Maryland General Assembly Week Twelve

Dear Friend:

The last week of session has sprung upon us. Like the ninth inning in a ballgame,riveting moments have kept me on my toes. Below are a few important topics for the week.

  • Governor Hogan’s Vetoes – This is the last session before the gubernatorial election in November. Democrats have pushed through a few bills to get them to Governor Hogan’s desk bef ore the end of session.
  • The status of the funding for the Research Center (Third Building) at the Southern Maryland Higher Education Center.
  • House Bill 1069 – Provides an income tax subtraction modification for Volunteer Firefighters.
  • Senate Bill 532 – Provides grants to colleges to all in-state individuals who qualify for financial aid, including ‘Dreamers.’

Governor Hogan’s Vetoes

The 2018 Session takes place in an election year; therefore, the veto process works differently than usual. Following the election, the General Assembly will have new members. These new members cannot vote to override vetoed bills from the 2018 Session, because they were not members during that session. Therefore, Democrats in the General Assembly will push through bills to reach Governor Hogan’s desk prior to the end of 2018 Session. If a bill is vetoed, the Democrats then have sufficient voting members to override the veto.

HB1783 – 21st Century School Facilities Act – Vetoed – expedites school construction and removes the Maryland State Board of Public Works from the process. The Board of Public Works (BPW) consists of the Governor, Comptroller, and Treasurer and oversees the school construction process in addition to many other projects. While Governor Hogan supports expediting the school construction procedure, removing the BPW from it would eliminate oversight from the process. Unfortunately, the House of Delegates voted to override the Governor’s veto.

SB639 – Public School Personnel – Disciplinary Hearing – Vetoed – alters the procedure for suspending/dismissing school personnel by allowing them to request a hearing before an arbitrator instead of the local board of education. The cost for the arbitrator is split 50-50 between the individual and the county BOE. This bill replaces decisions made by the local BOE for a bureaucratic process making it more difficult to remove or discipline school personnel. The House of Delegates overrode Governor Hogan’s veto on this bill, too.

I voted against both of these bills and the veto overrides.

Funding for the Research Center at the Southern Maryland Higher Education Center

The Southern Maryland Higher Education Center’s Research Center (Third Building) will provide space for engineering and research classes. For several years, funding for this project has been included in Governor Hogan’s Capital Budget. The State budget is submitted by the Governor to the General Assembly at the beginning of the Legislative Session each year. The House of Delegates and Senate take turns (every other year) taking the lead on reviewing the Budget.

This year, the Senate was at the helm. Funding for the Research Center was removed from the budget by the Senate prior to coming to the House. The St. Mary’s Delegation made every possible effort to keep the funding in the budget. We spoke to President Miller and Speaker Busch along with House Appropriations Committee leadership and University of Maryland representatives on this. Letters from the Delegation, St. Mary’s County, Calvert County, and NavAir were present to the committee in support of keeping funding for the project in the Budget. Additionally, I offered a committee amendment to the Senate Bill to restore the funding; however, the amendment was not accepted.

A conference committee was called to work out the difference of the House and Senate versions. We were assured by House members that efforts were being made in committee to put the funding back in the Senate version. In the end, all efforts failed and the Capital Budget passed without the funding. Do not be misled by others to think that anyone dropped the ball; this is definitely not the case. It is my ambition to get funding for the SMHE Research Center put back in the budget next year.

House Bill 1069 Income Tax – Subtraction Modification – Volunteer Fire, Rescue and Emergency Medical Service Members

You may recall that I introduced House Bill 37 to provide an income tax subtraction modification of $15k for Retired Volunteer Firefighters. While that bill has not made it out of committee, I am happy to say House Bill 1069 has passed in the General Assembly! This bill was introduced by Delegate Buckel and will gradually increase the income tax subtraction each year for volunteer emergency service personnel to $7,000. This bill will offer volunteers more money.

Senate Bill 532 Higher Education – Financial Aid – In-State Students

This bill will extend grants for college to all in-state students who are eligible for financial assistance. Unfortunately, this bill has hidden negative consequences. Grant opportunities are currently stretched thin and many students are on waiting lists. This bill increases the pool of people eligible for the scholarships, including making “Dreamers” eligible. Students will soon be receiving smaller grants, and non-citizen students will be taking grant opportunities from citizens. I voted No on this bill.

I’d like to thank you for your continued support this session. Though it is only my second session, it has been my best yet. I hope to be re-elected and continue my efforts to support you and make Maryland the best place to live and work. If you have contacted me during the 2018 session about any issue, keep an eye out for my End Of Session Letter. If you live in my district, the Annapolis Report will be put out by the St. Mary’s Delegation. Both of these contain information about bills that passed this 2018 session.

Thanks for following along with me this year, and I hope to see you this summer!

Delegate Jerry Clark