The General Assembly adjourned Sine Die 2018 (without another day) April 9, 2018 to the usual confetti and fanfare. Though the legislature met four times during the day and most of the heavy lifting had been completed earlier in the week, several bills were not voted on and failed when the clock struck midnight on Sine Die.
The House returned at 10:30PM to finish the calendars but an usually long debate on a medical malpractice bill and a last minute announcement of the Women’s Caucus election of officers, doomed several bills that were last on the agenda. List of bills passed.
Apr 23, 2018 – One Professor’s Case Against Free College Tuition – Sun
Apr 20, 2018 – General Assembly Delivers On Public Safety – DR
Apr 16, 2018 – Senate Bill 30 ‒ The Pundits and Perhaps the Most Extraordinary Vote – CM
Apr 15, 2018 – Maryland’s Latest Legislative Session Was Flush With Bipartisanship – Post
Apr 12, 2018 – Teen Marriage Limits Failed Amid Concerns From Women’s Groups – Sun
April 12, 2018 – Bill Requires New Sexual Assault Policies From Maryland Colleges – DR
Apr 11, 2018 – The Marijuana Measures That Passed In Maryland – BBJ
Apr 9, 2018 – Subsidy For Incinerator Kept, Other Environmental Bills Killed – Sun
Mar 21, 2018 – Relief For Motorists With Huge E-Z Pass Fines Passes Both Houses – MR
Tony McConkey’s highlights of issues of the 2018 Session
2019 Fiscal Year Budget – I was proud to once again lead the Republican budget effort in the House of Delegates as the Ranking Member of the Appropriation Committee. The General Assembly passed the Governor’s budget with few changes keeping spending under the “spending affordability” which limits budget growth to growth in the economy.
The budget grows 2.2% over last year but provides record ($6.5B) spending for education without any new taxes or fees. Funds are included to limit state college tuition increases to 2% and to provide scholarships for low-income students to attend private schools (BOOST). The Capital Budget contains $446M for the environment, $361.5M for school construction and safety, and $ 333M for colleges.
Moreover, the Governor sought limits on future spending in HB 348 – Commonsense Spending Act of 2018 that would have automatically cut new mandated spending whenever revenue falls below projections, but the legislature rejected the measure.
Education – had a big VICTORY with HB 1697 – Education – Commercial Gaming Revenues – which will put before the voters in November an amendment to the state constitutional that will limit spending the $500+M state casino revenues on only education as was promised when voters first approved casino gaming in 2007. However, it was a lost to education when the legislature defeated the HB 355 – Accountability in Education Act of 2018 which was a Governor’s bill to improve oversight by establishing a state investigator general for schools, many of which have been rocked by crime and scandals. Parents and taxpayers deserve additional oversight.
Taxes – The legislature, which has failed repeatedly over the last four year term to cut taxes, failed miserably again this year. After eight years under the O’Malley Administration which raised over 40 taxes and fees, Governor Hogan was elected on a platform to reverse course and to reduce taxes and spending.
Hogan has limited spending increases over the last four years to 2% on average but has been stymied by the legislature in his efforts to cut taxes. For that reason I was very enthusiastic when in January the Governor and the legislative leadership all announced their commitment to cut taxes.
What was different this year was the large federal tax cut in December 2017 which returned an estimated $3 billion to Maryland taxpayers, but provided a windfall to state taxes of about $747M. Therefore the Governor and legislative leaders promised to fix the problem but now, three months later, the legislature is only returning about $70M, a real theft.
Crime – Two very sweeping crime bills passed SB 101 – Criminal Procedure – Expungement and SB 1137 – Criminal Law – Prohibitions, Prosecutions, and Corrections which put in place mandatory minimums and reduces sentence reductions for violent offenders in response to the recent rise in crime.
The recent school shootings prompted a number of gun bills including HB 1302 – Extreme Risk Prevention Orders which passed. I felt the bill did not properly balance the need to remove firearms from the mentally ill with due process protections of individual rights and I voted against it. Hope to work more on it next Session.
Also we approved important measures on sexual assault, HB 301 – Repeat Sexual Predator Prevention Act of 2018, which allows the introduction of past crimes in the conviction of sexual offenders, and HB 1 – Termination of Parental Rights of rapists. HB 633 – Address Confientially Programs – Shielding will help shield the victims from their attackers.
Immigration – The legislature defeated several bills to crack down on illegal immigration and cooperate with federal immigration officials, fortunately several counties are now cooperating independently including Anne Arundel County which is cooperating through the jails. The legislature instead moved in the opposite direction in HB 532 – Higher Education – Financial Aid which will now extend all state education aid and scholarships to illegal alien students in Maryland colleges and reduce the scholarships and other aid available to US citizens.
Elections – The Governor’s proposal to end “gerrymandering” failed this year for the third time in a proposed constitutional amendment HB 356 – Gen Assembly and Congressional Redistricting which would have allowed a nonpartisan commission to draw the districts. Fortunately the Supreme Court is considering the case.
Transportation – The state unfairly tilted transportation policy once again in the favor of mass transit with the passage of HB 372 – Maryland Metro/ Transit Funding Act commits an extra $167M for the DC subway and $60M for the Baltimore Transit Authority largely from the Transportation Trust Fund which will greatly reduced money for future road projects. 59% of the TTF is already spent on mass transit, instead of roads, despite almost all of the funds being provided by taxes and fees from motorists. One bright spot was HB 807 – Transportation – Highway User Revenues which will increase much needed state aid for road construction and maintenance.
Obamacare – Unwilling to admit its mistake the legislature is still desperately trying to prop-up Maryland Obammacare in HB 1782 – Health Insurance – Individual Market Stabliliztion by imposing a new $380M tax on insurance companies to help fund Obamacare. I voted against it.
Marriage – The legislature has eliminated any wait in procuring a divorce in the state, even eliminating the wait in the case of couples with children in SB 120 – Family Law – Divorce on Grounds of Mutual Consent. I voted against this change and think a wait allows a chance at reconciliation, which is best for the children.
Low Income Assistance – Two bills passed that will greatly help the poorest of our neighbors HB 1615 – Human Services – Temp Disability Assistance Program provides temporary help for individuals applying for federal disability, and HB 430 – Child Care Subsidies helps low income workers afford childcare while at work.
Puppies – Several bills passed to protect animals including HB 1662 – Business Regulation – Retail Pet Stores which bans the retail sale of dogs from puppy mills. HB 212 – Criminal Law – Animal Cruelty helps keep an animal abuser from owning a pet. Also SB 675 – Humane Adoption of Companion Animals would encourage the adoption of retired research dogs and cats.