Monday Evening Session:
Of the Senate bills that crossed over, two stood out:
SB-6 would require certain certifications for mechanics performing preventative maintenance on automobiles.
SB-77 would increase the exemptions for certain farm vehicles as it relates to vehicle inspections.
Tuesday Morning Session:
Senate Bills on First Reader (two bills sent to House Rules which generally correct clerical errors in previous legislation.)
Tuesday Afternoon Judiciary Hearings:
HB-81 would restrict anyone from bringing a “telecommunications device” into a place of confinement and would expand the definition of a contraband device to include chargers, SIM cards, etc. The first offense would be a misdemeanor and a second or subsequent would be a felony.
HB-84 like some of the other bills heard today, this one would ban cell phones being introduced into a correctional facility, but it also goes further and identifies any contraband under the same restrictions and prohibitions.
HB-159 would also restrict telecommunications devices as several other bills heard today. Based upon testimony and questions, HB-81 seems to address more of the specific issues and concerns that folks had about the cell phones in our prisons.
HB-173 would permit the Department of Corrections to polygraph employees as a condition of employment. Surprisingly, the state is prohibited from utilizing this as a tool to insure that employees are not engaging in any inappropriate manner. There were many questions on this proposed change. The correctional officers union does not support the expansion of the use of polygraphs.
HB-174 would change the name of the Internal Investigative Unit and would define who the unit reports to within the agency.
HB-175 would make it a misdemeanor for a person to “deliver” a telecommunication device to an inmate if signs are posted stating that such action is prohibited. This bill is one of several being offered in response to the Baltimore City Jail fiasco. This particular bill would only make the crime a misdemeanor.
HB-289 would severely restrict the use of automatic license plate readers by law enforcement and would also restrict law enforcement dissemination of the information captured.
HB-294 is referred to as “Christopher’s Law” and it seeks to mandate certain law enforcement training specifically dealing with the recertification on CPR techniques. It would also mandate regular use of force and sensitivity training for law enforcement.
HB-364 would allow the office of the State Prosecutor to provide qualified immunity to a witness in order to compel testimony. This is a tool that the State’s Attorneys have as well as the Attorney General’s office but the State Prosecutor is not included on the list of those who can grant immunity for testimony.
My Bill Hearings Tuesday Afternoon:
HB-75 was heard in the Ways and Means Committee. My bill would exempt the first I $50,000 of any Marylanders retirement income from State Income Tax. I shared with the committee members of the significant migration of our people and their money which is proving devastating to our economy. Maryland has lost close to 70,000 folks in the past ten years along with their $5.5 billion in earnings. Many states have moved to retain their seniors and attract others in their later years by cutting or eliminating income taxes, and eliminating other inheritance related taxes (like death and estate). Maryland is currently classified as the “worst state in which to die” if you want to pass on anything to your children. I explained that this is just one part in a plan to move Maryland toward greater prosperity.
HB-218 as amended, this bill would allow any state worker (who have all been forced to join the union) to opt out of paying the union their service fee and, instead, pay the equivalent amount to any registered non-profit organization of their choosing. Current law allows for a “religious exemption” in order to do the same thing. The process of receiving this type of exemption is convoluted and this bill would simply recognize that anyone, for any reason, can have their money go toward a non-profit as opposed to going to the union (that uses the money to support the democrat machine politics that is Annapolis). Getting the democrats to vote against their own custom made slush fund is beyond wishful thinking, but shameful things like this need to be exposed and I hope the folks are paying attention. This bill was heard in Appropriations, so let’s see if Chairman Conway puts it up for a vote and then we can see where delegates stand on the issue.
HB-234 was heard in Judiciary. It would allow a person who makes a bomb threat to be charged in the jurisdiction where the alleged bomb or destructive device was rumored or said to be placed. With cellular communications and computers, it can be difficult to know exactly where a bad guy was located when he made such a threat. Current law requires a person to be charged in the jurisdiction where they conveyed the threat. I was able to get this bill out of the House last year, but it failed to move in the Senate.
Wednesday Morning Session
Senate and House Bills on First Reader
There were several bills from the House Economic Matters Committee which were on 2nd Reader. There was no debate on any of these bills as most were simple administrative changes to the law.
Wednesday Afternoon Judiciary Hearings:
HB-108 would create many new and increased fees applied to cases filed in the Court of Appeals Court of Special Appeals, and the various Circuit Courts. The money collected will be utilized to bring the courts into the digital age. There will be a significant increase in public accessibility of records and electronic filing of documents and requests will become common place. Case files will also be available online for viewing. The printing costs are simply going to be handed down to the local level where they will have to be absorbed by the Sheriffs and their respective counties.
HB-228 is directed at certain record keeping procedures conducted by the Register of Wills and was technical in nature.
HB-345 would alter the statute pertaining to Certificates of Merit involving court action/claims that are filed against licensed design professionals when a negligent act is alleged. It would require someone who wants to file a claim to have the work reviewed by a “qualified expert” licensed in Maryland who agrees with the complaint filed before the matter could go forward. It was brought up that it may be difficult to find an expert in Maryland who would be willing to testify against another fellow design professional (engineer, etc.).
HB-376 would make it illegal to sell any vehicle that it is illegal to operate in Baltimore City. It was said that they have a big problem with people operating “dirt bikes” within the city limits. I raised the issue of 4-wheelers while Delegate Kelly asked about folks who have a bike they want to ride out in the county. This type of transportation is said to be a big problem in the city, but this seems to be a very restrictive approach to address the problem. This is another bill that will take away liberty from Marylanders.
HB-385 would expand the coverage under law for many folks who would be considered “bloggers” as to their ability to protect information or sources. In essence, it would provide certain protections that traditional media currently utilize. There was an interesting discussion on the issue with some of the media representatives on the panel and it highlighted the different direction being taken by traditional media outlets.
HB-386 would assess points on a Maryland Driver’s License for anyone caught and convicted of littering in Baltimore City.
HB-395 would redefine some of the definitions concerning certain providers of medical care.
Thursday Morning Session:
Senate and House Bills on First Reader
Thursday Afternoon Judiciary Committee Hearings:
HB-120 is an administration bill which would create additional judgeships in the state. None of those positions is on the Eastern Shore (although a position was added last year). It was stated that this would cut back on the number of hours that retired judges are utilized in these jurisdictions.
HB-315 would grant juvenile status to illegal aliens to the age of 21 for those who claim abused, neglected, or abandoned status in this country. Currently, those here illegally who are under 18 years of age can apply for permanent residency if they show that they suffer, or would suffer from abuse or neglect if they were sent back to their country of origin or that they have been abandoned in this country by a parent or guardian. There were many questions about this system as it seems ripe for abuse by those seeking residency in the United States.
Currently, New York is the only state to have extended juvenile status to those that fall into this category. The committee did not seem convinced that this was a good idea.
HB-383 would change the required age for babysitters. Currently, one must be at least 13 years of age to watch other children. This bill would require one to be at least 15 in order to babysit a child under the age of 3. I think the bill is well intended, but I saw reluctance to change the law by other committee members. There are often tragic events that produce bills such as this one, but most of the time such events are the exception to the rule.
HB-407 would limit the ability of the state to detain any juvenile under the age of 12 for a crime unless the charge was: 1st Deg. Murder/Attempted Murder, 1st Deg. Rape, or 1st Deg. Sex Offense. There were many questions about the logic of releasing an 11 year old who has committed an Armed Robbery (or other violent crime) back into the community under certain circumstances. Our urban areas of the state are dealing with younger violent offenders and many on the committee do not want the ability of the courts to confine someone who represents a violent threat simply because the law would demand their release. An 11-year old who sticks a gun in a clerks face and takes the cash receipts is no longer a “child” and they did not arrive their overnight. I felt this was not simply a bad bill but a dangerous one as well.
Friday Morning Eastern Shore Delegation Meeting:
We met with Secretary of Agriculture Buddy Hance and heard a brief presentation. He indicated that a thorough economic impact study was under way on the PMT regulations and should be accomplished by summer. Frankly, this seems to be a moot point. Although there has been a lot of bloviating on this issue, the administration has made it clear they are moving forward with these regulations before the end of 2014. I heard nothing from Secretary Hance that alleviated those concerns. The secretary really did not have that much to say. He referenced some other programs and talked about the success of our cover crops; and he responded to several questions regarding the PMT and the governor’s comments the previous evening at an agriculture dinner which disparaged DPI Executive Director Bill Satterfield. The delegation demanded an apology from the governor for those comments.
The Delmarva Poultry Industry (DPI) was also on hand and made a presentation. They expressed their concerns over the proposed “Chicken Tax” and said they were pleased to hear the governor say he would veto such a bill if it passed. The regulatory environment of Maryland was mentioned regarding the growth of the industry on the shore. The growth of the industry in Delaware and Virginia continues while Maryland declines. We discussed the effect that even proposed regulations have on an industry when an uncertain future is on the horizon.
We also had a brief presentation from LEAD Maryland Foundation by Dale Brown and Wendell Meekins. This is a leadership training institute that many in the agriculture industry have attended and there were many members present in the audience from the foundation.
Many Eastern Shore Mayors attended the meeting as a part of their winter conference. It was nice to see Pocomoke City Mayor Bruce Morrison, Berlin Mayor Gee Williams, and Crisfield Mayor P.J. Purnell. They were led by Delmar Mayor Carl Anderton who is also the President of the Maryland Municipal League. I asked the mayor’s their top budget priority and they all stated the restoration of Highway User Funds. Since the state stripped away 90% of that money, all of our local governments are suffering mightily from the loss. Delegate Conway took the opportunity to kid with me about voting for his budget if those funds were restored and I told him it all depended upon where he came up with the money. The proposed budget by the governor includes a $1.8 billion dollar increase in spending and I am quite certain I could never vote for that type of increase.
Friday Morning Session:
House and Senate Bills on First Reader
Here are the bills that passed on Third Reader.
Third Reading Passed (133-0)
Third Reading Passed (133-0)
Third Reading Passed (132-0)
Third Reading Passed (129-3)
Third Reading Passed (132-0)
Third Reading Passed (131-0)
Third Reading Passed (130-1)
Saturday Morning Meeting with Wicomico County Council and Executive:
We met again with Executive Pollitt and the County Council to hear an update on their budget and for them to share their concerns. The news was bleak for the most part. Wicomico County is simply not recovering from the recession at anywhere near the pace of other jurisdictions. This is clearly being driven by the jobs market, which has been very poor. Maryland policies are not helping the Eastern Shore, and specifically Wicomico County. As our hub of business and industry, we need Wicomico to prosper and that is simply not happening. There have been some efforts at the local level to address some tax issues and concerns, but they simply pale in comparison to enormous burden from the state that we must shoulder. This does not even take into account other crush factors like Obamacare that will impact all of us by the end of this year in a significant way; nor does it take into account the blow that the new Phosphorus regulations will have on our agricultural base. My Democratic colleagues from the Eastern Shore have gone along with the O’Malley administration on their spending and their jobs plan; and all of it has been a miserable failure with the shore suffering the most. We must change the way we think, and our current leadership is not getting the job done in Annapolis.
When you find yourself at a table celebrating jobs from one company that were announced 2-years ago that have yet to happen, it’s time to take a hard look in the mirror.