2018 End of Session Report
Promises Made – Promises Kept
The 2018 Legislative Session is over. As this is an election year, many predicted that not much would get done. I’m glad to report that that was not the case. We got a lot done! There’s still more to do – we’re heading in the right direction. Four years after you elected me Delegate of District 6, I am confident that we have made big strides in changing Maryland for the better. No new taxes, we’re addressing crime, focusing on school safety, and helping to create good jobs with benefits. What follows are some of the details.
School Safety and Taxes
As I said at the Town Hall Meeting right before Session started, my main focus this year was school safety and taxes. I’ve been working on school safety issues since 2016.
I’ve also been introducing legislation to reduce Maryland taxes since you elected me.
This year, it was a real honor to be invited to the White House to talk about Federal tax reform the very day the Federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was passed in the House! The Federal tax reform was great news, but that raised a lot of questions about how it would affect our State taxes. We quickly discovered that – unchanged – Maryland would be receiving anywhere from $500 to $700 MILLION dollars more in tax revenues! So, along with School Safety, Tax Reform was also at the top of my list this year, and I’m pleased to tell you that we accomplished the goal. The Governor’s bold announcement at the start of the Session that he intended to hold Marylanders harmless caused some squabbling over whose plan to do so would be implemented, but as the Governor said to us on the last day of Session, it doesn’t matter whose name is on the bill, so long as the job got done. I agree. That’s my philosophy, too. Overall, we were able to ensure that at least 81% of Marylanders got the benefit of President Trump’s tax reform.
Here are a few ways that was done:
- Raised standard deductions, indexed to inflation
- Kept personal exemptions and itemized deductions
- Exempted a portion of military retirement
- Tax credits to small businesses that offer paid sick leave
The total tax benefits should save Maryland taxpayers up to $1.3 billion next year, alone.
That’s a big win! That’s also a big answer to a promise made: No new taxes. I’ll list some of the specific new tax relief bills at the end.
Maryland will still be getting additional revenue, though, and that has been great news to address my other major focus this Legislative Session: School Safety.
The omnibus School Safety bill that was drawn together from a number of different sources addresses school safety, funding, and a plan to address the potential threats our children face every day at school, whether from violence, bullying, gangs, or aging infrastructure.
The bill that was finally passed combined a number of other bills. The Governor’s bill was part of it, but bills from other members of the Legislature were also included.
I am proud to have been one of those members whose bills were part of the inspiration underlying SB 1265 – the Maryland Safe to Learn Act of 2018. I have been working on this issue since 2016. This year, my bills addressed a “Rapid Action Plan” to provide training and drills for school safety (HB 23), a study to determine best practices and innovations for safer schools (HB 1446), and a bill to promote parental responsibility and involvement with their child who is violent or continues to bully (HB 1379 & 1382).
The Maryland Safe to Learn Act of 2018 is a great start at addressing these problems. It also provides long-term funding for school safety capital improvement, school resource officers and counseling services. This is game-changing legislation that will be a model for the rest of the country. It was the first bill Governor Hogan signed into law after the Session ended and I was proud to be there with some of the people who made it happen.
It’s worth noting that the Fiscal Year 2019 budget provides a level of funding well above the spending formula required by the legislature – it’s at an unprecedented $6.5 billion. The 2019 budget also includes an additional $30 million for critical school safety improvements and initiatives. Our spending for schools and education continues to keep pace, increasing by more than 7% over the last 4 years, with a per pupil increase of just over 4.7%. Whatever problems we may be seeing in our education system, a lack of funding is not one of them. . . .
The Broad View
Over 3,100 bills were introduced this Session, and I understand almost 900 were passed into law. Obviously, I can’t even come close to summarizing all of them in this end-of-session letter! Let me wind up, though, with a quick list of some bills that passed that you might find of interest, based on the number of people who wrote me about some of these bills and my conversations over the last 90 days with you, my neighbors in District 6.
Bills I’ve co-sponsored:
Looking over the bills I’ve sponsored and co-sponsored, I was struck by the truly bi-partisan partnerships that many of these bills represented. That’s a good thing, too, because another fact that struck me is the higher percentage of bills from Democrats that got passed in the Democrat-controlled Legislature. It’s a good thing we have been able to work on both sides of the aisle!
HB 43 – Income Tax – Subtraction Modification – Perpetual Conservation Easements – this bill provides a subtraction modification under the Maryland income tax for the first $50,000 in proceeds from the sale of a perpetual conservation easement on real property in the State.
HB 305 – Homestead Property Tax Credit Program – Eligibility Awareness – this is an idea I tried to implement some years back when we first took up the bill that required homeowners to apply for the Homestead Property Tax Credit or lose the benefit. This co-sponsored bill requires the State Department of Assessments and Taxation to identify homeowners who may be eligible but have failed to apply for the homestead property tax credit and to give notice that the homeowner might be eligible, and how they can apply for the credit.
HB 990 – Homestead Property Tax Credit – Notification on Acquisition of Property – Along the same lines, this bill also requires the State Department of Assessments and Taxation to give notice of the homestead tax credit, here, to those who have recently acquired residential real property.
HB 1465 – Tax Sales – Homeowner Protections – this bill protects homeowners from having their property sold at a tax sale where the amount due is less than $750.
HB 203 – Higher Education – Senatorial and Delegate Scholarships – Reimbursement of Expenses for Community College Certification and Licensure – this bill is a great idea, and allows those who receive a senatorial or delegate scholarship to use the scholarship towards expenses for certificate or license programs and those kinds of courses at community colleges.
HB 593 – Income Tax – Student Loan Tax Credit – this bill expands the student loan tax credit to allow those with student loan debt to claim a credit against their State income tax also for graduate student loan debt.
HB 671 – Income Tax – Subtraction Modification – Classroom Supplies Purchased by Teachers – this bill helps out our teachers who, in addition to working so hard, often use their own money to supplement and improve the learning environment. Under the bill, they can use a subtraction tax modification for up to $250 of their unreimbursed expenses for the purchase of classroom supplies if the supplies are used by students or teacher in the classroom or in preparation for classroom teaching. It applies for the tax year starting January 1, 2018.
HB 327 – Military Retirement Income – this legislation exempts the first $15,000 of military retirement income from State taxation for individuals 55 and older. This legislation will save these taxpayers approximately $5 million in FY 2019. I was a co-sponsor of this Legislation.
HB 856 – Earned Income Tax Credit – Individuals Without Qualifying Children – Repeal of Minimum Age Requirement – this legislation expands eligibility for the State and local earned income tax credit by repealing the minimum age requirement. This will save taxpayers $5.6 million in Fiscal 2019.
HB 570/SB 318 – Income Tax – Standard Deduction – Cost-of-Living Adjustments – this bill permanently raises the standard deduction and indexes it to inflation. This will save taxpayers up to $55.6 million in Fiscal 2019. I co-sponsored this, as well.
HB 296 – Income Tax – Subtraction Modification – Retirement Income of Correctional Officers – this bill extends Governor Hogan’s Hometown Heroes Tax credit to include correctional officers. This will save these taxpayers $1.2 million in Fiscal 2019. Yes, I also co-sponsored this bill.
SB 134 – Small Business Relief Tax Credit – this legislation gives an income tax credit to small businesses that provide paid sick leave to their employees. This is the Governor’s initiative to help ease the burden the paid sick leave bill will have on small businesses. It applies to businesses with fewer than 15 employees. This tax credit has a cap of $5 million in FY 2019.
SB184 – Income Tax – Personal Exemptions – Alterations – this legislation allows Marylanders to claim their personal exemptions and itemize their deductions on their state income tax. According to analysis from the Comptroller’s office, this legislation could provide up to $1.2 billion in tax relief for Marylanders in FY 2019.
Crime and Social Issues:
HB 1 – Rape Survivor Family Protection Act – this legislation terminates the parental rights of rapists. This bill passed early in session and Governor Hogan has already signed the measure into law. I was a co-sponsor.
HB 301 – Courts – Evidence of Sexually Assaultive Behavior – Admissibility (Repeat Sexual Predator Prevention Act of 2018) – would allow a court to admit evidence of a defendant’s prior history of sexual crimes or abuse.
SB 1137 – Criminal Law – Prohibitions, Prosecutions, and Corrections – this legislation includes Governor Hogan’s initiative making it easier to prosecute high-volume drug deals. It also adds Fentanyl to the high-volume dealer law. Penalties for witness intimidation increased from 5 to 10 years.
SB 101 – Crimes of Violence, Expungement & Drug Treatment – provides for the elimination of parole eligibility for second-time violent offenders, keeping them in jail for at least ten years. The legislation toughens sentences for sexual abuse of a minor, and anyone convicted of drug trafficking while using an illegal gun will now be subject to a five year mandatory minimum sentence.
SB 675/HB732 – Humane Adoption of Companion Animals Used in Research Act of 2018 – called the “Beagle Bill” – this bill would help find adoptive homes for animals no longer used in animal testing. I co-sponsored the House version of this bill. The bill passed unanimously.
HB 1662 – the “No More Puppy- and Kitten-Mills Act of 2018” – this bill prohibits the sale of dogs and cats from puppy or kitten mills, where animals are bred and kept in horrific conditions.
As I’m sure you know, we still have some concerns with the leadership of the Baltimore County Public Schools and the School Board. I will continue monitoring that, and I promise to work as hard as I can to resolve the problems at hand. Along with our ongoing focus on school safety, the resolution of these challenges within BCPS is a top priority. We’ll address the issues. We want to make sure that whatever we do is the best possible solution for our kids and families.
Four years ago, you elected me based on my promises to focus on no new taxes, safety, being tough on crime, and focusing on the creation of good jobs with benefits. In that regard, I see this Legislative Session as a promise kept.
I have fought hard on your behalf and for your interests this Legislative Session here in Annapolis. It has been a privilege to represent you.
I look forward now to returning home and getting back to work in the District. See you soon!
Delegate Robert B. Long
325 House Office Building
6 Bladen Street
Annapolis, MD 21401