VOTER REFERENDUM

March 03, 2021

If you have been watching my social media, you have heard about two significant bills that hit the House Floor last week. I'll summarize:

Legislation

HB655- a bill introduced by Delegate Crosby would eliminate countywide voting for counties that have election districts. I rose in opposition to this bill for several reasons.

Currently, St. Mary's has 4 geographic districts, with 1 commissioner representing each of those districts and 1 commissioner elected at large. This process was put in place 170 years ago, with the district lines changing every 10 years to ensure equal representation across the entire county.  The cumulative impact of HB 655 is that citizens would only be able to vote for 2 county commissioners instead of all 5 of the commissioners.

Proponents of this bill say that it will give people more representation, when in fact, citizens will be voting in fewer races, not more.  The charge was made that the system St. Mary's (and 4 other counties) use is designed to dilute and disenfranchise minority voters. After some research, I discovered that deep blue Montgomery County uses the exact same process in electing their representative school board. I offered an amendment to fix the way Montgomery County would elect their school board to align it with the method that is outlined in HB655. After some heated debate, the Democrats in Annapolis asked me to withdraw the amendment so that they could offer it as a committee amendment.

Another reason to oppose this bill is that this is a local rule issue, and I can't help but believe that this sets a dangerous precedence for Annapolis lawmakers to start dictating more and more to local jurisdictions. I personally called the sponsor of the bill to advocate for making the bill into a referendum of voters in St. Mary's County. It seems to me that when legislation like this is so contested- in this case, 5 County Commissioners, the House Delegation, and a State Senator oppose this; that a good governance solution would be to allow the voters to decide. Delegate Crosby was not interested in a compromise, so I did offer an amendment on the floor that would have allowed the people of St. Mary's County to vote on the issue. I was stunned and very disappointed to hear my colleagues on the other side of the aisle refuse this amendment by saying, "the voters cannot be trusted to vote correctly."

The amendment failed on party lines, and the bill was passed and will be taken to a final vote soon.

If you would like to see the video clip of these speeches, you can find them here:

SB 218- This bill creates a taxpayer-funded refundable tax credit for undocumented illegal workers.

You might remember that the House attempted to add an amendment to the Governor's relief bill that would make undocumented workers filing with an ITIN number eligible for relief. The amendment failed; however, Democrats vowed to bring this back as a stand-alone bill. SB 218 is that bill.

The bill expands the eligibility for the state and local earned income tax refund to include those who are living and working in Maryland illegally. At a time when Maryland citizens are suffering and new taxes are being created, such as the Netflix tax, I don't believe forcing taxpayers to support those here illegally is sound policy. Republican amendments to limit this to those here legally, and to exclude people who have been convicted of a violent crime were rejected by Annapolis democrats. I spoke out against this measure, however, it did pass and is headed to the Governor's desk for a signature.

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Delegate Matt Morgan
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