From the office of Del. Kathy Szeliga:
The big issue this week was the passage of the budget bills from the House of Delegates.
We are also having double sessions (in the chamber twice a day) to get bills passed by the crossover deadline of Monday, March 28th. Bills need to be out of the House and Senate by Monday night for their best chance of passing.
My 1st bill passes out of the House!!
HB 499, Admissions and Amusement Tax – Exemption – Hot Air Balloons, passed out of the House of Delegates earlier this week!
This bill protects small businesses, specifically hot air balloon companies, from unwarranted taxation. Matt Lidinsky from Up Up Away Balloon Co. in Baltimore County brought this issue to my attention. Matt fought the Comptroller over an unfair tax he had been charged and was eventually successful. My bill will protect these small businesses from future unnecessary tax bills and tax appeals.
HB 499 is now over in the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee. I’m going to help blow this bill out of the Senate and into law!
Action on the Floor of the House
Here’s a picture of us at work today. I’m talking to Delegate Guy Guzzone from Howard County. I sit next to Guy in subcommittee. He’s been a lot of help to me and has a great sense of humor. Guy even grew up in Parkville!
March Madness in Annapolis!
(The following OpeEd was published in the Aegis Newspaper today!)
The Maryland Budget – March Madness in Annapolis
As a newly elected delegate serving on the Appropriations Committee, I am honored and thrilled to be representing you in Annapolis. The Appropriations Committee’s primary responsibility is passing the budget.
Unlike Congress and most other states, Maryland’s governor has the power of the purse. The governor submits a budget to the legislature reflecting his fiscal priorities for the state. The Appropriations Committee is responsible for evaluating the budget and looking for savings. This year’s state budget as submitted by the Governor will grow by more than $1 Billion to $34 Billion. After 10 weeks of evaluation, the House Leadership was only able to find $6.5 million in cuts (a miniscule reduction). My hopes for meaningful changes and cuts were unfulfilled. That same cut to a family making $50,000 would equate to $20! I know the legislature could have done better!
Despite the rhetoric coming from Annapolis, the budget includes fees, taxes, and assessments. As the Governor said in his commercials during the campaign, a tax is a fee and a fee is a tax. Here are some of the fees/taxes/assessments passed during March Madness in Annapolis. For the record, I voted against all of them:
– Car tax – Car titling fees increased from $50 to $100 (100% increase) after being raise in 2007 from $23 to the current $50 (117.5% increase).
– Land tax – Land recording fees increased from $20 to $40
– Baby tax – Birth certificate fees increase from $12 to $24
– Health Care tax – Hospital assessments increased 2.5%
– Granny tax – Nursing home assessments raised to 5.5% (was 2% in 2009)
– Construction tax – 2% tax on IWIF worker’s compensation insurance + $4 million from IWIF – IWIF insures many companies in the construction industry in MD
We were able to make some meaningful pension reforms that I supported. These reforms include increasing vesting time to 10 years, increasing the retirement age to 65 and having employees pay a little more into their pension plan. Unfortunately, the Governor will be taking the extra money employees are paying for their pension plan (roughly $120 million), and putting that money in the General Fund for at least 2 years. Essentially, this is now a tax on teachers and state employees and bad public policy.
The Republican Caucus proposed a comprehensive Pension System Reform Plan to address the $39 Billion unfunded pension liability. Some Republican ideas were accepted. The Republicans also offered an alternative budget plan and some of those ideas were also accepted. However, the overall budget does not incorporate enough of the savings suggested by the minority party to solve the structural deficit and guard against tax increases.
As March Madness continues, here are the Elite Eight picks for tax increases under consideration: gas tax, school tax (allowing counties to add an additional tax on residents), alcohol tax, cigarette tax, plastic grocery bag tax, toll tax, snack tax and energy tax.
Maryland’s Leadership has Maserati taste on a Mercedes budget while you and I live on a used mini-van budget. You can count on me to continue to vote against tax increases and try to reign in the out of control state government. Please feel free to call or email me with any suggestions on ways to help make Maryland State government a lean mean efficient machine! I’d also like to hear your views and opinions on issues that are important to you and your family.
If you’d like to sign up for my weekly email Annapolis Update let me know by contacting my office. I look forward to hearing from you.
Standing for you in Annapolis,
Delegate Kathy Szeliga
What is Gender Identity?
Friday night on the House floor, we will be debating a bill entitled, Human Relations – Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity – Antidiscrimination, HB 235.
This 11 page bill will put “gender identity” in the Antidiscrimination list for housing, employment and other things.
According to HB 235, Gender Identity means, “the appearance of an individual regardless of the sex assigned at birth.” This bill will provide special protections for “transgender” individuals–an umbrella category that includes transsexuals (people who have had “sex-change” surgery), transvestites (cross-dressers).
You can read more about it here:
I’m very concerned about the slippery slope this bill puts us on. What happens when a man dressed as a woman goes into the girls bathroom? What happens when your child’s 3rd grade teacher decides his gender identity is a woman and he starts wearing dresses to school? Although there may be amendments and exemptions listed today to address those two specific questions above, this is not a direction I want the State of Maryland to take.
The law should not allow the rights of transgendered men to transcend the rights of women and vulnerable children. Transgendered individuals should not become a protected class of citizens and that is what HB 235 will do.
I will oppose this bill. More March madness in Annapolis!
There are a number of bills in Annapolis that deal with the issue of Human Trafficking. We don’t usually think of this as an issue in the United States. Human trafficking is one of the fastest growing criminal industries in the world that prays largely on children and women.
There has been a task force working hard in Maryland and they were instrumental in the rescuing a 12 year old girl from a life of prostitution:
Of the 5 bills that have been introduced, one cleared the House this week. I was glad to support this measure and it passed unanimously. These bills will help bring awareness to the public about this issue and also assist law enforcement in stopping and apprehending criminals involved in human trafficking.
Thanks for your continued support and encouragement. I am humbled and honored to be representing you and your family in Annapolis.
Maryland House of Delegates