MD General Assembly Week 1 in Review
Although the first week of the 2016 Session of the Maryland General Assembly was boring, there were many pieces of legislation submitted, and there is great potential for intense fighting to take place over the next few months. Each Friday, I will breakdown the new legislation and any previously submitted legislation that changed status during the week, with little comment. On Tuesdays, I will take a more in-depth approach to important legislation and issues being considered that week.
Often, the legislation that appears during the first week is “pre-filed,” a process in which a bill is submitted before session begins. The benefit to pre-filing a bill is to allow it to be assigned to a committee faster, which sometimes allows it to receive an early date for a hearing. This is not a guarantee, and pre-filing makes it far more difficult to attract co-sponsors to a bill.
Two of the bills submitted this week will be heard on Monday in the State Senate for a “Second Reader,” which means they have already received a favorable report from their committee. They are both minor bills that were unanimously approved by the Senate Finance Committee, SB 75 and SB 87. Likely, they will pass Second Reader without any amendments then come up for a vote on Tuesday. The two bills will then be passed and sent over to the House of Delegates for consideration.
The biggest news this week is the number of bills that could greatly affect the lives of Marylanders. Many of the bills deal with highly publicized issues that took place over the past year while others have been submitted each year without success. The most important bills to follow so far are a ban on plastic bags, an increase in the tobacco tax, and two bills that would use the MVA to increase voter registration.
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I have placed this week’s bill submissions into general categories, and I have included only those of the greatest possible interest (but opinions may differ). Here are those bills, listed by topic and general order of submission, with bolding for emphasis:
Taxes and Fees
HB 33 would alter the subtraction modification for retirement income to include more income revenue sources, lowering taxes for many seniors who lack a pension based retirement plan. Hearing Ways and Means–1/20.
SB 5 would increase the subtraction modification for retirees, lowering taxes for seniors who already qualify for the modification.
SB 34 would exempt businesses with 10 or fewer employees from filing fees. Hearing Budget and Taxation–1/27.
HB 69 would allow a 100% property tax credit on personal property of a new or small business.
HB 71 would increase the tobacco tax.
HB 82 would expand the Rain Tax to lease holders on government owned property.
SB 124 would reduce the State’s income tax.
SB 127 would eliminate the marriage tax penalty.
Government and Elections
HB 83 would require Early Voting Centers to be opened on the Sunday before the election.
SB 155 would alter how public employees use e-mail accounts for official business.
HB 18 would reduce community college tuition for high school graduates and long term unemployed. Hearing Appropriations–1/26.
HB 23 would allow local governments to request a waiver from prevailing wage requirements due to costs for constructing public schools.
HB 27 would require collective bargaining for community college employees. Hearing Appropriations–1/26.
SB 7 would expand prevailing wage requirements to all public school construction.
HB 73 would allow public school buses to use the Inter County Connector for free.
Business and Regulations
HB 19 would allow local governments to alter fire sprinkler system standards. Hearing Environment and Transportation–1/26.
HB 30 would prohibit stores open to the general public from displaying material for sale that is harmful to minors. Hearing Judiciary–1/19.
HB 31 (cross-filed with SB 57) the Plastic Bag Ban bill would prohibit stores for providing free plastic bags (charge not specified) and charge 10 cents per paper bag. Senate Hearing Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs–2/2.
SB 65 Sugar-Free Schools Act. Hearing Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs–1/20.
HB 79 Raw Milk
HB 49 would allow for private, home gaming. Hearing Ways and Means–1/20.
HB 50 would add law enforcement officers and first responders as a protected class to the state hate crime statute. Hearing Judiciary–1/19.
SB 44 would require correctional officers or law enforcement officers to restrain inmates while transported in motor vehicles.
SB 52 would remove liability for breaking into a motor vehicle to secure an unattended minor under 8 years. Hearing Judicial Proceedings–1/19.
SB 69 would increase the statute of limitations regarding child sex abuse to 20 years.
HB 76 would authorize the State Police to investigate within municipal boundaries, including Baltimore City, under some circumstances. Hearing Judiciary–1/26.
SB 159 would increase from 30 years to 40 years the sentence for second-degree murder.
HB 16 would establish protections for religious organizations regarding recognition of marriage.
HB 1 would prohibit State License Plates from displaying the Confederate Flag. Hearing Environment and Transportation–1/28.
SB 26 State Tartan
SB 27 State Duck
SB 39 would alter the State Motto. Hearing Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs–1/21.
SB 49 would replace the State Song. Hearing Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs–1/21.
Updated at 6:55 PM to include hearing dates for legislation assigned a date.