Monday, March 26, 2012

Legislative Updates By Delegate Mike McDermott

 Field Notes Week 11
 Observations and Reflections on Legislative Activities By Delegate Mike McDermott

Week 11 March 19-24, 2012
The news I bring you this week from Annapolis is not good. I will be providing a supplemental to these notes on some budget specifics. There will be changes and further compromises with the Senate before the final version is voted on. While I do not normally include amendment links, I did so on the budget and tax bills so you could see what was rejected by the democrat majority that rule the House. Not one Republican amendment was accepted.
Monday Evening Session
Second Reader, Third Reader
Tuesday Morning SessionSecond Reader, Third Reader
There was only one controversial bill voted on this morning. HB-1204 will impose fees and further regulations for companies seeking to develop drill sites in western Maryland. No other state requires these types of fees, and now Maryland seeks to impose fees charged per acre on “potential” sites and continue to put the brakes on discovery and drilling for natural gas deposits located in Marcellus Shale. There was a significant amount of propaganda put forward by Chairman McIntosh citing many ground water contamination concerns. Although none of these instances has shown to have been caused by hydraulic fracturing in the process described, the chairman is a believer and is not swayed by many known facts. The passage of this bill only continues to set Maryland up for terrific losses of revenue due to the crafted moratorium by the General Assembly and the Environmental Matters Committee. This bill was passed on a vote of 88-49…many taking a walk on this bill while sitting at their desks.
Judiciary Hearings on Tuesday
HB-1365 would transfer collections for restitution payments from agencies like Juvenile Justice to the Central Collection Unit of the Department of Budget and Management. It was said that victims should benefit from a streamlined process and the CCU is better able to address the demands of these types of collections. The collection rate is currently 9% while CCU collection rate is 42.5%. HB-1143 would create a felony crime of Armed Home Invasion to address the increase in these types of offenses, particularly in the metropolitan areas. While there are particular cases which would support this bill, all of these offenses can be charged on existing law for the same or even greater combined sentencing. HB-1324 seeks to establish a standard for law enforcement on using eyewitness identification procedures. The goals of the bill are positive, but the opposition from law enforcement centered around the notion that we should not be legislating policy and procedures on best police practices. HB-1438 is a local bill seeking to allow Frederick County to perform background checks of a taxi applicant’s criminal history as a part of their processing. HB-1106 seeks to prohibit “inappropriate” searches of a minor by law enforcement and security (TSA) agents. It would require “probable cause” prior to a minor being subjected to intrusive searches of their person. HB-1111 seeks to provide limitation on the type of searches that can be conducted on persons in the United States. It stems from searches conducted by TSA personnel at airports but would apply to any searches conducted by agents of the government. The Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution provides protection from “unreasonable searches” and it would seem that most of the issues brought to the committee’s attention could be addressed through dealing with the TSA and congressional oversight.HB-949 seeks to repeal the Death Penalty in Maryland and replace it with Life-Without Parole. I do not agree with removing the death penalty as an option for society in addressing certain criminal cases. There were many that testified that it should be abolished. I suggested that, perhaps, it should be a Constitutional Referendum to be put before the voters. Interestingly enough, advocates did not like the idea of asking the citizens to vote on the issue, but they would be the first to say that voters do not want the death penalty anymore. To say the least, I find this very interesting.  HB-1310 would place incredible reporting restrictions on firearms dealers and require them to respond to audit demands from the State Police. Currently, dealers licensing is handled by the federal government who issues the licenses in the first place. This bill would provide the ability of the state to suspend a license for several weeks just for a clerical violation. This seems to be a significant change and intrusion from the current laws governing purchases in Maryland.
Voting Session Judiciary Committee Tuesday Evening
Bills voted favorably by the committee:,
HB-130, HB-140, HB-353, HB-509, HB-513, HB-573, HB-589, HB-604, HB-664, HB-666, HB-670,HB-742, HB-823, HB-834, HB-860, HB-942,HB-1120, HB-1334
Bills voted unfavorably by the committee:
HB-469, HB-588, HB-611, HB-778, HB-821, HB-1020, HB-1021, HB-1066,
HB-1147, HB-1300, HB-1330, HB-1386
Judicial Hearings Conducted on Wednesday Afternoon
HB-1418 would preserve the right of a person to appeal a conviction under a writ of Coram Nobis. This is a particular writ which allows someone to come before the court with evidence and information which reveals a significant mistake made by the court during the trial. There have been some recent court cases which appear to have diminished a writ of Coram Nobis. HB-1441 would allow for the termination of an alimony payment when the recipient cohabitates. Some states have allowed for reductions in payments under these circumstances. HB-1402 would prohibit a court from incarcerating someone on a Contempt of Court Order for failing to pay Child Support who is a veteran.
Voting Session Judiciary Committee Wednesday Afternoon
Bills voted favorably by the committee:
HB-209, HB-598, HB-742, HB-762, HB-772, HB-834, HB-875, HB-1238,HB-1326, HB-1418, HB-350
Bills voted unfavorably by the committee:
HB-1106, HB-1111, HB-1242
Thursday Voting Session-11 hours
Second Reader, Third Reader
Budget Bills Debated on Thursday
For review, these are the bills and the amendments for the $36.8 Billion budget package. I have included all of the proposed amendments offered which would have altered or eliminated various fees, taxes, transfers, or demands placed upon the citizens or local governments. All but two of them were offered by Republicans.

SB 150
Floor Amendment (Delegate Bates) {273422/1 Rejected (48-84)
Floor Amendment (Delegate Kach) {653224/1 Rejected (46-86)
Floor Amendment (Delegate McDonough) {753429/2 Rejected (40-89)
Floor Amendment (Delegate Vitale) {253229/1 Rejected (42-92)
Floor Amendment (Delegate Schulz) {573123/1 Rejected (48-82)
Floor Amendment (Delegate Costa) {743821/1 Rejected (41-88)
Floor Amendment (Delegate McComas) {313528/1 Rejected
Floor Amendment (Delegate Hough) {563720/1 Rejected (46-88)
Floor Amendment (Delegate O'Donnell) {903726/1 Rejected (47-90)
Second Reading Passed with Amendments
SB 152
Floor Amendment (Delegate Donoghue) {193826/1 Rejected
Floor Amendment (Delegate Simmons) {563124/1 Rejected (26-109)
Floor Amendment (Delegate McDermott) {813529/1 Rejected (43-85)
Floor Amendment (Delegate McDermott) {883323/1 Rejected (43-86)
Floor Amendment (Delegate McDermott) {813923/1 Rejected
Floor Amendment (Delegate O'Donnell) {693424/1 Rejected (53-79)
Floor Amendment (Delegate Krebs) {213323/1 Rejected (41-91)
Floor Amendment (Delegate Minnick) {393724/1 Rejected (50-81)
Floor Amendment (Delegate McConkey) {263922/2 Rejected (45-86)
Floor Amendment (Delegate Barkley) {243927/1 Rejected (62-72)
Floor Amendment (Delegate Serafini) {353329/1 Rejected (45-85)
Floor Amendment (Delegate Eckardt) {683729/2 Rejected (44-90)
Floor Amendment (Delegate Szeliga) {693622/1 Rejected (43-91)
Floor Amendment (Delegate George) {913820/2 Rejected (42-92)
Floor Amendment (Delegate George) {913820/3 Rejected (41-92)
Floor Amendment (Delegate Frank) {913221/1 Rejected (42-92)
Floor Amendment (Delegate McDermott) {543629/1 Rejected (51-85)
Floor Amendment (Delegate Stocksdale) {253029/1 Rejected (42-87)
Floor Amendment (Delegate Aumann) {363324/1 Rejected (45-84)
Floor Amendment (Delegate Olszewski) {933823/1 Rejected (43-78)
Floor Amendment (Delegate Krebs) {233226/1 Rejected (42-88)
Second Reading Passed with Amendments
HB 1412 is the bill which allows for counties to override their citizen imposed Revenue/Tax Caps and would require the Comptroller to take county revenue and give it directly to the Boards of Education if a county cannot make maintenance of effort on their budgets.
Floor Amendment (Delegate Kramer) {923327/2 Rejected (52-78)
Floor Amendment (Delegate Kramer) {923327/4 Rejected (46-78)
Floor Amendment (Delegate Kramer) {923327/3 Rejected (46-70)
Floor Amendment (Delegate Kramer) {723320/1 Rejected (49-77)
Floor Amendment (Delegate Haddaway-Riccio) {623020/1 Rejected (42-81)
Floor Amendment (Delegate McMillan) {963626/1 Rejected (40-86)
Floor Amendment (Delegate Krebs) {533722/1 Rejected (48-77)
Second Reading Passed with Amendments
SB 523 is the tax bill from the senate which creates various tax and fee revenues in support of the proposed budget.
Floor Amendment (Delegate Serafini) {143729/4 Rejected (41-87)
Floor Amendment (Delegate Serafini) {143729/6 Rejected (44-85)
Floor Amendment (Delegate Fisher) {983121/1 Rejected (40-67)
Floor Amendment (Delegate Szeliga) {773924/1 Rejected (42-69)
Second Reading Passed with Amendments
HB- 987 is perhaps the most potentially damaging legislation to the tax payer this session. It will require counties to fund projects to address storm water management which will cost billions. Baltimore City costs exceed $10 billion, Prince Georges exceeds $2 billion, Frederick County exceeds $4 billion, and Anne Arundel County exceeds $2 billion. These would be problem numbers if we were talking millions, but this is much worse. These are just four of the counties who fall under phase one of this mandate by the state in conjunction with the EPA (Executive Order-not legislated). While the Eastern Shore is exempt in the first round, there is no doubt we will be captured in future legislation. Many of us made strong arguments against this bill. It has everything necessary to bankrupt many of our jurisdictions in coming years while the science supporting these actions is questionable.
Voting Session Judiciary Committee Friday Morning
Bills voted favorably by the committee:
HB-300, HB-480, HB-543, HB-545, HB-707, HB-774, HB-1122, HB-1441
Bills voted unfavorably by the committee:
HB-719, HB-739, HB-1082, HB-1086
Friday Session Voting
Second Reader, Third Reader
There were a couple of contested bills. HB-1275  puts greater demands on those seeking to petition a bill to referendum and would require some of the information to be available online. I view these democrat sponsored efforts as an attempt lay stumbling blocks between the people and their government. It passed 93-42. SB-150, one of the budget bills, passed along party lines with 3 democrats not voting 95-43. SB-523, the Revenue/Tax Bill, saw several more  Hdemocrats unwilling to sign on the dotted line for this massive taxing package. Sadly, this bill was approved 81-56. HB-443 is Maryland’s response to Obamacare. In spite of court decisions that look to rule it unconstitutional, the O’Malley-Brown administration continue to advance this agenda. Several amendments were made on this bill to strike out taxpayer funded abortion language now and in future bills, and this was met with stiff resistance from democrats. While the amendments went down to defeat, it was clear that many are sensitive on the issue in the House and do not like it coming up for votes. HB-1412 was one of the more troubling legislative acts outside of the budget so far this year. Democrats, including Del. Norm Conway, sponsored this bill which will effectively destroy a Tax Revenue Cap put into effect by the voters in counties such as Wicomico. Not only does it allow for an override of the cap, if the Maintenance of Effort (MOE) budget for the Board of Education, it requires the Comptroller to withhold tax money due the county. Further, it requires the Comptroller to take the money and divert it to the local Board of Education to make up any money the county withheld from the budget. This is one incredible overreach by the state and may only serve to force some of our counties into a state of bankruptcy or never ending tax increases. It passed 92-46.
Voting Session Judiciary Committee Friday Evening
Bills voted favorably by the committee:
HB-1438, HB-1122
Regular Session SaturdaySecond Reader Bills, Third Reader Bills
The most interesting bill of the day was HB-576 which deals with public-private partnerships on special projects throughout the state. The legislation itself is not problematic, it was an amendment placed on the bill which would allow it to be retroactive, including pending litigation in our courts. It seems the redevelopment project in Baltimore City at the Center has been bound up in court by folks who opposed the project. This amended bill would have allowed a direct appeal to the Court of Appeals by the plaintiffs in the case, and he amendment was proposed by a lobbyist for those who want the Center project to get moving. There was strong argument against the General Assembly being used in this fashion. It was said to be turning the state into a “Banana Republic” where the one with the money buys the justice they desire. While many were offended by the debate, they were only offended by the truth. This bill was amended to help one particular party with a case already before the court, and, no matter how you slice it, that is just plain wrong. I was so glad to be ending my week on such high note.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the update, Del McDermott. I'll have to get back to this later. I'm too scared to read it now and ruin this perfectly beautiful day.