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The State Legislature – How could we live without them?

Posted by Ed C on Sunday, February 10, 2008

Well, the bills are in and the schedules are being finalized. This year there are more than 2300 bills, including 1432 House bills and 849 Senate bills that will be considered in the 90 days of the 2008 session.

2300 bills? Why so many? Well one example, House Bill 380 seeks to prohibit using a text message device while driving by making it a misdemeanor and subject to a fine of not more than $500. Okay, a good bill and a good sentiment – but is a separate bill for each possible distraction really necessary? Is this really the way to approach the problem? First we had cell phones, now text messaging devices and who knows what else. Would it not make more sense, be easier to comprehend and still have the intended effect to make the law apply to any distraction that causes a driver to operate a vehicle in an unsafe manner? Maybe there already is a law against reading a newspaper while driving – but is that any different than reading a text message? Why make a distinction? Both are unsafe activities while driving.

Or how about House Bill 42, The Home Financial Accountability Act 0f 2008?

FOR the purpose of clarifying the availability of certain books and records kept by or on behalf of certain common ownership communities for certain purposes and to certain persons; requiring the governing body of certain common ownership communities, on request of a member, to compile and mail certain information within a certain time; making a stylistic change; altering certain limitations concerning public inspection of certain records; prohibiting certain common ownership communities from imposing certain fees other than a reasonable charge imposed on a person desiring to copy certain books and records; providing that a charge for copying certain records may not exceed a certain amount; and generally relating to access to the books and records of cooperative housing associations, condominiums, and homeowners associations.

Well first of all, if the purpose of this bill is to clarify anything, well I think it fails right here in the introduction. Certain books, certain blah blah, generally relating to zzzzz…, yea, that’s clarifying alright. The best that I can tell, this bill is to give homeowners (and others) in a co-op the right to request financial statements from their housing co-op, receive them in 10 days and they cannot be charged more than the average commercial copying charge in the area.

We have laws that require all sorts of disclosures and reporting requirements. Okay, fine. Well, as a Maryland resident, can I demand equal status from the State? Could I walk into the State house and ask for a copy of all laws and regulations that apply to me and get a copy? Would I have to pay for it? If they charged me standard copying rates, what would it cost? Would I need to bring my own dolly or could I rent one of theirs?

How would Marylanders react that if 10 days after the end of each session, the State delivered a new, complete copy of all of the Maryland statues that we are expected to comply with? Would having a stack of telephone sized books delivered to each household every year cause people to sit up and ask what are we doing to ourselves?

Would that be enough for ordinary citizens to start demanding that certain legislators take certain actions when they compile and distribute certain rules and regulations that they take actions generally relating to stylistic changes that actually make sense to everyone that thinks this sentence is BS?

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Posted in Ed C, General, General Assembly | Leave a Comment »

HoCo – General Assembly Local Bill Status

Posted by Ed C on Sunday, April 15, 2007

The status of the local bills pushed by the Howard County delegates in the MD General Assembly previously discussed in the post here (the numbers in parentheses refer to previous post) and as reported in the Examiner – Delegate nab state funds for local projects .

Bond Request Requested Received
Blandair Regional Park in Long Reach Columbia (3) $500K $375K
Robinson Nature Center (1) $500K $350K
North Laurel Community Center (2) $500K $200K
Enhancements to Norbel School – Elkridge (16) $250K $50K
Parking Garage – Main Street Ellicott City (4) $500K $0K

Other bills that passed this session included:

  • Property Tax Credit for properties jointly owner with HoCo Housing Commission (6)
  • HoCo Annual Report Filing Date (7)
  • Board of Education – Qualifications and Election of Student Member (12)
  • Union Service Representation Fee (11)

Posted in Ed C, General Assembly, Howard County | Leave a Comment »

MD General Assembly Passes Anti-Gang Legislation

Posted by Ed C on Sunday, March 25, 2007

On Tuesday (3/20/2007) the MD General Assembly passed HB 713 – Maryland Gang Prosecution Act of 2007 with a vote of 134 to 1.

Prohibiting a person from participating in a specified criminal gang knowing that the members of the gang engage in or have engaged in a specified pattern of criminal gang activity; prohibiting a person from willfully promoting, furthering, or assisting in a criminal offense committed for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with a criminal gang; establishing penalties for a violation of the Act; etc.

The bill has been cross filed with Senate Bill 632, but it is not clear what action the Senate is planning.

This bill seems like it will give our law enforcement officials a useful tool in prosecuting gang members and gang behavior. Certainly it will have a broader impact than the withdrawn Machete bill.

Posted in Ed C, General Assembly | 7 Comments »

MD Gas Tax – The “Gift” That Keeps On Taking?

Posted by Ed C on Sunday, March 18, 2007

MD Senate President Mike Miller (D Calvert & Prince George’s Counties) with SB949 is proposing a 50% increase in the MD State gas tax from 23.5 to 35.5 cents and it could raise to 39.5 cents per gallon.

Why the range? Well, Sen. Miller realizes that raising taxes is unpopular. So, instead of requiring our elected representatives to go on the record for an unpopular position in the future, this tax will be index to the whole sale price of fuel. Fuel prices rise and so does the tax. No vote required.

Being cynical, this will provide also provide political cover for the future. If fuel prices rise above the proposed 39.5 cent cap, the tax can be increased by just raising the cap, not by changing the tax. This will allow political denialability, “We didn’t raise the tax, we just raised the limit.” See, magically taxes can go up, but “we” didn’t vote for a tax increase so don’t blame us.

If our elected representatives want to spend 30+ billion dollars a year of our money, they can at least go on the record each and every time they want more. If forced to take an unpopular position and raise taxes maybe, just maybe, they might find a dollar or two that may not be an essential government function. I know this is Maryland, but…

Our elected representative should be willing to take a stand, not looking for ways to make their position easier. If you think raising the gas tax is a good idea, vote for it. If you want to raise it in the future, vote for it again.

Posted in Ed C, General Assembly, Taxes | Leave a Comment »

HoCo Dem State Legislators Seeking to Reduce Pay of 900 School Employees

Posted by Ed C on Monday, February 19, 2007

The Democrats in the Howard State Delegation are seeking to reduce the pay of about 900 school employees with House Bill 881 . Okay, that’s not the way they portray it, but that will be the effect.  The bill will enable the Howard County Education Association to collect mandatory fees from employees that are not union members. The voting on the bill was along party lines.

As reported in the Baltimore Sun, “Union officials were jubilant. Ann DeLacy, the union president, I think this is a great achievement”

Section 5, part (v) of the bill states:

1. The agency or representation fee shall be based only on the expenses incurred by the employee organization in its representation in negotiations, contract administration, including the handling of grievances, and other activities, as required under this section.

2. Any political activities of the employee organization designated as the exclusive representative may not be financed by the funds collected from the agency or representation fee.

Seems reasonable, for those employees that may object to union activities, these provisions appear to provide some restrictions. Right?  Well, what does the union say:

“DeLacy said the extra money could be used in several ways, including more professional development support to help teachers advance their careers, for hiring staff members and perhaps for expanding union office space.”

The bottom line, the union gets more money from 900 school employees whether they like it or not.

Posted in Ed C, Education, General Assembly | 1 Comment »

Property Protection Act – Support It

Posted by pzguru on Sunday, February 11, 2007

There are two proposed pieces of legislation that will be considered by the State House and State Senate, HB-257 and SB-294, respectively.  If you want to read the full bills, go to the State Legislature website and search the pending legislation. 

 The gist of the legislation is to curtail the abuse of eminent domain power by City, County, and State governments, in response to the recent court case Kelo v. New London, which sparked new controversy into the whole topic of eminent domain and what constitutes “the public good”.  This power has especially been abused by Baltimore City under former Mayor Martin O’Malley, to swipe people’s property and give it to private developers under the guise of “redevelopment”.  I support making Baltimore a better city, but not by taking citizens’ property at undervalued rates and turning it over to developer friends of the politicians in power, especially for non-public uses.   

There is a counter proposal (I’m not sure the bill number) being put forward by the Democrats that offers a few restrictions on eminent domain powers, but is too weak and ineffective in my opinion. 

This is legislation that should be supported by ALL citizens, even if you live out in the suburbs – it can still happen there!   I suggest you call your local representative and senator and express your support for this legislation.

Posted in General Assembly | 5 Comments »

Del. Warren Miller Newsletter

Posted by David Keelan on Saturday, February 10, 2007

Delegate Warren Miller Newsletter (PDF Version)

Warren’s Window

February 6, 2007 Issue #1 A View of Annapolis
_____________________________________________

Greetings from Annapolis!

Welcome to the first edition of Warren’s Window. I’ve started this weekly newsletter to keep you updated on the work of the Maryland General Assembly. I hope that you will find Warren’s Window both useful and informative.As always, I love hearing from constituents on issues facing Howard County and the state of Maryland. Please feel free to contact me to share your views on critical issues or whenever I can be of assistance to you. You can reach me by phone at (410) 841-3582 or by email at warren.miller@house.state.md.us.
Your friend and Delegate,

Warren Miller

________________________________________________________________________

STATE OF THE STATE ADDRESS

In his first State of the State address Wednesday, Governor Martin O’Malley touched on a wide range of state issues.

Overall, he urged the General Assembly to work together in order to “make progress on the priorities of the people who have elected us.”

Sadly, his tone was neither conciliatory nor humble. Several cheap shots were taken at the previous administration, which is beneath the dignity of the office of Governor of Maryland. He referred to a “drift of recent years” in the context of the strength of our state. O’Malley went on to say, “We cannot resolve every unsettled issue in just 90 days; nor can we heal in 90 days the divisions that were four years in the making.” It seems that although the Ehrlichs and most of their appointees have left the State House, they are still within punching range of our new Governor.

Issues of priority to the new Governor were:

• State budget

• Transportation, including a combination of mass transit and roads

• Implementation of State Stat, billed as “a system of open and transparent administration that sets goals and measures progress towards achieving those goals with relentless follow-up”.

• The creation of additional Cabinet level positions and other departments, including the Department of Information Technology, the Maryland Security Council, the Office of Smart Growth, and the Life Sciences Board. No cost estimate was given for this new layer of government jobs.
Additionally, the Governor also requested:

• Passing the Maryland Health Care Act (HB132).

• Increasing spending for stem cell research by 66% to $25,000,000 annually.

• Tightening vehicle emissions standards by passing the Clean Cars Act.

• Funding the Geographic Cost of Education Index.

• Earmarking $400,000,000 for local schools systems and community colleges.
Overall, I heard a lot of opportunities for spending without funding. After listening to our new Governor, I am truly concerned about the direction he is taking Maryland.

PROTECTING THE TAXPAYERS

I’m proud to have been chosen to lead the House of Delegates Taxpayer Protection Caucus. As the new Chair of the caucus, I’ll be working closely with the Maryland Taxpayers Association (www.mdtaxes.org) and Americans for Tax Reform in Washington, DC. Our mission is to fight for Maryland families and businesses who deserve to keep more of their hard-earned money. I am humbled and motivated by this challenge and I look forward to making a difference for the people of Maryland.

I also plan to introduce several important tax reduction bills this session, including the Maryland Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights. This legislation gives Maryland taxpayers a voice by requiringthat voters approve all new taxes and any increases to existing taxes.

THE GOOD

My seatmate Delegate Gail Bates has introduced legislation to construct the much-needed Ellicott City parking garage. The passage of Delegate Bates’ proposal will open up the Ellicott City marketplace to a whole group of consumers who currently avoid the parking nightmare of Ellicott City.

Located in the historic area, a multi-level parking facility will also be the new home for many new businesses. A location has not yet been determined.

THE BAD

Is the extra bang worth the extra bucks? The proposed “Clean Cars Act” (HB44) would require Maryland automobiles to be equipped with emissions devices which exceed federal standards, effectively increasing the price of a new car by as much as $2,000.

Many lawmakers question the minimal benefit this offers over the federal standards already in place.

The overall impact of this bill will be felt by thousands of consumers who live near our state’s borders and hundreds of dealerships who will be priced out of the market of neighboring states, since Maryland automobiles will be more expensive than comparable autos in surrounding states that do not require these expensive upgrades. Under this bill, Maryland would most likely come under the authority of a commission based in California empowered to oversee Maryland’s program. I have a multitude of unanswered questions about this and I deem it to be a bad bill.

THE UGLY

The Living Wage bill is being promoted by labor unions to make the government use of contractors too expensive to justify. Under this proposal, county and state government would require contractors to pay their employees a minimum of $11.00 per hour.

So why is this bad? It forces government to staff up because they can create positions that pay less than the $11.00 an hour for a short time, but over time the unions will add these workers to their rolls and ultimately the government will pay far more than the $11.00 per hour in benefits and salaries.

Additionally, it eliminates the ability of government to replace contractors that perform shoddy work. This is a horrible precedent. Maintaining flexibility is necessary to leverage contactors in order to save money and cut down on the numbers of state employees. As government grows, so does our tax bill.

SCHOLARSHIPS AVAILABLE

I am again offering several Maryland House of Delegates college scholarships. Scholarship awards are available for both full-time students and part-time students who are attending at least 6 credit hours. The applicant must be a resident of district 9A and must attend an in-state school.

Completed applications are due back in the office no later than April 9, 2007 and winners are notified by the end of May. The number of recipients and the award amounts vary, depending upon the number of qualified applicants. For an application, please contact my office at (410) 841-3582 and ask for my Legislative Assistant, Ellen Townsend.

YOU’RE INVITED

Please join us on Monday, February 19th from 6PM-8PM for the District 9A Reception in the Miller Senate Office Building, room West II. Senator Allan Kittleman, Delegate Gail Bates and I are hosting this event for our constituents.
Come share your thoughts and concerns with us as we enjoy a light buffet of dinner, desserts, and beverages.

Please RSVP to Ellen Townsend or Rick Bowers at (410) 841-3582 if you plan to attend.

DID YOU KNOW…

You can track all bills flowing through the Maryland General Assembly by logging on to the Maryland Legislative Information Services website at http://mlis.state.md.us.
Special thanks to my Legislative Aide Ellen Townsend and my Policy Analyst Rick Bowers who assisted me in researching and writing this newsletter.

Posted in General Assembly, Howard County | 1 Comment »

Gail Bates Legislative Update

Posted by David Keelan on Thursday, February 8, 2007

Greetings from Annapolis,

The 2007 Legislative Session continues to start slowly. Friday, February 9 is the House Bill Introduction Date, after which bills must go to the Rules Committee before being introduced. We should see a number of bills filed next week, although to-date we only have about 700 bills filed in House and Senate.

This week has been historic with the Governor’s State of the State address to the legislature and the quadrennial election of the State Treasurer by the Legislature. Both took place in Joint sessions of the Legislature with the Senate, other Constitutional Officers, Local Officials and special guests gathering in the House Chamber. For the State of the State, a Town Crier, dressed in Colonial costume ceremoniously announced the arrival of the Senate, Lt. Governor and Governor. The formality is impressive and reminds us that we are part of a lengthy history.

The Howard County Delegation continues to work on local legislation, with amendments being drafted for several bills. In addition, we will be holding a public hearing in Ellicott City on Thursday, Feb. 8, at 7pm in the Banneker Room of the George Howard Building. The first part of the hearing will be for the following 5 late filed local bills:

Ho. Co. 16-07 – Howard County Board of Elections – Membership and Compensation

(increasing from 3 to 5 members)

Ho. Co. 17-07 Howard County – Collective Bargaining – Deputy Sheriffs

(Granting Collective Bargaining rights to certain deputy sheriffs)

Ho. Co. 18-07 Workers’ Compensation – Permanent Partial Disability – Howard County Deputy Sheriffs

(enhances workers’ compensation benefits)

Ho. Co. Howard County – Alcoholic Beverages – Beer Tasting

(allows beer tasting)

Ho. Co. 20-07 Howard County – Creation of a State Debt – Norbel School

($250,000 bond bill)

In addition, the public is invited to comment on any legislation or issues before the General Assembly. If you cannot be present, you can contact us by e-mail or snail mail to give your testimony.

I will be sponsoring three pieces of legislation this session. One expands the opportunity for local governments to provide property tax relief for homeowners 65-70 years old if they enacted local legislation to do the same for homeowners 70 or older. The other tax bill will allow portability of the homestead tax deduction (the 5% cap in Howard County) if they sell their homes and move to another residence within the County.

My other bill will allow drivers to identify up to three individuals to be notified if there is a traffic accident involving the driver. This has personal meaning for me, as my cousin’s son died in a traffic accident. Because he was married and his wife, who is considered next of kin, was also involved in the accident and taken to shock trauma, the parents were not officially notified. In his memory, the bill is named Andrew’s Law.

Just to let you know, my seatmate in District 9A, Delegate Warren Miller, will also be starting an e-newsletter to keep constituents informed of happenings in his Committee and the legislature. If you are interested in receiving these e-updates, please e-mail him at warren.miller@house.state.md.us

In addition, District 9A will be holding its annual Open House in Annapolis on Monday, February 19th, from 6 PM to 8 PM. Please save the date and look for an official e-invite next week!

Serving you in Annapolis,

Gail Bates

Posted in General Assembly, Howard County | 2 Comments »

Public Hearing

Posted by David Keelan on Monday, February 5, 2007

At the request Senator Allan Kittleman: 

The Howard County State Delegation is holding a public hearing on Thursday, Feb 8th at 7:30 pm in the George Howard Building in Ellicott City. There are several local bills to be heard. In addition, individuals can testify on any legislation that is pending before the General Assembly [not just local Howard County bills]. For example, the Early Voting constitutional amendment, the legislation to do away with the death penalty, the Marriage Amendment, etc…

Posted in General Assembly, Howard County | Leave a Comment »

Six Local Bills Approved by Howard County State Legislators

Posted by Ed C on Saturday, January 27, 2007

As reported in the Baltimore Sun Howard hopeful on state funding and a follow up to Park Funding, and Tax Credits, and Machetes. Oh my!

The Howard County State Delegation met on Wednesday and passed 6 of the 18 bills awaiting action. Keeping the numbers from the earlier post, the six bills that passed unanimously are:

1. Robinson Nature Center Bond Funding ($500 K)
2. North Laurel Community Center Bond Funding ($500 K)
3. Blandair Regional Park Funding ($500 K)
4. Historic Main Street Ellicott City Parking Garage ($500 K)
6. Property Tax Credit for properties jointly owner with HoCo Housing Commission
7. HoCo Annual Report Filing Date

Here’s what remains:

5. Zoning Regulations – Administrative Proceedings
8. Organic Beer / Wine Liquor License
9. Carrying Machete – Prohibited Hours
10. Local Aggregation of Public Utilities (withdrawn)
11. Union Service Representation Fee
12. Board of Education – Qualifications and Election of Student Member
13. County Superintendent of Schools – Termination of Contract
14. Auxiliary Police Officers Workers Compensation
15. Aging in Place Act – Senior Tax Credit

Apparently, some bills have been added to the agenda since the Jan hearing and will be discussed at the Feb 8th hearing:

16 Bond funding for the private Norbel School ($250,000)
17,18 Bargaining rights and expanded worker compensation for county sheriff’s deputies.

Each of the 6 bills must now pass the full General Assembly, but according to the Baltimore Sun, “though that is often perfunctory as a matter of local courtesy.” The delegation will meet Wednesday to consider the other bills.

Posted in Ed C, General Assembly, Howard County | Leave a Comment »