We are less than a week from the Maryland General Assembly adjourning sine die on April 11th. This week’s highlights include a bill signing with Governor Hogan and legislative leaders enacting the largest tax cut package in state history, Shore budget priorities, the rush to send bills to Governor Hogan by April 1, and a redistricting update.
Retiree Tax Relief
I joined Governor Hogan and legislative leaders at a Friday bill signing ceremony as the Governor signed into law the largest tax cut package in state history, including the Retirement Tax Elimination Act (SB 405), which will provide an additional $1.86 billion in long overdue tax relief for Maryland retirees, families and small businesses. This includes a $1.55 billion reduction in taxes for retirees 65 and older who make less than $100,000 in retirement income and $150,000 as a couple.
 
For the past eight years, Governor Hogan has been pushing and working on retiree tax relief, and I have cosponsored all of his retiree and other tax-relief bills both as a Delegate and Senator. Going back to my early door-to-door visits with constituents back in 2013, I constantly heard from local retirees that they wanted to stay in Maryland but some were leaving for more retiree-friendly states. I want to thank Governor Hogan for making retiree tax relief a top priority and for being so persistent in seeing it all the way through into law.
Budget Priories and Shore Highlights
With a record $7 billion Maryland budget surplus, Governor Hogan submitted supplemental budgets for fiscal year ’23 including
  • $2.4 billion in the Rainy Day Fund,
  • $350 million in tax relief for fiscal year ’23,
  • $50 million to support tourism in Maryland, $36 million to support economic development and revitalization,
  • $35 million to restore funding for providers serving victims of crime,
  • and $30 million to serve 1,350 youth on the Autism Waiver waiting list.
The Governor’s $2.8 billion supplemental budget submitted on March 28th makes key investments in some of his administration’s core priorities, including support for police and public safety, an expanded cyber readiness and workforce initiative, and critical infrastructure and public health investments. This supplemental budget also funds top priorities for county leaders and local governments.
 
This supplemental budget also includes
  • $1.35 million for safety improvements and renovation of the Ocean Pines Fire Department South Station in Worcester;
  • $550,000 for a 10-unit hangar at Crisfield Airport in Somerset County;
  • and $350,000 for Delmar streetscape upgrades on South Pennsylvania Avenue in Wicomico.
Rushing Bills to the Governor
Several contentious bills that the Governor may veto were rushed through the legislative process to be presented to the Governor by April 1st. By sending the bills to the Governor by this date, the legislature would have time to debate and override his vetoes before adjourning for the session. These include bills on marijuana legalization, paid family and medical leave, climate change, and abortion expansion. I voted against these bills.
 
Legalizing Recreational Marijuana
It makes no sense to legalize the recreational use of marijuana when we are in the middle of an opioid crisis, especially when overdose deaths have significantly increased during the pandemic, and we certainly don’t need a constitutional amendment to put legalizing marijuana on the November ballot.
(Senate Bill 833 and House Bill 1)
 
Paid Family and Medical Leave
The legislature also jammed through a paid family and medical leave bill, Senate Bill 275, without proper vetting. This mandate, imposed on both employers and workers, would give up to 24 weeks of paid family and medical leave. It’s a payroll tax, and the bill proponents couldn’t even tell us the cost. During the Senate Finance Committee voting session, even some of the Democrats who voted for it called it a ‘hot mess. There were so many basic, unanswered questions like just figuring out the cost share that it simply was irresponsible to vote for a major new government program without knowing the impact on employers and workers alike.
 
Other legislation that already has been sent to the Governor includes the omnibus climate change bill, Senate Bill 528 and the abortion bill, House Bill 937 that would have devastating impacts on Maryland businesses and consumers, and on women’s health respectively. The abortion bill expands abortion providers beyond physicians to include other healthcare occupations, including nurses and physician assistants, even though they do have similar educational or practical experience and do not perform surgical procedures under their scope of practice. Additionally, taxpayers would pay $3.5 million a year on abortion training plus the several millions dollars a year that Maryland taxpayers already pay each year for 4,000 abortions under Maryland’s Medicaid program.
The climate change bill would have far reaching and devastating impacts on fossil fuel suppliers, many which are small businesses, sharply increase the costs for businesses required to retrofit, result in rent increases for those living in apartments and condos, and drive up overall energy costs by limiting options for consumers.
Redistricting Update
The Maryland General Assembly passed a new version of a congressional map on March 30th to replace the one that was thrown out by Anne Arundel County Senior Judge Lynne A. Battaglia. Not only did she call the congressional map an “extreme partisan gerrymander,” but she also claimed that the map violated the state constitution’s equal protection, free speech and free elections clauses. A new version of the map was quickly drafted by the Maryland Senate and House, despite Republican objections, to meet the Judge’s March 30 deadline. In addition, the Maryland Attorney General has filed a notice to appeal the decision by Judge Battaglia.
In addition, the Maryland Attorney General filed a notice to appeal the Judge’s decision last week and then withdrew the appeal on Monday.
 
On April 4, Governor Hogan signed the new Congressional redistricting map bill which is an improvement over the 8-0 (Democrats to Republicans) gerrymandered map that Judge Battaglia rejected on March 25th. Upon signing the new Congressional map, Governor Hogan said, “It’s not perfect and there’s still some issues that I think could be corrected, but it’s miles away from the really incredibly gerrymandered map that was thrown out by the court.”
 
While the Congressional map has been resolved as of Monday, the legislative redistricting map is still being reviewed by the courts. 
Additional Community Resources
SENATE SCHOLARSHIPS IN DISTRICT 38
Students who live in Legislative District 38 may apply by emailing [email protected] to request a scholarship application. The deadline for submission of the completed application is April 15, 2022. These scholarship funds must be used toward attending a Maryland college or university (or an out-of-state institution if the student demonstrated he or she has a unique major). Please note that the completed application must be returned with the required essay. The student must have also filed their FAFSA online and should include his or her FAFSA summary sheet with the completed application.
Mary Beth Carozza for State Senate