2019 END OF SESSION WRAP-UP
At midnight on April 8th the gavel was heard for the final time of the 2019 session. My first session in the House of Delegates quickly came to a close. I can only think back on all the emails, phone calls, meetings, long debates, differences of opinion, consensus building and so much more. I often wondered where the motivation behind some of these bills ever came from! The experience as Councilman certainly helped my transition to Delegate. There was so much to learn as the job is so broad in scope, encompassing, hospitals, schools, universities, the prison system, judicial system, environmental issues, and a complex budget to name a few. With many new legislators, it became evident early on that we had a lot of work to do to defend our values on the Shore. There was almost 2500 pieces of legislation introduced and about a third of them were passed. This is a lot to digest in 90 days. Below are the highlights of issues that my constituents contacted me about the most. With the passing of Speaker Busch, my first Sine Die experience was different than I had originally envisioned. However, the ending was a fitting tribute to the Speaker.
Ocean City Convention Center HB178/SB177 - Maryland Stadium Authority – Ocean City Facility – Renovation. Both bills were passed unanimously on the last day of session. The expansion will allow not only larger events, but would allow multiple events to take place at the same time. In this legislation, the state will provide some of the funding in order to accomplish this much needed and anticipated expansion. Special Event Zones for Worcester County HB789/SB682 - Special Event Zones in Worcester County – Penalties. If passed these bills would have expand last year’s bill to include certain reckless behavior in addition to higher penalties for speeding. This would have only affected three events a year, totaling twelve days. Such behavior included speeding, negligent driving, driving a motor vehicle in a race, participating in a race, and/or skidding, spinning of wheels, or causing excessive noise. Penalties for these infractions were fines up to $1,000. I was disappointed when SB 682 received an unfavorable report from the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. The action in the Senate made getting a favorable report from the House Environment and Transportation Committee very unlikely. With the Senate’s action, I withdrew HB 789 to keep our options open for the future. HB 199: Wicomico County – Deer Hunting – Sundays This bill authorizes the Department of Natural Resources to allow a person in Wicomico County to hunt deer on private property on the second Sunday in deer firearms season from 30 minutes before sunrise until 10:30am. This was a Delegation bill that I fully supported. HB 199 was passed in the House and Senate.
BUDGET & TAXES
As introduced, Governor Hogan’s FY 2020 budget built on the progress made over the previous four years, including funding for education, transportation, health care, and the environment. The Governor’s budget proposal also set aside reserves in excess of $1.3 billion to cushion against an economic downturn.
The General Assembly amended the Governor’s proposal that had some cause for concern. A significant portion of the reserves were spent or fenced off for specific projects. With many financial experts and economists
warning that a potential slowdown in the economy should be considered. My concern was the General Assembly is not doing enough to prepare for a rainy day. I was also concerned about the removal of oversight as it pertained to education related spending. However; after much debate, negotiations, and the creation of the independent counsel in the Office of the Inspector General on education oversight, I supported the budget on final passage.
The Governor’s budget funded our shared priorities while also easing the tax burden on hardworking Maryland families, retirees, and small businesses. I co-sponsored and supported the Governor’s budget.
HB 65/SB02 – Sales and use tax – Aircraft Parts and Equipment – Exemption this bill would have provided an exemption from the sales and use tax for materials, parts, or equipment used to repair, maintain, or upgrade aircraft or the avionics systems of an aircraft. This bill was not moved out of committee. I co-sponsored this bill, and advocated for its passage to make our airports in Wicomico and Worcester counties competitive with Georgetown. HB 149/SB170 – Retirement Tax Fairness Act of 2019 would have extended state tax exemptions to additional retirement plans like IRA’s. I was a co-sponsor of HB 149, unfortunately, both bills failed in their respective committees.
HB327 – Income Tax – Itemized Deduction Would Allow an individual to itemize deductions to compute Maryland taxable income whether or not the individual itemizes deductions on the individual's federal income tax return. I was a co-sponsor on this bill, unfortunately it failed in committee.
HB 231/SB 161 – Income Tax – Subtraction Modification – Volunteer Fire, Rescue, and Emergency Medical Service. Is another bill the Governor introduced that would have increased to $10,000, the value of the State income tax subtraction modification for qualifying volunteer fire, rescue, or emergency medical services. I was proud to co-sponsor this bill, however this bill failed to receive a vote in committee. It was disappointing that the bill did not move as we need to act to encourage enrollment in our volunteer fire companies in our state.
HB 854 – Commonsense Tax Cut Act of 2019 was a Republican Caucus initiative that lowered income tax rates for Marylanders providing over $600 million in tax relief to Marylanders. I was a co-sponsor on this bill, it too failed in committee.
State Retiree Prescription Program
In 2011, as part of an overall pension reform plan, the O’Malley Administration and the General Assembly passed legislation that included eliminating drug coverage for Medicare-eligible State of Maryland retirees as of July 1, 2019. These retirees would be eligible for coverage under the Federal Medicare Part D plan which covers prescriptions. This action was delayed until that specific date as this was the time when the Medicare Part D coverage gap would be closed (you may have heard it referred to as the “doughnut hole”). This delay would keep Maryland’s retirees from having to pay the higher costs of medications that exist under the coverage gap. Congressional budget action in 2018 closed the “doughnut hole” as of January 1, 2019. To coincide with this change, the General Assembly, during the 2018 Session, made a change in the law to move Medicare-eligible retirees to the Medicare Part D plan six months earlier than originally planned.
Following the close of the 2018 Session, the Hogan Administration and the Department of Budget and Management began an aggressive campaign to educate and inform state retirees impacted by these upcoming changes. Understandably, many state retirees and those soon to be retired were surprised and angered when they learned of the impending changes. Because the changeover was codified in state law, nothing could be changed on a wholesale level until the General Assembly reconvened. The Governor and General Assembly worked collaboratively over the summer on programs to mitigate the impact to retirees in the short term and looked to the 2019 Legislative Session for a more permanent solution.
At the same time, a group of state retirees sued the State of Maryland to stop the move to the Medicare Part D plan. In October of 2018, a federal judge ruled in favor of the retirees and determined that the state could not require them to move to Medicare Part D. Following that ruling, the Governor announced the state would extend prescription coverage through December 2019.
This brings us to the 2019 Legislative Session. In his budget proposal for FY 2020, Governor Hogan fully funded the state retiree prescription program. He also included this funding as a part of his long-term budget outlook for future years. There seems to be some misinformation and confusion regarding this fact, but the retiree prescription program was fully funded in the Governor’s budget proposal. Several bills were introduced to address the issue long-term.
House Bill 98/Senate Bill 193 – State Employee and Retiree Health and Welfare Benefits Program - Retiree Participation in the State Prescription Drug Benefit Plan This bill would have extended the state’s current prescription coverage for State retirees, their spouses, and eligible dependents. Extending the current program would increase the state’s out-year liabilities to $10.7 billion. These bills did not move out of their respective Committees.
Senate Bill 946 – State Prescription Drug Benefits – Retiree Benefits – Revisions creates three programs to limit out-of-pocket prescription drug costs for State Retirees who began service before July 1, 2011, and their families. Under the bill, retirees will still transition to Medicare Part D but their out-of-pocket costs, subject to the caps currently in place, will be reimbursed by the state. Each program covers not only Medicare-eligible retirees, but also their Medicare-eligible spouses and dependents. Participants who reach the out-of-pocket limit under any of these programs will be reimbursed for other out-of-pocket costs, including coinsurance costs. The programs the bill establishes are as follows:
– “The Maryland State Retiree Prescription Drug Coverage Program” – for Medicare-eligible retirees who retire by December 31, 2019 the State will reimburse participants for any out-of-pocket prescription drug costs that exceed the costs in the State prescription plan. These limits are $1,500 for an individual and $2,000 for a family.
– “The Maryland State Retiree Catastrophic Prescription Drug Assistance Program” – for Medicare-eligible retirees who began State Service before July 1, 2011 and retire on or after June 1, 2019, the State will reimburse participants for any out-of-pocket prescription drug costs after the participant enters the catastrophic coverage levels under the Medicare Part D plan (approximately $2,500 individual or family).
– “The Maryland State Retiree Life Sustaining Prescription Drug Assistance Program” – for Medicare-eligible retirees enrolled in either program 1 or 2, the State will reimburse participants for out-of-pocket prescription drug costs for any life-sustaining drug that is not covered by Medicare Part D but is covered by the State prescription plan.
If the participant selects a Medicare Part D Plan that has a deductible, the deductible is included in the out-of-pocket limit. This does not include premiums. Non-Medicare eligible retirees, spouses, and dependents will remain on the current State prescription plan until they become Medicare eligible.
It is possible that under this bill, retirees will be paying less than they are now. The average standard Medicare Part D cost is $396. The current State prescription plan annual premium cost is $480. There are currently 25 Medicare part D plans available from 10 providers with yearly premium costs ranging from $168 to $1,166.
While everyone’s individual situations vary, in general under this bill; approximately 20% of retirees who began employment before July 1, 2011 will pay less than they currently pay under the State prescription plan; approximately 40% will pay $0-$500 more per year; and another 40% will pay more than $500, but no more than the caps ($1,500 individual, $2,000 family if retired before May 31, 2019 and $2,500 individual/family if retired after on or after June 1, 2019).
While we would all like to fully restore the program, this simply is not affordable for the state. This bill is a compromise that allows us to keep the promise of affordable prescription benefits for retirees in a fiscally responsible manner.
EVIRONMENT & ECONOMY
There is a fine line between protecting the environment and protecting the needs of Maryland commerce. Issues like the plastic straw and polystyrene bans straddle these lines. We need to be able to protect the needs of our economy and avoid putting our businesses at a competitive disadvantage.
We need creative and practical solutions for the environmental issues that have plagued our nation. Solutions that are able to minimize our adverse effects on water quality and natural habitats, while not crippling businesses and commerce. Maryland needs to be “Open for Business” while still making real, tangible strides in restoring the Chesapeake Bay, and our other natural resources to their historic eminence. We have an obligation to protect the national treasure that is the Chesapeake Bay. The budget that I support has dedicated $6 million in new Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts. This $6 million is on top of the more than $3 billion already invested over the past three years. This budget also allocates $18.5 million for renewable and clean energy programs, and $12
million for energy efficiency and conservation programs. The budget has also appointed $52.9 million for the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays 2010 Trust Fund, fully funding the trust for the third year in a row. While I recognize that funding these programs is just the first step in solving a much larger systemic issue, it is a step that I am proud we are taking.
HB 109 – Environment – Expanded Polystyrene Food Service Products – Prohibitions, more commonly-known as the “Styrofoam ban”, this legislation will do little to truly protect the environment. The bill only applies to polystyrene used in food service and it does not include any polystyrene used for packing or shipping. Food related Styrofoam accounts for less than 2% of the Styrofoam in the state. The majority of polystyrene is clean recyclable material used in packaging. An amendment to mandate recycling clean packaging like TV, and “peanuts” used for shipping was rejected by democrats. In addition, because of interstate commerce laws, the bill does not apply to food products packaged out-of-state. For example, Maryland egg producers cannot package eggs in polystyrene, but out of state egg producers can use polystyrene and ship to Maryland. Similarly, Maryland mushroom growers cannot use polystyrene for shipping and raised concerns that most Maryland mushrooms will need to be canned. Overall, this bill is a feel-good measure that does little to protect the environment and at the same time puts Maryland businesses at a competitive disadvantage – this was not something I could support.
HB 1158 – Clean Energy Jobs: Despite what the title may lead you to believe, this legislation has little to do with actually creating jobs in this state. Instead, it will dramatically drive up electricity costs while creating jobs in other states. This will be devastating to the elderly and others on fixed incomes. The Maryland Department of the Environment estimates that the increased costs of spending on electricity in residential, commercial, and industrial sectors combined will increase $755 million by 2030, primarily because of this legislation. A conservative estimate by the Department of Legislative Services has residential bills increasing by nearly $500 when fully implemented. Many conservative amendments were offered on the bill. The amendments included preventing deforestation for solar fields, mandating the jobs be filled by Marylanders, keeping the wind turbines out of view from Maryland’s coast and many other amendments, all failing on party lines. In addition, this bill estimated by the proponents will consume over 10,000 acres for solar panels. Sadly, most of these acres will be farmland and change the landscape in rural Maryland and the Eastern Shore. With everything considered I could not support this bill.
House Bill 166/Senate Bill 280 - Labor and Employment – Payment of Wages – Minimum Wage (Fight for Fifteen) – these bills increase the minimum wage in Maryland to $15 per hour on an incremental basis over the course of 5 years for employers with 15 or more employees and over 6 ½ years for employers with 14 or less.
The debate surrounding the minimum wage is often framed as a fight between those who care about workers and those who do not. As is frequently true, the reality is far more complicated than that. I believe this legislation will harm the very people it is designed to help.
We all want people to earn more money, allowing them to provide for their families and achieve their goals. However, we face a harsh reality that with this forced wage increase jobs will disappear, either because businesses will have to reduce the number of employees to stay afloat, businesses relocate to another state, or businesses close altogether. People are losing sight of this being a minimum wage and not a living wage. This will take opportunities away from our young employees trying to get their first job and grain work experience. I am also concerned about our proximity to Virginia and Delaware having lower minimum wages. We must remain competitive with our neighboring beach towns.
In February, our Caucus held a roundtable discussion on the minimum wage with acclaimed Maryland economist Anirban Basu and business owners from around the state. While Mr. Basu believes there may be room to increase the minimum wage at some level, he concurs that this jump to $15 is a significant one that businesses may not be able to absorb. The Republican caucus asked Governor Hogan to veto the legislation, which he did. Unfortunately, the General Assembly overrode the Governor’s veto.
HB 54 – Lands Formed by Excavation Materials. This bill would have transferred the use, management and ownership of lands formed by excavation materials in the Sinepuxent, Isle of Wight, and Chincoteague bays from the Department of Environment to the Department of Natural Resources for wildlife management areas. Local boaters reached out to my office with concerns that the passage of this bill would restrict boaters from using the islands for recreational purposes. I hosted several meetings with some members of the Environment and Transportation Committee and DNR to reach a compromise for sharing the use of the islands for recreation
and conservation purposes. The Department of Natural Resources rejected our proposals and the bill did not pass out of committee.
HB 298 - Oysters - Tributary-Scale Sanctuaries - Protection and Restoration. This bill classifies five tributaries as oyster sanctuaries. The passage of HB 298 ceases all oyster harvesting in those areas having a wide-ranging negative impact on the watermen that rely on the oysters as their way of life. Four of the five tributaries named are on the Eastern Shore.
I was strongly opposed to this legislation and offered an amendment that would have replaced Manokin River for the Severn River. This common sense amendment would have still allowed five sanctuaries to be named permanent sanctuaries and also allow waterman on the Eastern Shore to work the Manokin River. My amendment failed on the House floor. Governor Hogan, realizing the devastating impact this would have on the Eastern Shore, chose to veto the bill. Unfortunately, the veto was overridden.
HB 399/SB 311 – End-of-Life Option Act created a process by which an individual may request and receive aid in dying from their attending physician. While everyone has great compassion for individuals battling terminal illness, this bill raised many concerns. First, the legislation did not provide adequate safeguards against the coercion of vulnerable patients. There was a legitimate concern that family members, health care providers, and others could advise, suggest, encourage or even pressure patients to request the life-ending drug from their physician; setting the stage for elder abuse and pressure on vulnerable patients. The opponents of the bill showed a concern that in an effort to cut costs, insurance companies could deny payment for the treatment a patient needs and instead pay for the less-costly death prescriptions. No one wants to cause unnecessary suffering. Maryland already has laws and regulations that allow citizens to exercise their rights to control their destiny, their health care, and limit medical intervention. While the intent of this bill was to help people, the risk of harm to the vulnerable and poor was just too great. This measure passed the House, but failed in the Senate. I was a strong opponent of this bill. In fact, the Maryland Right to Life group shared my testimony in an effort to gain support to defeat this bill.
SB 346 – Public Safety – Regulated Firearms – Sell, Rent, Transfer, or Loan this legislation prohibits loaning firearms to those who are not qualified. The way the bill was initially written, it would have severely limited the rights of law-abiding firearms owners. While the bill was amended to address many of the issues raised by the Second Amendment community, some concerns remained. The bill passed the House and the Senate. The NRA and other 2nd Amendment Advocacy groups were neutral on the bill.
HB 740 – Criminal Law – Firearms – Computer-Aided Fabrication and Serial Number (3-D Printed Firearms) is a bill based on headlines and hysteria. This legislation bans the buying, selling, or owning a 3-D printed gun. There have been zero instances in this state or nation where a crimes was committed with a firearm manufactured at home a 3-D printer. While the idea of a firearm can be made at home and is undetectable by a metal detector definitely sounds frightening, there is no economically or technically viable way to manufacture them on any significant scale. While online forums and instructions abound, there is still a significant craftsmanship barrier. The legislation does not just impact the making of 3D firearms. This bill also impacts firearm enthusiasts preventing them from owning equipment to legally modify and repair firearms as well as prohibiting the hobbyist from making their own guns, and repairing heirloom firearms that have been kept for generations. Overall, this bill does nothing to make our communities safer and only serves to restrict 2nd Amendment rights. This bill passed the House but did not make it out of the Senate Committee.
HB 786 – Public Safety – Rifles and Shotguns – Secondary Transactions this legislation would have required background checks for the private sale of rifles and shotguns. This bill changed a great deal from its initial introduction, but ultimately the House and Senate ran out of time before a compromise between the two chambers could be reached.
SB 1000 – Public Safety – Handgun Permit Review Board – Repeal this legislation abolishes the Handgun Permit Review Board. The Handgun Permit Review Board was established by the General Assembly in 1972 to review Maryland State Police decisions regarding conceal-carry handgun permits. Any person whose application for a handgun permit, or renewal of a permit, has been rejected or limited, or whose permit has been revoked may ask the board to review the decision of the superintendent of the Maryland State Police. The board can sustain, reverse, or modify the decision of the superintendent based on a hearing conducted to establish the
facts. SB 1000 abolishes the Board and the appeals will instead be made to administrative law judges. Beyond politics, there is little that justifies the actions taken in this legislation. It adds another layer of bureaucracy to an already-cumbersome process of receiving a conceal-carry permit, violating the 2nd amendment rights of our citizens.
I am a strong supporter of our 2nd amendment and will continue to work to prevent laws that would limit or remove those rights. I did not support any of the above legislation as it would erode our constitutional rights. My approach was common sense, tougher gun legislation relating to criminal activity with the use of a gun. Sadly those bills failed on party lines.
HB 236/SB 166 – The Repeat Firearms Offender Act of 2019 was part of Governor Hogan’s efforts to tackle violent crime in Baltimore City and across the State. The legislation would double the minimum sentence from five to ten years for repeat offenders who use a firearm to commit a violent crime. This is an example of the tougher legislation we need. I was a co-sponsor of this bill, unfortunately, it was never allowed to come to the House floor for a vote.
HB 259 - Criminal Procedure - Expungement - Boating Offense. This bill authorizes a person to file a petition for expungement of a police record, court records, or other record maintained by the State if the person is convicted of any prohibited act related to speed or select other violations for personal watercraft. This bill was passed and is waiting for the Governor’s signature. I co-sponsored this bill because it is the only opportunity boaters have for expungements, unlike similar automobile violations where expungements are automatic.
HB 1023 – Criminal Procedure – Maryland Violent Offender Registry Act was an initiative put forth by the House Minority Caucus that establishes a searchable public registry modeled after Maryland’s Sex Offender Registry. It would require those convicted of murder to register for a period of 10 years following the completion of their sentence. In addition, those individuals who have a prior conviction for a violent crime and receive a subsequent conviction for a second violent crime, will be required to register for a 10-year period. Under Maryland law, violent crimes include but are not limited to murder, kidnapping, armed robbery, and carjacking. A number of states across the nation have expanded crime registries to include violent crimes. I co-sponsored this bill and would have vote for its passage in committee. Unfortunately, this bill was never brought out for a vote in the Judiciary Committee.
The push to make Maryland a Sanctuary State seemed even greater this year with several pieces of legislation being introduced to prevent cooperation with federal immigration authorities and to prevent law enforcement and other government entities from inquiring about immigration status.
HB 913/SB 817 – Correctional Facilities and Police Officers – Procedures – Immigration Status this legislation would prohibit state and local correctional facilities from cooperating with federal immigration detainers. It would also prohibit police officers from inquiring about immigration status, citizenship status, or place of birth in the performance of regular police procedures. HB 1165 – Government Agents – Requests For and Use of Immigration Status Information this legislation prohibits government agents (state, county, and municipal employees) from inquiring about the immigration or citizenship status of a person, a person’s family, or a person’s acquaintances, unless required by law to do so. The legislation also allowed an individual to sue should their immigration or citizenship status be questioned. This bill passed the House but did not move in the Senate.
I was strongly opposed to HB 913 and HB 1165 and thankfully they did not pass. HB 817 – Keep Our Communities Safe Act of 2019. This legislation requires state and local correctional facilities to cooperate with federal immigration detainers and transfer custody of undocumented immigrants to federal authorities upon their request. Unfortunately, this bill did not pass.
SB 128 – Community Control of School Calendars Act overturns Governor Hogan’s Executive Order that required schools to start after Labor Day. This bill passed the House and Senate, Governor Hogan vetoed the bill. Unfortunately, the General Assembly overrode his veto on a party a line vote. The sad reality of this veto override is most family’s supports starting school after Labor Day.
SB 1030 – The Education Blueprint for Maryland’s Future this legislation is a first step in enacting recommendations from the Kirwan Commission. This year's legislation enacts the recommendations from the Commission's Interim Report. The final report is due at the end of this year. While the funding for the coming fiscal year has been authorized in the budget the General Assembly passed this session, there are concerns that the price tag for fully enacting the Kirwan recommendations could lead to significant tax increases. During the Glendenning Administration, the Thornton Commission recommendations were passed, providing historic funding for education. As a result, the state has been plagued with an ongoing structural deficit which contributed to the massive tax increases during the O’Malley Administration. While we all want our State to have a world-class education system, we have to do this right. Money is not the only ingredient in the solution.
Fortunately an important element that was added to this legislation the significant accountability measures that Governor Hogan and our Caucus have advocated for over the last two years. The bill creates an independent Office of the Inspector General to investigate allegations of waste, fraud, and abuse in our local school systems. With the recent and repeated allegations of wrongdoing and mismanagement in school systems across the state, this is a critical initiative. This bill passed the House and Senate.
This is only a glimpse of the 90 day session, and is intended to cover the highlights and follow up on inquiries to our office. I was truly honored to represent each of you this year during the 2019 session. I encourage you to keep in touch throughout the year if we can be of assistance. I could not have gotten through this session without the help of my legislative aide, Rita. Her experience and commitment to constituent services was evident. I am truly grateful to have Rita on our team.
If you need additional information on a topic that is not covered in this summary, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Delegate Wayne Hartman