Ji’Aire’s law resur­faces in leg­isla­tive pro­posal ses­sion

Busi­ness tax cred­its, col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing for res­cue work­ers among 18 items

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By MICHAEL SYKES II msykes@somd­news.com

The Mary­land Gen­eral Assem­bly’s leg­isla­tive ses­sion is months away, but res­i­dents, rep­re­sen­ta­tives and gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials came out on Tues­day evening to pro­pose bills they would like to have sup­ported by the South­ern Mary­land Del­e­ga­tion.

Pre­sen­ters gave pre­sen­ta­tions to del­e­gates rep­re­sent­ing Charles County as well as the Charles County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers. There were 18 pro­pos­als in to­tal — some of which were tweaks from prior pieces of leg­is­la­tion from last year.

Among them were pro­pos­als for Ji’Aire’s law, which did not make it out of com­mit­tee in the pre­vi­ous leg­isla­tive ses­sion; a law au­tho­riz­ing col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing

for pub­lic safety of­fi­cers in the Charles County De­part­ment of Emer­gency Ser­vices; and a law au­tho­riz­ing the county to of­fer busi­ness tax cred­its.

Ji’Aire’s Law was pre­sented by Von­tasha Simms, the mother of Romechia Simms who was found push­ing her 3-year-old, Ji’Aire Lee, on a swing in La Plata af­ter he died.

Simms said her daugh­ter, Romechia, has an un­prece­dented case in the state of Mary­land and does not de­serve to be put in jail. Ji’Aire’s Law would al­low par­ents who are in a “men­tal cri­sis” to have a par­ent, guardian or close fam­ily mem­ber gain au­thor­ity to care for that per­son and any chil­dren they have.

De­spite not hav­ing suc­cess with the bill last year, Simms said, she is still go­ing through the men­tal health sys­tem and seek­ing help for her daugh­ter, who does not de­serve to be in jail.

“Although it may be too late for my grand­son, there are other peo­ple in this state that need help. There are other chil­dren who are dy­ing with men­tal ill­nesses and par­ents with men­tal ill­nesses,” Simms said.

Simms said Mary­land is one of four states with­out ad­e­quate men­tal ill­ness laws or help avail­able to peo­ple who need it. There is no longer “that stigma” to it, she said, and peo­ple who need help should re­ceive it. This bill would help them.

“They can main­tain a nor­mal life. They can func­tion in so­ci­ety,” Simms said. “The law, it died in com­mit­tee. But I’m still alive and well. I will be here.”

Along with Ji’Aire’s law, a pro­posal amend­ing the state la­bor pol­icy for emer­gency worker per­son­nel was pro­posed by Ryan De­gruy, pres­i­dent of the In­ter­na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Fire Fight­ers Lo­cal 4658.

The pro­posed amend­ments would ex­pand col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties to all “full-time merit sys­tem em­ploy­ees whose pri­mary du­ties in­clude pro­vid­ing emer­gency med­i­cal ser­vices, fire op­er­a­tions and res­cue op­er­a­tions,” De­Gruy said, for the emer­gency ser­vices de­part­ment.

“We’re not try­ing to ask for the world with this, we’re just try­ing to ask for what is con­sid­ered by many [to be] a hu­man right,” he said.

Em­ploy­ees are searching for em­pow­er­ment, De­Gruy said, and th­ese amend­ments would do that. Charles County, emer­gency ser­vices’ em­ployer, he said, would only ben­e­fit from it.

An­other piece the del­e­ga­tion may con­sider is grant­ing the Charles County Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment de­part­ment the abil­ity to grant busi­nesses tax cred­its. Dar­rell Brown, the di­rec­tor of eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment for the county, pre­sented the bill along with Mar­cia Keeth, the deputy di­rec­tor.

Brown said the de­part­ment wants to cre­ate a “busi­ness tax in­cen­tive pro­gram” for cur­rent and prospec­tive busi­ness own­ers to at­tract more busi­nesses to Charles County.

The de­part­ment pre­vi­ously ex­plored putting a sys­tem in place with­out state help, Brown said, but the county at­tor­ney’s of­fice in­formed them they would need to seek au­tho­riza­tion from the state.

Keeth said the county is look­ing to cre­ate leg­is­la­tion giv­ing the county the op­por­tu­nity to cre­ate and im­ple­ment in­cen­tives at the county level for their busi­nesses. The leg­is­la­tion at the state level would sim­ply give them per­mis­sion as op­por­tu­ni­ties are iden­ti­fied.

There are al­ready tax in­cre­ment fi­nanc­ing pro­grams in place at the county level, which fi­nance projects and in­crease their real es­tate value. There is also a recor­da­tion tax avail­able as well, Keeth said.

Brown would like to do a tax sta­bi­liza­tion credit, which is used in other ju­ris­dic­tions, Keeth said. But it is un­clear how much of the ground­work on the credit would need to be done at the county and state lev­els.

The state’s de­part­ment of com­merce is go­ing through an “ex­ten­sive re­view,” Brown said, of its tax in­cen­tive pro­gram and will elim­i­nate some pro­grams that are not be­ing used or taken ad­van­tage of.

South­ern Mary­land Del­e­ga­tion Chair­woman and Charles County Del­e­gate Sally Jame­son (D-28) said the de­part­ment has “pushed hard” at the state level to en­sure the county has not been hin­dered by any changes from the state’s de­part­ment of com­merce.

“If the de­part­ment of com­merce does change and they have to come be­fore us, we will make sure that your con­cerns have been re­al­ized at that level,” Jame­son said.

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