/SB 372 and HB 878 did not pass. However, the continual push towards usurping parental rights is incredibly concerning and must be challenged at every opportunity. It is a victory for parents and guardians to maintain parental rights over their children's healthcare decisions and protect minors' safety on school grounds.
HB 119/SB 199 - County Boards of Education - Curriculum Guides and Courses of Study
This bill was a total state takeover of all curriculum frameworks, standards, and instructional materials for our children's education. In addition, the bill usurps local control. It empowers the State to withhold up to 20% of funding from the State if the local school board disagrees with implementing the state education curriculum. Almost every local school board of Education, Maryland Association of Education, and Superintendent was against this bill. Local school boards are where parents and students are best represented. My colleague Lauren Arikan offered an amendment prohibiting gender ideology from being taught in grades K- 3, a widely supported and very reasonable measure, but Annapolis Democrats rejected it. I voted NO to the bill, and fortunately, the bill did not pass.
HB 576/SB 629 - Education - Policies on Bullying, Harassment, or Intimidation - Revisions
This legislation changes the current policy on the parental notification required when a child has been bullied while in school. This bill allows school officials to hide incidents from parents if the child does not want the parents to know that they are transgender. It additionally provides a shield of protection to school staff from facing civil liability. Parents are in the best position to care for their children, and the only way they can do so is if they are fully aware of their child's experiences in school. I voted NO, and fortunately, the bill did not pass.
The defeat of these bills represents huge wins for local control, parental involvement, and student privacy. These bills would have significantly changed how Maryland schools operate and removed necessary rights from parents. However, by not passing these bills, we were able to ensure that local school boards remain in control of their curriculum frameworks and standards and that parents are notified anytime their child is bullied or mistreated at school. This is an important victory for Maryland students and parents.
HB 826/SB 848 - Statewide Rental Assistance Voucher Program – Establishment
This bill represents a mandate for local governments to establish a fund to give housing and rent assistance to those on the waiting list for a housing voucher. This will force local governments to raise property taxes to fulfill the mandate. I voted NO; unfortunately, the bill passed.
HB 1064/SB 691- Home Amenity Rentals - Sales and Use Tax Imposed and Local Tax Authorized
This bill imposes a "fun tax" of 6% on homeowners wishing to rent out any part of their property for entertainment and fun. In times of record-high inflation, their instinct is to add new taxes. I voted NO. Unfortunately, the bill passed.
HB 535/SB 379 - Election Law - Ballots - Issuance, Processing, and Reporting Procedures
This bill allows for the authentication of unsigned mail-in ballots via text messaging. This will create tremendous distrust in the integrity of our elections and allow the majority party to manipulate elections further by authenticating unsigned mail-in ballots via text messaging. Not only is this vulnerable to fraud, but it also undermines the integrity of our democratic system. I voted NO. The bill passed.
HB 1141- State Information Technology - Prohibited Applications and Websites
This legislation prohibits the Chinese-owned platform Tik-Tok from being downloaded onto any state device. There are valid worries that this social network provides an avenue for the CCP to tap into governmental data potentially. I voted YES. The bill passed the House and died in the Senate.
HB 556/SB 516 - Cannabis Reform
This cannabis reform legislation looks like it was written by a DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) intern with the only goal of pushing dispensaries into the rural areas of our State. Many people voted for the recreational cannabis referendum in the last election solely on the promise of bringing in additional educational revenue. The Department of Legislative Service estimates this bill will generate a measly $19 million in revenue, an insignificant fraction compared to the colossal $11 billion education budget funded by state dollars. For decades, Maryland politicians have proposed gimmicks such as the lottery, slots, table gaming, Casinos, and sports betting to finance education spending. Unfortunately, these promises have always come up short - now recreational cannabis has been added to this roll call of broken vows. I voted NO. The bill passed.
HB 549/SB555 - Fair Wage Act of 2023
This legislation was part of the Governor's Legislative agenda. Fortunately, the most egregious part of this bill, tying the minimum wage to CPI, was stripped. However, we must be vigilant in the coming years, as I am sure this will be re-introduced. The increase to $15 per hour was also delayed until January 1, 2024. An effort to restore a phase-in of the rise for small businesses was defeated in the House. I voted NO; however, the bill passed.
HB 487- Environment – Low Emissions Vehicle – Prohibition (Affordable Emissions Standards)
This bill would only allow the adoption of the regressive emissions standards set by California if specific analyses are prepared and submitted to the General Assembly and the General Assembly enacts a law authorizing the adoption of the regulations. This essential "follow the evidence" legislation would ensure that the push to zero emissions is based on accurate data rather than green ideology alone. Though the bill did not reach the Floor, Republicans were successful in getting a vote on the measure as an amendment. Unsurprisingly, Annapolis Democrats rejected the amendment.
HB 230/SB224 - Environment - Zero-Emission Medium & Heavy-Duty (Clean Trucks Act of 2023)
This legislation is a delivery tax. It requires the sale of all-electric, medium-sized, and heavy-duty trucks by December of 2023, making deliveries far more expensive and resulting in higher costs of consumer goods such as GROCERIES! I voted NO; unfortunately, the bill passed.
My Other Primary Sponsored Bills
HB 699 - Vaccination by choice act of 2023
This bill prohibits the Covid 19 vaccination passport requirement for state employment or to attend state universities. This bill received tremendous support from people affected negatively by the vaccine or the vaccine requirement to work or attend school. Many doctors and scientists also joined the hearing to offer their expertise on the subject. I was hopeful that the bill might move this year, given all the latest news and reports regarding the lack of effectiveness of the covid vaccines. Unfortunately, despite massive public support, the bill did not move and died without receiving a committee vote.
HB 606 - Public Health - Food Products Containing Insect Flour - Labeling
This legislation requires a menu notification for any items which contain cricket flour. Cricket flour as a sustainable food is part of the World Economic Forum's agenda. While the use of cricket flour may be on the rise, consumers should know what they are eating. Unfortunately, the bill failed in committee.
HB420/SB 234 - Health Services Cost Review Commission - Hospital Rates - All-Payer Model
I was happy to introduce this bill. HB 420 is a significant step in providing improved, cost-effective healthcare for Maryland's citizens. The legislation will ensure that The Health Services Cost Review Commission (HSCRC) considers the Total Cost of Care Model when setting hospital rates. This provides quality healthcare, constrains costs, and meets the State and Federal Government's targets. In addition, HB 420 creates alignment between other provisions in the statute and Maryland's commitments under TCOC and is a necessary step forward in providing the best possible care for patients. I am so pleased this bill passed and is on the Governor's desk.
House Bill 200 – Budget Bill Fiscal Year 2024.
The Maryland General Assembly exercised the expanded budgetary powers granted by the people of Maryland for the first time in the FY 2024 Budget. A total of $1.33 billion was cut from the Governor's original proposal, and $1.13 billion was added in spending, resulting in a 2% increase over last year's budget totaling $63 billion. K-12 education was allocated $8.7 billion, in-state tuition was capped at 2%, and approximately $200 million in tax relief, predominately for low-income families, was included. Additionally, there was a total of $421 million allocated to salary increases and bonuses for state employees and $35 million for Maryland's emergency medical systems. The budget was also structured to be balanced, with $2.85 billion in reserve funds, including $2.5 billion in the Rainy-Day Fund and a $351 million fund balance in the General Fund. To minimize debt, one-time cash was used to fund "pay-as-you-go" Capital projects.
As the Chair of the St. Mary's County Delegation, it is my duty to introduce legislation on behalf of the county. Please check out the Maryland General Assembly website for a list of county legislation.
As the 2023 session concludes, I would not classify this as a bad year but more of a character-building year. The future will return to a sense of normality. We saw over 2500 proposed bills in this legislative session, and I must continue to hear your opinions. We should keep this dialog open for the rest of the year and into the 2024 convening of the General Assembly.
If you have a concern, legislative idea, or a constituent issue you need assistance with, please call my office at 410-841-3170/ 301-858-3170 or toll-free 800-492-7122 ext. 3170 or email me at [email protected] Thank you for your interest in Maryland's critical issues today.
Also, please follow me on Facebook and Twitter for the most up-to-date information. Finally, I hope you have a great summer. I am sure I will see you at one of the many great community events St. Mary's County is known for, so please stop me and say hi!
State Delegate 29A