(The Center Square) – A Maryland Delegate panel recently held hearings on more than a dozen bills pertaining to election laws and potential tax credits.

The House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee on Feb. 15 took testimony on each of the bills as they begin working through the legislative channels. Some of the pieces of legislation target specific sections of the state, while others span all of Maryland.

State Del. Kumar Barve, D-Montgomery County, was among the lawmakers who presented a sponsored election-related bill. House Bill 0707 could change how gubernatorial candidates choose their running mates.

Currently, candidates for governor and lieutenant governor run together simultaneously. The bill, which ultimately would require an amendment to the state constitution, proposes changes to the practice by calling on gubernatorial candidates to designate a lieutenant governor within 21 days after the primary election has taken place.

“What this does is allows for both political parties to put together their best ticket,” Barve said.

Other election-related bills could result in changes for polling places and early voting centers, in addition to revised protocols for reviewing campaign finance violations.

A number of the tax credit bills working through the House are designed to assist residential property owners, while others are aimed at bringing amenities to underserved areas.

With House Bill 0680, state Del. Benjamin Brooks, D-Baltimore County, is proposing a property tax credit for supermarkets opting to set up shop in so-called food deserts within his area of jurisdiction.

Brooks said the goal behind the legislation is to increase the likelihood Baltimore-area residents without nearby access to a store selling fresh produce would have such an opportunity in the future.

“(It) will empower Baltimore County to combat its food deserts by giving property tax incentives to grocery stores that open in these areas,” Brooks said. “This will give previously underserved communities access to healthier choices and improved quality of life outcomes.”

Several delegates in other Maryland counties indicated their support for Brooks’ legislation, pointing out they might ask for amendments to include their areas of jurisdiction as well.

State Del. Robert Long, R-Baltimore County, is proposing changes to Maryland’s homestead property tax credit in House Bill 0480. The legislation could give local governments the ability to offer greater homestead credits to first-time homebuyers.

“Everyone should have an opportunity to buy a home. It’s a great investment,” Long said. “I just think this is another tool in the toolbox for counties.”

During testimony, the Ways and Means Committee did field one comment against the bill.

“Counties oppose this bill because it compromises the basic nature of the homestead property tax credit, which is to keep stability for people who buy their homes after the time of purchase,” said Kevin Kinnally, legislative director with the Maryland Association of Counties.

Other tax credit bills under consideration include a potential provision for surviving spouses of fallen service members and a change in net worth threshold for a homeowners’ property tax credit program from the current rate of $200,000 to $600,000 to account for inflation.


David Fidlin

The Center Square contributor

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