From Del. Kathy Szeliga:
2018 LEGISLATIVE SESSION REVIEW – PART 1
The 2018 legislative session came to a close at midnight on Monday, April 9th. It has been said that, “No man’s life, liberty or property are safe while the legislature is in session.” This great quote is generally attributed to Mark Twain, but he may have borrowed it from someone else.
This was a common sense session and with Governor Hogan’s leadership and my full support, Maryland won. Fears of Washington politics taking over Annapolis did not come to pass. Unlike Washington, we got things done.
This is the last year of Governor Hogan’s four year term and we really are changing Maryland for the better. Citizens have seen reductions in taxes, fees, and regulations. Maryland is a national leader in job creation and our unemployment is lower than it’s been in years. While partisan bickering rules the day just 32 miles away in Washington D.C., we in Annapolis have been able to come together on most issues and deliver results for people across our great state.
We passed a balanced budget ahead of schedule and without partisan acrimony. The budget in Maryland originates from the Governor. Passing a balanced budget is the only Constitutional duty of the Maryland General Assembly. I’m proud to be working with Governor Hogan to reign in government spending and only allowing modest increases to the budget. It is Hogan’s fourth budget in a row without any tax and fee increases and it actually provides tax cuts.
The FY 2019 budget tops out around $44.5 billion; a modest 2.2% increase over last year. Mandated spending continues to be a problem as legislators won’t stop putting in bills for their pet projects and programs that add expenses for taxpayers. I will continue to fight against unfunded mandates that grow government programs and spending, especially without accountability.
I sponsored a bill to keep Maryland from becoming a Sanctuary State, HB 1308, Keep Our Communities Safe Act of 2018. This simple measure requires law enforcement agencies to turn over illegal immigrants who have been convicted of a crime to ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) if asked. Unfortunately, it was voted down in the Judiciary Committee on a straight party-line vote. But it wasn’t a total loss. The attention my bill brought to the issue helped kill another bill aimed at making Maryland a Sanctuary State.
Statewide polling, and common sense, says that Maryland citizens do not want our state to become a sanctuary state. I will continue to work to Keep Our Communities Safe.
The most pressing issue this year, aside from the budget, is school safety. Governor Hogan proposed a package of immediate and long-term funding for school safety and capital improvements, as well as resources to help local school systems with security threats, counseling services and School Resource Officers (SROs).
In a true bipartisan fashion, much of Governor Hogan’s bill turned into landmark legislation that will provide help for all our schools and school systems to protect our children. The budget included nearly $30 million for school safety. Additional legislation also dedicated an annual $10 million for school safety in FY 2020 and beyond. I supported all of these measures.
At Great Mills High School in St. Mary’s County, the armed SRO was instrumental in saving lives when a student opened fire. Even the Baltimore Sun Editorial Board said, “A good guy with a gun may very well have made a crucial difference at Great Mills.” Because of the heroic actions of the School Resource Officer, Blaine Gaskill, lives were most likely saved. Prior to the tragic school shooting in Parkland, FL, I had filed a bill to make sure that SROs would be in each and every school across our state.
No parent should have to worry about their child’s safety when they send them off to school every morning. An armed SRO is an essential part of school safety.
The GOP federal tax reform bill that passed on a party-line vote from Washington DC is delivering tax cuts for almost every single American. Unfortunately, in high tax states like Maryland, citizens will probably see state tax increases. In the Budget Reconciliation and Finance Act (BRFA), the liberal leadership in Annapolis took $300 million of those indirect tax increases and put it into education and the rainy day fund. I voted against the BRFA and fought hard to return that money to taxpayers. Hopefully, we can refund taxpayers next year.
In order to prevent the increase in Maryland taxes, Governor Hogan proposed the Protecting Maryland Taxpayers Act of 2018, to buffer the changes in the federal tax code affecting Maryland state and local taxes. Unfortunately, the bill never came out of committee. The Republican Caucus supported an amendment that would protect Marylanders from this stealth tax increase, but that amendment failed. It appears the temptation of new tax revenue is too much for the liberals in the General Assembly to pass up. After some modest actions, like an increase in the standard deduction, it is estimated that 1 in 5 Marylanders will see their state and local taxes increase.
Still working on the Marriage Penalty Relief Bill. Once again this year I introduced a bill to remove the marriage penalty from Maryland’s tax code. It took about 10 years of introductions before we were able to get estate tax relief. I will keep putting this bill in because I believe it’s only fair. Marriage is good for people, families and society. Let’s incentivize it instead of penalizing it!
An open and transparent government is essential for good government. Once again this year, I introduced a bill to require the House and Senate live stream and also archive video of our floor sessions on the General Assembly website. Currently, the public can view committee hearings, but the floor sessions are only available in audio records. Maryland is one of only 7 states without full transparency. Governor Larry Hogan agrees and put funding in the budget and included the video streaming in one of his bills. It did not pass.
It is truly my honor and privilege to represent you in the Maryland House of Delegates. Your thoughts and views are very important to me. I’m grateful for the many people who take the time to call, email, and talk to me out in the community. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can ever be of assistance to you and your family.
Thanks for your interest in the important issues facing Maryland today. Please be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter for the most up to date information.
God bless you and your family!
Del. Kathy Szeliga