Friday, April 2, 2010

Maryland Legislative Update

Here is an update on developments in Annapolis.                                                             


1- Maryland Open Government Act - Stuck in Rules Committee - urgent action needed

2- Public Funding of General Assembly campaigns - stuck; outcome unclear

3- Combined Reporting for corporate income tax filing - dead for this year

4- BOAST - tax credits for certain donations to private/religious schools - near passage

5- Developer-supported emergency stormwater management regulations - near passage

5- ASVAB - restricting the release of student scores to recruiters - passed the General Assembly!

6- Legislative wrap-up - April 25th in Laurel


Maryland Open Government Act - HB 344/SB 407 (Delegate Mizeur/Senator King)

Advocates for transparency won an early victory when President Miller and Speaker Busch both directed that committee votes would be posted in a timely fashion on the General Assembly web site along with floor votes.  That change already has been implemented in this session. Positive hearings were held in the Rules Committee in each chamber and the bills have wide support.  Unfortunately,the committee chairs, all of whom serve on the Rules Committees, are resisting the changes in this bill:  As reported by Luis Zapata, the Chair of the Maryland Transparency and Equal Access in Government - MD TEAG - Coalition:


"According to [Delegate] Mizeur, all is not lost; either the House or Senate committee will have to move the bill out and send it to the other chamber or the bill will die.  That should have happened already, but it has not.  She is doing her part as a legislator, but citizens must get behind these bills and demand that their representatives take action.  As Committee Chairs those Delegates and Senators represent us, even if they are not elected from our districts. 

I urge each of you to individually write to EACH of the Standing Committee Chairs in each of the Chambers.  Ask your friends all over Maryland to do the same.  Tell each elected official that you (and your organization if possible) support open government, and that you want them to pass House Bill HB 344 (if he/she is a Delegate) or Senate Bill SB 407 (if he/she is a Senator)."  A list of Standing Committee Chairs and their emails/phone #s are at the end of this email, along with key elements of what is in the bill.

Public Funding and Small Donor Act for General Assembly Elections - SB 681  (Senator Pinsky) Creates  voluntary, public financing of General Assembly campaigns plus allows counties to establish similar programs for county elective offices.  This appears to be stuck again this year.  While there may be enough votes to pass it in the Senate, it is being held up in committee because Senate President Miller is opposing it. Anything that would put pressure on Miller and Committee Chair Conroy couldn't hurt.


Corporate Income - Combined Reporting - Pension Sustainability Trust Fund - SB 354 (Senator Pinsky) Closes major corporate income tax loopholes costing Maryland over $100 million/year.  Despite the latest Maryland Comptroller report that shows that Maryland lost as much as $197 million in 2006 and up to $144 million in 2007 from corporate use of tax loopholes and the fact that up to half of the largest corporations doing business in Maryland pay no state taxes, legislative leaders seem determined to once again kill this bill.  Also, HB 10, Delegate Manno's Teacher and Employee Pension Sustainability and Solvency Trust Fund bill, which would have dedicated combined reporting earnings to offset teacher pension costs, is not moving.


Some other important bills:


Building Opportunities for All Students and Teachers (BOAST) in Maryland Tax Credit, HB 946/SB 385   A key part of the bill authorizes  tax credits to private/religious schools - not directly, of course, but by allowing businesses/non-profits to take tax credits for providing scholarships to those schools. Since most private schools are religious schools, this is also another assault on the separation of church and state.  A tax credit may not be a voucher (i.e., direct public funding to private schools) but it has the same effect. Money that would have gone to the Treasury ends up giving a tax break to wealthy businesses (75% tax credit for up to a $200,000 contribution) while assisting private, primarily religious, schools.  Unfortunately, this bill has passed the Senate and is close to passage in the House.  The major hope at this point is that strong anti-discrimination language can be inserted into the bill to prevent private school recipients of these funds from discriminating against students, especially in regards to GLBT students.


Stormwater Management - HB 1125 - Developer-supported emergency legislation to weaken the recently adopted stormwater management regulations has passed the House and is dangerously close to passing the Senate.  This bill has divided environmental groups with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and 1000 Friends of Maryland participating in the compromise negotiations while the Sierra Club and other grass-roots groups are vigorously opposing some provisions in the bill that would expand loopholes and weaken the legislation.    


The ASVAB legislation - SB 778/HB 176 (Senator Raskin/Delegate Hixson), that was one of the PWG's priorities last year, has now passed the General Assembly though it was a real squeaker (24-23) in the Senate.  Congratulations to Pat Elder of PeaceAction Montgomery and others who made this happen. This bill requires any public school that administers the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) to choose the score reporting "Option 8," which prohibits the general release of any student information to military recruiters. Each public school must also send written notice to the ASVAB representative coordinating the schools administration of the test that the school is required to choose "Option 8" and must also notify students taking ASVAB and their parent or guardian of the requirement. A student or a students parent or guardian may choose to release the students personal information and ASVAB score to military recruiters by individually submitting the release forms to the military services.


Legislative wrap-up:

The Progressive Working Group of Montgomery, Prince George's and Howard Counties and the Baltimore area will host a state legislative wrap-up discussion: What went right? What went wrong? What is achievable next year?  Sunday April 25th in Laurel from 2:00 to 5:00 pm. Among those invited: Senator Jamie Raskin, Delegates Sheila Hixson, Roger Manno, Tom Hucker and Heather Mizeur.  Details to follow.  Mark your calendars. For further information, contact Mike Tabor at 240-505-6282 or 


*Maryland Open Government Act - Committee Chairs serving on the Rules Committee; Summary of Bill Provisions:


MD Senate Standing Committees


Budget and Taxation Committee

            Ulysses Currie


            (301) 858-3127, (410) 841-3127, 1-800-492-7122, ext. 3127


Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee

            Joan Carter Conway


            (410) 841-3145, (301) 858-3145, 1-800-492-7122, ext. 3145


Finance Committee

            Thomas M. Middleton


            (410) 841-3616, (301) 858-3616, 1-800-492-7122, ext. 3616


Judicial Proceedings Committee

            Brian E. Frosh


            (410) 841-3124, (301) 858-3124, 1-800-492-7122, ext. 3124


Executive Nominations Committee

            Delores G. Kelley


            (410) 841-3606, (301) 858-3606, 1-800-492-7122, ext. 3606


Rules Committee

            Katherine Klausmeier


            410) 841-3620, (301) 858-3620, 1-800-492-7122, ext. 3620


MD House of Delegates Standing Committees


Appropriations Committee

            Norman H. Conway


            (410) 841-3407, (301) 858-3407, 1-800-492-7122, ext. 3407


Economic Matters Committee

            Dereck E. Davis


            (410) 841-3519, (301) 858-3519, 1-800-492-7122, ext. 3519


Environmental Matters Committee

            Maggie McIntosh


            (410) 841-3990, (301) 858-3990, 1-800-492-7122, ext. 3990


Health and Government Operations Committee

            Peter A. Hammen


            (410) 841-3772, (301) 858-3772, 1-800-492-7122, ext. 3772


Judiciary Committee

            Joseph F. Vallario, Jr.


            (410) 841-3488, (301) 858-3488, 1-800-492-7122, ext. 3488


Ways and Means Committee

            Sheila E. Hixson


            (410) 841-3469, (301) 858-3469, 1-800-492-7122, ext. 3469


Rules and Executive Nominations Committee

            Hattie N. Harrison


            (410) 841-3486, (301) 858-3486, 1-800-492-7122, ext. 3486

The Maryland Open Government Act -  HB 344/SB 407  would:

1) Require all standing committee votes to be posted and accessible on the General Assembly website;

2) Require the initial order of bill hearings to be published online at least one day in advance;

3) Allow witnesses interested in testifying to sign up online up to two hours before bill hearings begin;

4) Require standing committee meetings to be broadcast online; and

5) Allow all Marylanders free and total access to the services provided on the General Assembly website.


In addition, it establishes several transparency requirements for the actions of the very powerful Maryland Board of Public Works.


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