2019 End of Session Review
2019 End of Session Review
Greetings from Annapolis!
The 439th Session of the Maryland General Assembly and my first session as your State Senator from Legislative District 38 concluded at 12 a.m. Tuesday, April 9, as the General Assembly adjourned Sine Die (from the Latin “without day”) until January 2020. I am humbled to represent you as one of 17 new members of the Maryland State Senate during this new era in Annapolis.
We also celebrated the Inauguration of Governor Larry Hogan as he began his second term in office on January 16. With so many new members and chairs in the 2019 Maryland General Assembly, it was a challenge to educate our colleagues on the impact of legislation on our Eastern Shore Way of Life. The first year allowed for the early building of new bipartisan coalitions that will be crucial to future sessions. Here are some of the highlights from the 2019 Legislative Session:
New Term, New Committee
I began my first term as a State Senator being sworn in at noon on January 9, 2019 with my parents joining me in the Senate Chamber. During the first Session, Governor Hogan and Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller addressed the Senate and encouraged the members to work together for the people of Maryland. I was appointed to the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee. On this committee, my colleagues and I oversee issues such as education policy; agriculture and environmental issues; veterans affairs; ethics and election laws; and local and state government affairs. I continued serving as a member of both the Maryland Veterans Caucus and the Women’s Caucus and was appointed to the Joint Committee on Federal Relations and the Joint Committee on Children, Youth, and Families.
FY 2020 Budget and Shore Priorities
Governor Hogan’s Fiscal Year 2020 Budget unanimously passed the State Senate and includes no new taxes; a record $7 billion for education; $405.2 million in direct aid to local school systems; $80 million allocated to substance use disorder treatment; and $1 million for Ocean City beach maintenance. Also included is a 6% salary increase for correctional officers.
The Maryland General Assembly passed legislation that authorizes the Maryland Stadium Authority (MSA) to issue new bonds ($24.5 million) and structure financing terms for expansion of the Ocean City Convention Center. This facility has long been an important economic driver for Ocean City and the State of Maryland, bringing in thousands of visitors for conferences and allowing local businesses to stay open and continue to hire year round.
Local legislation was introduced to create a residency requirement for County Commissioner candidates in Somerset County and to allow Sunday hunting in Wicomico County. Both of these bills passed the House and Senate with near unanimous support. I have also continued to work to ensure that a health care facility is maintained in Crisfield.
The Senate FY 2020 Capital Budget included Governor Hogan’s proposals to fund $500,000 for the Somerset County Visitor Center; $800,000 for Maryland State Police Barrack renovations in Berlin; $11 million towards replacing the Salisbury Animal Health Laboratory; $1.19 million for co-generation plant upgrades at Eastern Correctional Institution; $931,000 for the Eastern Shore Center for Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Economic Development at Salisbury University; $5 million towards the construction of a new building for the University of Maryland Eastern Shore School of Pharmacy; $800,000 for renovating the east tower at Peninsula Regional Medical Center; and $2 million for the Coastal Resiliency Program, including shoreline stabilization and marsh restoration along Selsey Road in West Ocean City.
Also included in the Senate’s FY 2020 Capital Budget is funding for local projects: $26,000 for the Delmarva Discovery Center in Pocomoke to make repairs to the river otter exhibit; $95,000 for the Salisbury Elks Lodge; $100,000 for the Truitt Street Community Center in Salisbury; $14,000 for a new concession stand at Fruitland Park; and $60,000 for renovating the Crisfield Customs House.
Education, Accountability, and School Safety
Education was a major issue during the 2019 legislative session. My colleagues and I discussed and voted on issues pertaining to education funding and accountability. This included supporting legislation to expand P-TECH programs in our schools and Senate Bill 1030—The Education Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. This legislation establishes education policy based on the recommendations of the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education (Kirwan Commission). These recommendations focus on elevating teaching as a profession, increasing teacher salaries, strengthening Career Trades Technology Education, and establishing the Office of the Inspector General to investigate misconduct and strengthen accountability in our schools.
As we move forward with the Kirwan Commission recommendations, I will continue to insist on fair education funding formulas for the Shore and continue to engage our local school superintendents, county officials, teachers, parents, students and others on the education priorities in our district. There is a substantial cost to these recommendations, and we will have the hard discussions on affordability and accountability.
Other efforts to keep our schools safe and school personnel accountable were brought to the Senate floor this year. The Senate passed the Safe Schools Maryland Act of 2019. This legislation solidifies the Safe Schools Maryland program within the Maryland Center for School Safety and establishes an anonymous tip line 1-833-MD-B-SAFE for students, teachers, and the general public to report behaviors of concern and other threats. I cosponsored legislation to increase penalties for threats of mass violence. Senate Bill 139 would prohibit a person from threatening to commit a crime of violence that would place five or more people at risk if the threat were to be carried out. The need for this legislation was brought to my attention by local law enforcement officials last year, and it now will become law.
Senate Bill 541— Education—Personnel Matters—Child Sexual Abuse and Sexual Misconduct Prevention, which I also cosponsored, will create new rules for vetting potential school employees and keeping those credibly accused of sexual abuse or misconduct out of our schools.
Despite so many pressing challenges facing our State, the Maryland General Assembly decided to ignore the will of the majority of Marylanders who overwhelmingly support Starting School After Labor Day by voting to repeal Governor Hogan’s Executive Order. I spoke out against this legislation and the partisan maneuvering to influence the ballot language on a possible referendum in the November 2020 Election and voted to sustain the veto, which was overridden on party lines.
I voted for the Clean Cars Act of 2019 which extends the Electric Vehicle Recharging Equipment Rebate Program to issue tax credits for electric cars and a Floor amendment to remove waste-to-energy from Maryland’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS). I also supported legislation to require reporting requirements for sewer overflows and continue to speak out against offshore drilling and seismic air testing.
Advocating for Watermen and Farm Families
On the official Maryland seal, you see a farmer and a waterman, representing the two industries that are vital to our history and culture. The Senate considered legislation (House Bill 298) that would expand regulations on a network of five oyster sanctuaries. Concerns were raised about this legislation because it attempts to resolve complicated ecological questions instead of allowing the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to do its job.
This legislation also excludes commercial watermen from the process. Under the Hogan Administration, there has been an inclusive process with all stakeholders involved in developing a consensus approach to oyster management and restoration. I spoke out and voted against this bill and voted to sustain Governor Hogan’s veto, which was overridden by the legislature. I will be working with new DNR Secretary Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio and my colleagues on efforts to increase the role of our commercial watermen in oyster management and restoration.
I also worked with my colleagues, the Maryland Farm Bureau, and Delmarva Poultry Industry (DPI) to add amendments to legislation that originally intended to impose burdensome fines for non-compliance with sweeping new nutrient management laws and to establish costly new permits for proposed Confined Animal Feeding Operations. This unacceptable overreach was watered down through amendments brought about by my colleagues and pro-agriculture advocates to balance environmental stability without hampering our farm families. The amended version of Senate Bill 546 was approved by the Maryland General Assembly.
Legislation was introduced (Senate Bill 542) that would have created a new and expensive ($10 million) air quality sampling and monitoring system for large animal feeding operations (AFOs). This bill, which did not move out of committee, failed to take into account the voluntary air quality monitoring project involving DPI, the Maryland Department of Environment, and the Keith Campbell Foundation for the Environment. This public-private partnership addresses the community's concerns about air quality near poultry farms in a common sense, fiscally-responsible way.
Tax and Regulatory Relief
This session the full Senate considered Senate Bill 280, which would increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour. We live in a diverse state, reflecting different life styles, industries, and economic realities. This legislation did not take any of those differences into account. During the debate I introduced a Floor amendment that would have created a regional tier system for the implementation of any increase in the minimum wage. The amendment had bipartisan support but failed by a vote of 18-29. I voted against Senate Bill 280 and voted to sustain Governor Hogan’s veto of the bill.
I also introduced legislation that would have provided relief to seasonal job creators by creating a 120-day exemption to the paid leave mandate implemented last year. Our job creators need relief and flexibility when it comes to staffing, running their own operations, and providing quality services to all groups and visitors. We made a strong case for this exemption during our hearing before the Senate Finance Committee, but the consensus was that no action would be taken on sick leave this session after only one year of implementation. We did leave the door open for future modifications to this mandate.
To provide relief to small businesses adversely impacted by these laws, I have joined a bipartisan small business work group that will propose ways to assist our job creators in meeting these new mandates, which I opposed.
I supported Governor Hogan’s Retirement Tax Fairness Act of 2019. While this legislation did not advance, I will continue to support efforts to give more money back to taxpayers. I also cosponsored and supported several pieces of legislation that would provide relief to hard-working Marylanders:
Senate Bill 870— Income Tax—Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit—Alterations passed and will expand the existing child and dependent care tax credit to families who make more than $50,000 but less than $141,000 a year.
Senate Bill 292— Property Tax Credit—Public Safety Officer—Definition passed and will make emergency medical technicians eligible for local property tax credits.
Senate Bill 284—9-1-1 Specialists—Compensation and Benefits passed and will expand local property tax credits and compensation benefits for 9-1-1 public safety specialists.
Senate Bill 89 – Small Business Relief Tax Credit passed the Senate but failed to advance in the House and would have expanded an income tax credit to small businesses that provide paid parental leave to their employees. This was the Governor’s initiative to help ease the burden the paid sick leave bill and other mandates will have on small businesses.
House Bill 173— Economic Development—Job Creation Tax Credit—Sunset Extension passed and will extend the termination date for the job creation tax credit to January 1, 2022, which will provide more regulatory relief to our Shore job creators and allow them to continue to grow.
Regulatory relief also came to our Shore brewers through Senate Bill 704, which gives craft beer manufacturers the flexibility to grow and freedom to negotiate a contract with wholesalers, including termination clauses.
The federal government’s failure to produce a comprehensive health care solution made affordable health care a definitive issue during the 2019 session. I supported Senate Bill 802—Protect Maryland Health Care Act of 2019 which improves access to health care and reduces insurance costs for Marylanders. I also voted for legislation that will increase the reimbursement rates for our community pharmacists: House Bill 754—Health Insurance and Pharmacy Benefits Managers—Cost Pricing and Reimbursement, and supported legislation that would provide prescription drug out-of-pocket reimbursement for specified state retirees.
The work continued in the fight against opioid addiction and skyrocketing prescription drug costs. The Maryland General Assembly passed legislation that would authorize the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) to review data for signs of possible drug misuse and unprofessional conduct by prescribers. I also joined my colleagues in voting to create a Prescription Drug Affordability Board to determine and review ways to keep the cost of prescription drugs low.
My work with the families of the addicted prompted me to introduce legislation that would authorize an institution of higher education to notify the parent or legal guardian of a student who is addicted to drugs or at risk of a drug overdose or death, and to be immune from civil liability for disclosing the information in good faith. While this first-time legislation did not clear committee, I will continue to work with those on the frontlines in the battle against addiction to reintroduce the legislation next year.
This year the Senate debated legislation that would have legalized physician-assisted suicide in Maryland. The legislation as written was flawed with no safeguards for individuals with disabilities, no family notification required, and no drug take-back plan established. I spoke out on the Senate Floor and voted against this legislation, which failed by a vote of 23-23.
Crime and Public Safety
Public safety is job number one. This session I cosponsored and supported several key pieces of legislation designed to keep our community safe. I was proud to cosponsor Laura and Reid’s Law which makes a crime of violence against a woman the perpetrator knows is pregnant an additional felony with a jail sentence of up to 10 years. Pregnancy-associated homicide in Maryland is 10 times the national average, and Laura and Reid’s Law brings justice to these women and their families.
My legislation to increase penalties for criminally-negligent driving, Wade’s Law, unanimously passed the Senate this year. Wade’s Law would have established the offense of a life-threatening injury by motor vehicle or vessel as criminal negligence with up to 18 months in jail and/or a $5,000 penalty if convicted. I am grateful to my Senate colleagues for supporting a just penalty by passing Wade’s Law and for the commitment to continue to advance this common sense public safety legislation next session.
I cosponsored legislation to transform Maryland’s 9-1-1 system to improve response times and save lives, and to prohibit the pretrial release of a defendant who is required to register as a sex offender. I also voted for Stacey’s Law, which repeals the statute of limitations for the crime of solicitation to commit murder, and legislation that addresses the rape kit backlog.
At the request of the Ocean City Mayor and Police Chief, I introduced legislation to increase the penalties for traffic violations in Special Events Zones in Worcester County for negligent driving, driving or participating in a race or speed contest, and other reckless driving. While we made a strong case at the hearing for the need to expand the violations under the current law, the Senate was not inclined to increase penalties again this year after granting the approval for the Special Events Zone last year. We have left the door open to go back next session and continue to push for the increased penalties.
While serving in Annapolis, we often spend time preventing certain bills from moving forward due to the negative impact on local constituents. Legislation to establish a Long Gun Qualification License and place other regulations on our right to defend ourselves failed to advance this year. Another bill that would have made Maryland a sanctuary state failed for the third year in a row. I have been a long-time opponent of sanctuary policies and will continue to speak out against them.
As a member of the Maryland General Assembly Veterans Caucus, I have made it a priority to help and honor those who defend our country. I introduced legislation that would declare July 27, 2019 Welcome Home Korean War Veterans Day that passed the Senate by a unanimous vote. Often referred to as the Forgotten War, the bravery exhibited by our men and women in uniform during this conflict should never be forgotten.
I look forward to joining with Governor Hogan and his wife Yumi, and Maryland Veterans Affairs Secretary George Owings, III in welcoming our living Korean War veterans and their families to a special ceremony in Annapolis on July 22, 2019.
I also cosponsored legislation that includes therapy horses in the Maryland Veterans Service Animal Program, and supported legislation to increase the existing subtraction modification for military retirement income and require the Maryland Department of Health to develop a comprehensive action plan to combat veteran suicides.
I am humbled to work for you in the Maryland General Assembly, and am grateful to all who have shared their views and insights on the priorities of Maryland’s Eastern Shore. I encourage you to stay in contact with me at [email protected] or www.marybethcarozza.com. I look forward to seeing you back home.
MARY BETH CAROZZA
State Senator – District 38
Somerset, Worcester and Wicomico