Session Notes From The Senate

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This year’s legislative session included bills related to pandemic relief, education, taxes and much more. Let’s take a closer look.

RELIEF Act

Governor Larry Hogan signed a $1.2 billion RELIEF Act into law in mid-February. Under this act, the following will happen:

  • Those who filed for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) will receive a direct stimulus payment of $500 for families and $300 for individuals.

  • The RELIEF Act will increase the state’s match to the federal EITC for taxpayers with dependents from 28% to 45% for three years. That means a family with two or more children that earns $25,000 a year will see a yearly credit increase of roughly $1,100.

  • $1,000 payments to those waiting on unemployment insurance benefits.

  • Removes state and local income taxes on unemployment benefits received during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Businesses will not see an increase in their unemployment insurance rates due to COVID-19 related layoffs.

  • Businesses will have a temporary reprieve on paying state sales tax and eliminating taxes on pandemic-related grants and forgiving loans.

  • $300 million in other targeted relief funds to support food banks, utility payment assistance, restaurants, entertainment and tourism venues.

2021 Income Tax Deadline Change

The IRS announced in March that its tax deadline would be pushed back from the usual date of April 15 to May 17 for individual tax returns.

Comptroller Peter Franchot has extended the deadline for filing and paying state income taxes from April 15, 2021 to July 15, 2021.

Veto Overrides

In May 2020, Governor Hogan vetoed many pieces of legislation due to how the COVID-19 virus would affect the state budget. At the start of the 2021 legislative session, the General Assembly brought back many of these bills to consider overriding the governor’s veto.

Here are two of the more high-profile bills that passed on the override:

Senate Bill 1000 – Blueprint for Maryland’s Future – Implementation

Governor Hogan vetoed this bill, criticizing its yearly $4 billion price tag. It has a 10-year plan to expand prekindergarten. It will increase funding to schools with a high percentage of poor, special education or limited English-speaking students. For the teachers, it will increase their pay, as well as raise their required standards. The governor’s 2020-2021 budget had included $7.3 billion for education. This will provide historically high funding for K-12 education. Prekindergarten also received $94 million in the 2020-2021 budget. Governor Hogan stated in his veto that Kirwan lacked accountability and a funding source.

House Bill 732 - Taxation – Tobacco Tax, Sales and Use Tax and Digital Advertising Gross Revenues Tax

This bill is the nation’s first tax targeting digital advertising. The tax will affect large technology-based and online companies that derive revenue from advertising on their websites. It will ultimately be passed along to advertisers, small business, and entrepreneurs who are trying to make a living by advertising online. This tax will eventually flow down to the consumer.

I voted to uphold Governor Larry Hogan’s veto to avoid raising taxes and fees on Marylanders during a time of financial struggle.

The following are important bills from the 2021 legislative session.

Police Reform

Senate Bill 71: Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021 – Body-Worn Cameras, Employee Programs, and Use of Force

This bill enacted the following for police officers:

  • Requires the use of body cameras by all county police departments by 2025.

  • Provides for counseling and mental health services and support for police officers.
  • A standard adopted for “use of force,” which changes the perspective from that of the “reasonable police officer” to one of the “totality of the circumstances.”

  • Use of force is required to be “proportional,” and to adjust to the force being used against the officer.

  • Officers may only mirror (and slightly exceed) the force being used by the suspect, with the suspect given the first swing/shot.

  • Penalty for misjudgment of what is later determined to be reasonable under the “totality of the circumstances” is criminal for the officer (punishable by up to 10 years in prison), together with the possibility of civil liability.

This bill was vetoed by Governor Hogan, and the General Assembly overrode the governor’s veto. I voted to uphold the governor’s veto.

Senate Bill 178: Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021 – Personnel Records – Investigation of Law Enforcement Officers (Anton’s Law)

The following was included in this piece of legislation:

  • Adds significant restrictions on the use of warrants (including no-knock warrants), which can endanger police executing those warrants while not substantially protecting citizens.

  • Police officers’ personnel files will be available for public inspection. It will include administrative discipline and ever anonymous complaints (whether or not sustained).

  • Publicizing unsubstantiated – unsworn – accusations against police officers is an unwarranted attack on their privacy and is not done in the case of any other public official.

This bill was vetoed by Governor Hogan, and the General Assembly overrode the governor’s veto. I voted to uphold the governor’s veto.

House Bill 670: Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021 – Police Discipline and Law Enforcement Programs and Procedures (Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights – LEOBR)

This bill removes the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, which was created in the 1970s. It creates a multi-step disciplinarian process for officers accused of wrongdoing on the job. This bill’s final draft after going through both chambers and a conference committee included the following:

  • Altered the tort claims provisions to clarify that the civil liability cap applies to the violation of constitutional rights

  • Allows misconduct complaints to be filed with the new police accountability boards established under the bill

  • Changes the makeup of county charging committees to include only civilians

  • Establishes that officers can have attorneys when appearing before charging committees only if they were compelled to appear

  • Requires that police officers are provided a copy of their investigatory file at least 30 days prior to their trial board proceedings

  • Authorizes police chiefs to fire officers who have been convicted of secondary assault

  • Strikes the provisions of the bill that would require officers to forfeit their pensions as a punitive measure

This bill was vetoed by Governor Hogan, and the General Assembly overrode the governor’s veto. I voted to uphold the governor’s veto.

Legislative Bond Initiatives

Through the Legislation Bond Initiative Program, I was able to help secure funding for the following organizations located within District 33.

Anne Arundel County Fair: $85,000

Cape St. Claire Improvement Association: $250,000

Chrysalis House: $250,000

Elks Camp Barrett: $89,200

Langton Green Community Farm: $95,000

Pascal Crisis Stabilization Center: $300,000

Rockbridge Academy: $500,000

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