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Sen. Jim Brochin outlined his priorities for this year's legislative session that included repeal of the so-called "rain tax" as well as preventing the Baltimore County schools superintendent from the ability to tturn a magnet school into a neighborhood school without approval by the county’s House and Senate delegations.
Sen. Jim Brochin outlined his priorities for this year's legislative session that included repeal of the so-called "rain tax" as well as preventing the Baltimore County schools superintendent from the ability to tturn a magnet school into a neighborhood school without approval by the county’s House and Senate delegations. (Algerina Perna, Baltimore Sun)

If Sen. Jim Brochin has his way this legislative session, people convicted of committing crimes with guns will lose the right to get credit for good behavior, and the Baltimore County superintendent of schools won't be able to arbitrarily turn magnet schools into neighborhood schools without approval by the county's House and Senate delegations.

The state senator said Jan. 15 that he is also promoting legislation to abolish the county's stormwater utility fee and to re-establish a voluntary checkoff on income tax returns to allow public financing for candidates running for office.

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Brochin's gun bill would prohibit inmates serving mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes to earn "credits" that could reduce their sentences.

"I've put that bill in before," unsuccessfully, Brochin said. He said he thinks it's inappropriate for people who use a gun in the commission of a crime, especially recidivists, to be able to win reduced time for good behavior.

"I think more of our gun laws need to be focused on bad people with guns," said Brochin, who represents the 42nd District, which stretches from Towson to the Pennsylvania line. "I want them to spend as much time in jail as possible. I believe in truth in sentencing for violent criminals."

Brochin also wants delegation oversight of any plans by school officials to change the status of magnet schools, as he thinks county schools Superintendent Dallas Dance is trying to do by turning Cromwell Valley and Lutherville elementaries, both currently magnet schools, into community schools. His bill would require approval by a majority of the county's House and Senate delegations.

Brochin said the school system isn't letting any new students into those two schools unless they are siblings of students already enrolled.

"If that isn't demagnetizing, I don't know what is," he said, adding that his bill "takes away (the superintendent's) authority to do that unilaterally."

Brochin noted that a "hybrid" school board, with seven of its 12 members elected in non-partisan elections, is scheduled to be seated starting in 2018. The legislature approved the change from an appointed school board last year.

A spokesman for the school system could not be reached for comment on Brochin's magnet schools bill.

Another bill that Brochin was drafting last week would add a voluntary checkoff box on income tax return forms that people could check if they want to contribute to the Fair Campaign Financing Fund. Brochin said the box used to be included on the forms. He said both Gov.-Elect Larry Hogan, a Republican, and Del. Heather Mizeur, a Democrat who ran for governor last year, both used public financing in their campaigns.

"I just think it's really good for democracy" to have the checkoff box, Brochin said.

An aide to Brochin said the state Comptroller's Office removed the box in 2010 and that only about $1 million remains from the checkoff, which has been the only source of funding for campaign financing.

Also targeted for repeal by Brochin is Baltimore County's stormwater remediation fee, which critics call the "rain tax." Established by the legislature in 2012 and enacted by the county last year, the tax affects the 10 largest jurisdictions in the state.

He said counties including Carroll, Harford and Frederick are using existing funds to comply with the federal Clean Water Act to clean up stormwater runoff that contributes to the pollution of the Chesapeake Bay, but that Baltimore City and County are "imposing an onerous tax on business owners of $1,500 to $5,000 a year. All residents pay the fee, but businesses pays more because their properties include parking lots with impervious surfaces.

"It's not fair," Brochin said.

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County Executive Kevin Kamenetz announced last week that he is working with the County Council to reduce the fee in the county to lower the rates for the stormwater remediation fees, which he said were enacted as a result of a mandate from the Maryland General Assembly.

"At the same time, I urge the incoming governor to negotiate an extension of the 2025 compliance date with the federal government in order to give local government some breathing room to achieve the required reduction in pollution levels," Kamenetz said in a written statement.

Council Chairwoman Cathy Bevins said she supports the $8.1 million savings plan to "continue to protect the bay while greatly reducing the burden on our taxpayers."

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