It has been a challenging financial year for our state but, once again as required by law, the Maryland General Assembly balanced the budget. After several rounds of reductions, the general fund budget is lower than the previous year – the first time this has happened in decades. Although there were cuts to all areas, we were still able to protect the things we value most, including education, the environment, and public safety.
Below is a legislative update from District 13 which will give you more details about what occurred during this past legislative session. If you have already received this from one of the other legislators, please forgive the duplication.
All the best,
DISTRICT 13 LEGISLATIVE WRAP UP FOR 2009
Your District 13 Legislators, Senator James Robey, Delegates Guy Guzzone, Shane Pendergrass and Frank S. Turner, are pleased to report to Howard County Citizens some of our 2009 session highlights in Annapolis. The efforts of our work, as well as the Howard County Delegation and the County Executive , have resulted in increased resources that will benefit our community. Please note: Underlined bill numbers will link you to internet information for those bills if you receive this Wrap-Up electronically. A more detailed summary of the session can be found on the legislative web site in the Legislative Wrap-Up or the 90 Day Report.
HOWARD COUNTY LOCAL ISSUES
Howard County will receive over $197 million in educational operating funds; almost $54.5 million for teacher’s retirement funding; and $18 million in school construction and renovation projects.
The Capital Budget (HB 102) includes $250,000 for Howard County General Hospital and $150,000 for each of the following projects: Linwood Center , Troy Regional Park , Ellicott City Post Office renovation; Robinson Nature Center .
SUCCESSFUL HOWARD COUNTY LOCAL LEGISLATION
HB 616 Howard County - Alcoholic Beverages - Hearing Board and Liquor Board Personnel Ho. Co. 11-09
HB 731 Baltimore County and Howard County - Alcoholic Beverages Licenses Application Requirements - Citizenship Status Ho. Co. 8-09
HB 864 Howard County - Roadside Solicitation of Money or Donations - Prohibition Ho. Co. 9-09
HB 1369 Howard County Ethics Law - Application for Zoning Regulation Amendment Ho. Co. 12-09
Education - This year’s budget (HB 100) continues the funding increase for K-12 educational excellence by $132 million. For the first time, monies are budgeted to fully fund the Geographic Cost of Education Index to address cost differences among school systems. In addition, the Capital Budget, (HB 102) funds $260 million for school construction and renovation so our children can study in an environment supportive of learning.
Higher Education Tuition Freeze – The Legislature again froze tuition at state schools for a fourth year. The final report from the 2-year study by the Commission to develop the Maryland Model for Funding Higher education is available.
Military Children - SB 257 / HB 306, co-sponsored by Senator Robey and Delegates Guzzone and Turner, facilitates the transfer of children of active duty military parents into Maryland schools from another state.
Financial Assistance - HB 937 sponsored by Frank Turner and co-sponsored by Guzzone and Pendergrass allows any unused financial aid left in the budget at the end of the year to be used for the Edward T. Conroy Memorial Scholarship Program and the Veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraqi Conflicts Scholarship.
College Textbooks - SB 183 / HB 85 – establishes a set of procedures aimed at reducing the cost of college textbooks.
Chesapeake Bay – HB 176 / SB 554, co-sponsored by Senator Robey, requires failing septic systems in Critical Areas to be replaced with systems that use the best available nitrogen removal system. There is currently adequate money in a state fund to pay the cost differential between what a standard system will cost and what the new system to protect the bay will cost. Existing homes (none of which are in Howard County ) will have to upgrade to the new technology only if they are in a critical area and only when their current system is in failure
Greenhouse Gases – HB 315 / SB 278 co-sponsored by Guzzone and Pendergrass in the House and Robey in the Senate will reduce greenhouse gas emissions (CO2) by 25% by 2020.
Smart Growth – HB 295 / SB 276 co-sponsored by Guzzone limits sprawl and creates green jobs.
CareFirst – HB 1534 sponsored by Pendergrass gives the Maryland Insurance Administration the authority to block Washington , D.C. , from using Maryland premiums collected by CareFirst Inc. to fund coverage for uninsured DC residents. A new Washington DC law for health expansion caused concern that a portion of premiums paid by Maryland citizens would be used to finance the program.
Emergency Medical System (MIEMSS and Medevac) – The Speaker of the House set up a workgroup to study Maryland ’s Emergency Medical System. Delegate Guzzone served on the workgroup and chaired the Subgroup on Helicopter Procurement. The recommendations of the workgroup resulted in money being placed in the budget to begin to replace Medevac’s aging helicopter fleet.
Hospital Bills – HB 1069 curbs predatory hospital bill practices by mandating a uniform charity care policy.
Death Penalty – SB 279 was the result of the report by the Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment which recommended the abolishment of Maryland ’s Death Penalty. The Legislature chose instead to try to prevent an innocent person from being put to death, by tightening the criteria required for the death penalty. The death penalty can be imposed only if there is DNA (biological) evidence, a video-taped confession, or a video of the commission of the crime.
Domestic Violence Bills – Several Domestic Violence bills passed the General Assembly. HB 98 / SB 601 increases the maximum extension of a temporary protective order from 30 days to 6 months. HB 302 / SB 268 allows a judge, when issuing a temporary protective order, to require the surrender of a respondent’s firearm for the duration of the order, if the abuse by the respondent consisted of the use or threat to use a firearm against the petitioner. HB 296 / SB 267 requires a final protective order to order the respondent to surrender any firearm in the respondent’s possession for the duration of the order. HB 971 / SB 811 extends from one to two years the maximum duration of a final protective order if this is the second time a protective order is issued. Finally, HB 464 / SB 714 allows a law enforcement officer to use all reasonable and necessary force to return a minor child to the custodial parent after the protective order is served.
Police – HB 311/ SB 266 prohibits the State Police or other law enforcement agencies from spying on or infiltrating political activists groups without a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. HB 1267 / SB 447 requires law enforcement agencies to report to the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention the activities of SWAT teams every 6 months.
Driver’s License – The bill that was eventually passed and will be sent to the Governor for signature is HB 387. Because the House and Senate SB 369 could not reach consensus, a Conference Committee was created of members from both houses to achieve a compromise. When the legislation goes into effect in June, Maryland will be in compliance with Federal identification law.
Driving – HB 72 / SB 98 sponsored by Frank Turner and co-sponsored by Guy Guzzone and Shane Pendergrass prohibits a driver from using a text messaging device to write or send a text message while operating a motor vehicle. A series of bills SB 259 / HB 301, SB 261 / HB 299, SB 262 / HB 293, and SB 263 / HB 305 are intended to curb drunk and drugged driving as proposed by Governor O’Malley and the Task Force to Combat Driving under the Influence of Drugs and Alcohol.
Limousines – SB 688, sponsored by Senator Robey, regulates Limousines and their drivers.
Speed Cameras – Maryland passed SB 277, co-sponsored by Senator Robey, which allows Maryland to place speed cameras in work zones and enables local governments to place speed cameras within ½ mile of a school. The speeder must be going more than 12 miles over the posted limit. The fine is $40 with no points. This is similar to our present red light camera system.
TAX RELATED LEGISLATION
Inheritance Tax – SB 785, sponsored by Senator Robey, exempts from the State inheritance tax the primary residence owned in joint tenancy and inherited by the surviving domestic partner.