Members of Carroll County's delegation in Annapolis are gearing up for what many predict will be a busy session beginning Wednesday, Jan. 13.

Many local legislators expect a difficult budget process, pitting Republican Gov. Larry Hogan against a large Democratic majority in the House of Delegates and Senate.

Advertisement

"That will probably be the most consuming issue that we take up," said Del. Haven Shoemaker, R-District 5.

While many members of Carroll's all-Republican, 11-member delegation note that they want to see the cost of living and doing business in Maryland go down, many also plan to fight for increased funding for Carroll County Public Schools, which plans to close three schools next year in response to declining enrollment.

Del. Susan Krebs, R-District 5, said she and Sen. Justin Ready, R-District 5, plan to propose that the state provide school systems fighting dwindling enrollment coupled with decreased state funding with hold harmless money to help them meet their budgetary needs while the state awaits a report on the state's school funding formula.

For others, business is a top priority.

Del. Warren Miller, R-District 9, said he plans to oppose any bills that take business decisions out of business owners' hands.

"We shouldn't be in the business, as delegates, of mandating to businesses how to run their business," he said.

Sen. Gail Bates, R-District 9, who sits on the Senate's Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, said she has a number of bills she is planning to introduce this session.

Since her committee is responsible for election law issues, some of her top priorities in 2016 concern campaigns, she said.

One bill Bates said she plans to introduce will tighten regulations on loans candidates' campaign committees can accept.

While current election law allows campaigns to receive loans from a number of different sources, Bates hopes to create a collateral requirement for loans she said would effectively restrict campaigns to having to obtain loans from banks, not individuals.

"It would have to come from a financial institution," she said, adding that she has witnessed instances of campaigns receiving large last-minute loans from individuals and groups that have made her question the legitimacy of the loan. "As it stands right now, anybody can make that loan."

Money can lead to influence, she said, and loans can be used to circumnavigate contribution restrictions.

"Let it be a loan, not a disguised contribution," she said.

Bates said she also hopes to submit legislation that would further limit the amount of time a campaign has to pay back each loan it receives.

Advertisement

Currently, campaigns have four years to pay back their debts and lenders have the ability to require zero interest. Bates' bill would cut that time down to two years.

Voter registration is something both Bates and Del. David Vogt, R-District 4, said they expect to get a lot of attention this session.

For Bates, she expects to see a bill in her committee calling for universal voter registration, something she said she plans to oppose.

"If somebody wants to register to vote, they can register to vote," she said, adding that she worries automatic registration cold open the doors to voter fraud.

Vogt said that he expects to see a revival of a bill vetoed by Hogan last year that would allow felons to vote as soon as they leave prison. Under current state law, voting rights are not restored until all aspects of their sentences — including probation and parole — are completed.

"I think that's going to become something that there will be a lot of debate about," he said.

Law enforcement will be another issue many legislators say they expect to see come up in the 2016 session.

"We need to make drug treatment a bigger priority in what we do in law enforcement," Ready said.

"There are going to be a lot of bills coming through that water down police protections," he added.

But the real challenge for legislators from Carroll, he said, might be making sure that changes aimed at addressing problems in Baltimore or other more urban jurisdictions don't weaken the authority of forces in Carroll County.

"You don't want to always necessarily have a statewide change to address a localized problem," he said. The county should be open to reform, he said, "but not to the extent of harming our local police."

Sen. Michael Hough, R-District 4, who sits on the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, plans to sponsor a bill that would address some law enforcement issues.

In a bill that he said he will sponsor alongside Montgomery County Democrat Sen. Jamie Raskin, Hough will call for restrictions on the ability of law enforcement to seize assets suspected of being used in connection with illegal activities, a revival of legislation that passed the House and Senate in 2015 but was vetoed by Hogan.

As the law stands now, Hough said, there is little assurance that assets taken will be returned, even if charges are never brought.

"It's an arcane legal tactic," he said, citing the experience of Frederick County's South Mountain Creamery, a dairy farm business that saw its bank account seized under a law targeting money laundering.

Although the owners settled the issue with the Internal Revenue Service years ago, they have yet to have their money returned to them, Hough said. The bill, he said, will likely have a lot of support from both sides of the aisle.

"People that would normally not agree on anything will agree on this," he said.

Another area he expects to see some progress made on is the treatment of drug offenders.

In the time after the close of the 2015 session, Hough, along with 20 other representatives from around the state, sat on the Justice Reinvestment Coordinating Council, a group created last year for the purpose of developing a statewide framework of sentencing and corrections policies to reduce the state's prison population.

The group is expected to make its recommendations this year.

If legislation on the issue is moved, Hough said it would move many nonviolent drug offenders out of incarceration and into treatment programs, saving the state tens of millions of dollars. That money, he said, would then he used to invest in effective drug treatment programs around the state.

"We really need that," he said.

410-857-3315

Twitter.com/heatherleighnor

Planned legislation from Carroll's delegation:

Sen. Justin Ready, R-District 5:

•Legislation that would allow for disabilities like autism to be designated on state IDs

•Legislation aimed at eliminating state spending and regulations that limit economic growth

Advertisement

Del. Susan Krebs, R-District 5:

Legislation calling for the tax break retirees on pensions receive to also be applied to those retired on 401(k)s, IRAs and other retirement plans

Legislation requiring state tax deductions to be indexed for inflation as federal tax deductions are

Legislation that would lower the state's Homestead Tax cap from 10 percent to 5 percent

Del. Haven Shoemaker, R-District 5:

•Prefiled a bill ending the practice of allowing exiting governors to purchase Governor's Mansion furniture deemed "surplus" by the state at deep discount

•Legislation placing term limits on Carroll County school board members, something the delegation will vote on whether to support later this week

•Legislation that would ban sanctuary cities in the state. Currently, Baltimore is a sanctuary city, meaning it follows certain procedures to protect immigrants who are in the country illegally from deportation

Del. April Rose, R-District 5:

•Legislation granting free hunting licenses to veterans and active duty military

•Legislation creating an animal abuse registry that would track those found guilty of harming animals for up to about five years after conviction

•Legislation exempting school construction projects from having to meet the state's prevailing wage requirements, which mandate a higher pay for workers.

Sen. Michael Hough, R-District 4:

•Bill calling for restriction on state's ability to seize assets in criminal investigations

Del. David Vogt, R-District 4:

•Legislation targeting abuse of mentally disabled by service providers

•Reintroducing bill exempting learning disabled students from having to take standardized tests, unless the child's parents offer consent

•Legislation requiring more of the funds collected by the gas tax to be distributed to local governments

•Legislation allowing local medical providers to prescribe medical marijuana to military veterans dealing with diagnosed recurring illness or post-traumatic stress disorder who cannot access the drug through Veterans Affairs providers

•Legislation replacing the standardized PARCC test with the ASVAB, a timed aptitude test currently used by the military

•Legislation requiring more state government agencies to phase out the use of paper in favor of electronic records and forms

Dels. Kathy Afzali and Barrie Ciliberti, both Republicans from District 4, were unable to be reached for comment as of Friday evening.

Sen. Gail Bates, R-District 9:

•Legislation requiring citizens wrongly overcharged in state income taxes to be reimbursed more quickly

•Legislation making it easier for adult children to access elderly parents being barred from contact by caregivers

•Legislation paving the way for nursing and assisted living facility hiring departments to gain access to job applicants' employment records.

•Legislation requiring meetings subject to open meetings law to publish agendas in advance of meeting

Del. Trent Kittleman, R-District 9:

•Legislation requiring high-schoolers across state to pass the U.S. citizenship test

Del. Warren Miller, R-District 9:

•Legislation forbidding the use of speed cameras in the state

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement