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Harford Sen. Norman has focus on businesses, taxes and crime issues as General Assembly session reaches one-third mark [Commentary]

One of a series of weekly commentaries from Harford County state legislators regarding the 2018 Maryland General Assembly session.

First of all, I want to sincerely thank the citizens of the 35th District of Maryland (Harford and Cecil Counties) for allowing me to represent them in Annapolis. It is truly an honor and privilege to be a State Senator. I never want to lose sight of that fact. So, to my constituents, thank you!

Second, we are almost one-third of the way through the 2018 Legislative Session and I thought I would provide a quick update. It’s an election year – which I call “silly season” because there is more political theatre in Annapolis than in a non-election year.

The political shenanigans are particularly acute because many of my Democratic colleagues are incredibly frustrated that a Republican governor – Larry Hogan – is doing so well in running a “blue state” and that his approval ratings are better than any other Maryland Governor in modern political history.

As a supporter of the Governor and what he has been able to do over the past three-plus years – including growing jobs in Maryland, improving the regulatory climate for businesses (including our farmers), providing middle and working class people with tax relief, and balancing the State’s budget through prudent spending – I am “playing a lot of defense” these days.

To date, I am working to defeat proposals that would make the state less business-friendly, as well as proposals that would lead to more spending and therefore more taxes down the road.

One area of proactive focus has to do with taxes. The federal tax reform overhaul that was recently signed into law by President Trump will save Marylanders a net total of $2.8 billion annually. However, because the State’s less generous tax deduction is coupled with the federal income tax deduction, Marylanders are expected to pay about $440 million more in state income taxes each year.

Along with the Governor, I will work to shield Maryland taxpayers from paying more in State taxes. Not surprisingly, there are some in Annapolis who want the State to keep the extra money. This will be an area of contention, but I am cautiously optimistic the pro-taxpayer forces will prevail.

As the senior Republican on Judicial Proceedings Committee, I spend a good deal of my time working on matters involving the criminal justice system. Two of the top issues before my committee have to do with crime – especially the steep increase in violent crime in Baltimore City – and efforts to stem the tide of drug abuse throughout Maryland, especially from opioids. Both are challenging, multi-faceted problems with no easy answers.

Regarding Baltimore’s sad state of unprecedented violence, the solution is likely a combination of short-term and long-term actions, including more jobs and training opportunities for young people. However, it is obvious that the recent spike in crime is linked, at least in part, to the lack of support for our police officers by several key city leaders.

State and city authorities need to provide the police, as well as all first responders, with the resources they need to do their jobs – not just financially, but morally. We need to focus on stopping crime and not tying the hands of our crime-fighters.

I am also working on legislation to require second-time violent criminals to serve their full sentences and to increase criminal penalties for drug traffickers. Other areas of focus include giving the police and prosecutors more tools to lock-up repeat drunk drivers, first-time sexual predators, and anyone involved with human trafficking.

We cannot ignore the victims of crime and so I am working on legislation to explicitly remove the parental rights of rapists and improve the restitution process for victims of financially-related offenses. I am fortunate to work well with my committee chairman – Senator Bobby Zirkin (D-Baltimore County) – as we try to address most of these issues in a bipartisan/nonpartisan fashion.

The foregoing is just a sample of the legislative issues I am working on. Thank you again for allowing me to represent you in the Maryland General Assembly. You are always welcome to contact me – 410-841-3603 or wayne.norman@senate.state.md.us – if I can be of any assistance.

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