All of the Carroll County-specific bills introduced by the county delegation to the Maryland General Assembly passed during the 2022 session, which adjourned earlier this week. Two statewide bills proposed by Del. Haven Shoemaker, a Republican representing Carroll County, did not.
The approved Carroll County bills included legislation that will prevent the Carroll County state’s attorney from operating a private practice while in office. Shoemaker, a two-term state delegate who is running for state’s attorney in this year’s election, introduced the bill late last year.
Shoemaker’s only opponent, David Ellin, is a medical malpractice attorney who has run a private practice in Carroll County since 2004.
Shoemaker said there are only three counties in the state that don’t expressly forbid their state’s attorney from engaging in private practice on the side, including Carroll, Baltimore City and Garrett County.
Ellin, also a Republican, said he believes Shoemaker filed the bill with ulterior motives.
“It’s very obvious to me he did this simply to discourage me from running. ... but it certainly won’t deter me,” Ellin said.
Sen. Justin Ready, a Carroll County Republican, said the bill codifies existing practices, as 21 other counties in the state have similar laws.
Shoemaker said the failure of the two statewide bills he proposed is “an example of the criminal-coddling nature of the General Assembly.”
One focused on protecting young athletes and enforcing safety measures to ensure coaches and volunteers are properly vetted before being allowed to work with young people.
Under the bill, coaches and volunteers in Maryland would have been required to receive a clearance indicating that they have never been convicted of child abuse in any form. The bill also would have created a central repository for Maryland coaches to ensure that prior coaching history is checked before an individual is hired as a youth sports coach.
The second piece of legislation would have restricted registered sex offenders from working in any way to provide child care or babysitting. This legislation aims to address what Carroll County Sheriff Jim DeWees and Shoemaker referred to as a loophole in Maryland law, related to a February 2021 complaint to the sheriff’s office.
Though existing state law “prohibits a registered sex offender from working in day care centers, or even being on day care property in most circumstances, the law is not clear about someone running babysitting services out of their own home or property,” according to the sheriff’s office.
“The Maryland General Assembly did nothing in terms of getting tough on crime,” Shoemaker said.
Two other county-sponsored bills that passed will raise county commissioner salaries from $45,000 to $50,000, and school board member salaries from $8,000 to $12,000 ($13,000 for the board chair).
Another approved bill authorizes the Department of Human Resources in Carroll County to request a background check for anyone working with the county.
Ready said some members of the legislature claimed that bill’s original language prevented individuals with a criminal record from getting a county government job. It was amended to clarify it would only involve employees who would provide inspections, approve or deny permits, work in the offices of the county commissioners, sheriff, circuit court or court attorney or those collecting money.
Another approved law will alter the number of weekly drawings allowed in a multi-drawing raffle that certain organizations in Carroll County may conduct. It raises the number of weekly drawings allowed from 30 to 52.
This bill was introduced by Shoemaker and Del. April Rose, another Republican representing Carroll County, on behalf of local fire companies. The COVID-19 pandemic had a severe effect on fire company fundraising efforts, and this bill will allow them to recoup some of the revenue that has been lost during the past two years, the lawmakers said.
Del. Susan Krebs, a Carroll County Republican, pointed out that the delegation was able to bring home a lot of financial resources to the county this year.
“It’s been a very good budget year for everyone,” she said. “Overall I’m pleased with it.”
A massive state budget surplus meant lawmakers of both parties could join with Republican Gov. Larry Hogan to temporarily suspend the gas tax as fuel prices surged and also to provide some tax relief for retirees and parents of young children as economic confidence slumps. The surplus is the product of a surge in federal spending and a faster-than-expected rebound in sales and income tax revenue after the COVID-19-induced recession.
“I’m pleased we made some small steps in the right direction for tax relief but with such a big budget surplus these are modest steps,” Krebs said. “This is a fraction of the money we could have given back” given the state’s record $7.6 billion budget surplus.
Shoemaker agreed some tax relief was provided this session, but said the General Assembly “wound up throwing a few crumbs to folks.”
Carroll County Breaking News
The Carroll County delegation secured $85 million in funding for a series of important community projects ranging from improving water quality and overall quality of life to renovations and improvements to educational buildings throughout the county.
Some highlights of Carroll projects that will receive capital funds include $63.2 million for a new State Veterans Home; $6.7 million for Carroll’s Career and Tech Center; $3.2 million for a Carroll Community College renovation; $3.4 million for the New Windsor Wastewater Treatment Plant enhanced nutrient removal upgrade; and $3 million for a new law enforcement building.
The delegation also secured $10 million in Carroll County infrastructure projects in Hogan’s supplemental budget, including $5 million for Union Bridge to upgrade its sewer plant and move it out of a flood plain; $4 million for New Windsor to replace its 115-year-old water main; and $1 million for Carroll County piping infrastructure and the expansion of the water treatment process at the Fairhaven and Raincliffe water treatment plants.
“These projects meet immediate needs in our community for water infrastructure. I appreciate Gov. Hogan and his administration working with us to include these projects in the supplemental budget,” Ready stated. “This is on top of a lot of help our county received in the initial capital budget.”
Several Carroll County bond initiatives passed this session as well, providing funding for an American Legion Post 223 building repair, building upgrades to help the Carroll County Veteran Independence Project to house homeless veterans, and playgrounds at Westminster and Hampstead elementary schools.