State leg­is­la­tors pro­vide end-of-ses­sion re­view

Record Observer - - FRONT PAGE - By MIKE DAVIS mdavis@kibay­

CH­ESTER — Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Mary­land’s 36h Dis­trict gath­ered with Queen Anne’s County busi­ness own­ers and com­mu­nity on April 20 to re­view the re­cently closed Gen­eral Assem­bly ses­sion at the Hil­ton Gar­den Inn. The an­nual leg­isla­tive wrap-up break­fast was hosted by the county’s Cham­ber of Com­merce.

Mov­ing through­out the four-county re­gion the Dis­trict 36 team rep­re­sents — Queen Anne’s, Kent, Ce­cil and Caro­line — Sen. Steve Her­shey (R-36-Up­per Shore) and Dels. Steve Arentz (R-36-Queen Anne), Jeff Ghrist (R-36-Caro­line) and Jay Ja­cobs (R-36-Kent) re­viewed key wins and loses on the county and state lev­els.

Her­shey, who opened up the wrap-up af­ter every­one ate, said the 90-day ses­sion was a win for Gov. Larry Ho­gan as much of his “ro­bust pack­age” of leg­is­la­tion was put into ac­tion. In his third leg­isla­tive ses­sion, Her­shey said, Ho­gan had 16 pieces of leg­is­la­tion he ei­ther in­tro­duced or aided in were passed.

One of those “wins” Her­shey men­tioned was the More Jobs for Mary­lan­ders Act that through the De­part­ment of Com­merce au­tho­rizes tax cred­its for man­u­fac­tur­ing busi­nesses that cre­ate jobs. Her­shey said the act pro­vides in­cen­tives for em­ployee train­ing as well as al­lows busi­nesses to ac­cel­er­ate the de­duc­tions for all its cap­i­tal as­sets.

The re­peal of the Trans­porta­tion Trans­parency Act, known by the gover­nor as the Road Kill Bill, was a ma­jor high­light, Her­shey said. Us­ing a scor­ing sys­tem, po­ten­tial trans­porta­tion projects would have been graded and fund­ing for the high­est

rank­ing scores would have been given, which Her­shey said was “heav­ily weighted to metropoli­tan and ur­ban ar­eas” and that ru­ral coun­ties would have never got­ten money.

Now the coun­ties meet with the Mary­land De­part­ment of Trans­porta­tion and list spe­cific pri­or­ity projects to po­ten­tially be added to the state’s Con­sol­i­dated Trans­porta­tion Pro­gram plan.

To help in­cen­tivize first re­spon­ders to stay work­ing in the state, the Home­town He­roes Act was passed that al­lows em­ploy­ees of law en­force­ment, fire, EMT and other first re­sponse units to claim up to $15,000 of credit from their pen­sions in their in­come taxes, Her­shey said.

Arentz, who sits on the House Eco­nomic Mat­ters Com­mit­tee, spoke about the pas­sage of a bill that al­lowed for an anony­mous two-way tex­ting sys­tem schools can pur­chase that al­lows stu­dents to com­mu­ni­cate about bul­ly­ing and other ne­far­i­ous ac­tiv­ity go­ing on.

Other bills that passed in­cluded the Drunk Driv­ing Act that states the charge can be­come a felony if pulled over mul­ti­ple times; Less Test­ing More Learn­ing Act that states school’s can “only test two-per­cent for in­struc­tional time,” stem­ming from the amount of test­ing stu­dents cur­rently have, Arentz said.

Though not “jump­ing up and down” about the gover­nor’s Com­mon Sense Paid Sick Leave Bill, Arentz said it of­fered small busi­nesses a tax credit for giv­ing paid sick leave to em­ploy­ees.

Ghrist, who sits on the House Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee, in­formed the Cham­ber about the up­com­ing bud­get. He said he was able to “walk away with quite a few wins” and that the “losses just didn’t seem like they hurt as bad as they had the last cou­ple of years,” and called the ses­sion a great suc­cess.

Ghrist said the bud­get has no new tax in­creases for the third con­sec­u­tive year and said it is “re­fresh­ing to see a very re­spon­si­ble bud­get,” men­tion­ing that dur­ing Gov. Martin O’Mal­ley’s eight years as gover­nor many new taxes were cre­ated.

He said Ho­gan in­cluded $51 mil­lion to the Ch­e­sa­peake and At­lantic Coastal Based Trust fund as well as record fund­ing in ed­u­ca­tion. Ghrist said about 2.5 per­cent of the 3.5 per­cent rev­enue in­crease the state re­ceived will be added to its fund bal­ance, call­ing the op­er­at­ing bud­get “re­spon­si­ble.”

The cap­i­tal bud­get, Ghrist said, is what the leg­is­la­ture is con­cerned about as “we hon­estly aren’t do­ing a lot to deal with our struc­tural debt in the state.”

The cap­i­tal bud­get is made up of money col­lected through prop­erty taxes, which Ghrist said is not in­creas­ing at the same rate as the state’s debt ser­vice is in­creas­ing. He said it is a se­ri­ous con­cern mov­ing for ward.

Fol­low Mike Davis on Twit­ter: @mike_k­ibay­times.

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