Carroll County Times Opinion

Tomlinson: Blockbuster or bomb? A look back at the first half of the Maryland General Assembly session | COMMENTARY

In the early years of cinema, longer films often had an intermission so that the projectionist could change the film reel. Eventually, intermissions existed so that moviegoers could stretch, smoke, or buy concessions before enjoying the second half of lengthy classics such as “Ben-Hur,” “Gone With The Wind,” “Lawrence of Arabia,” or “West Side Story.”

This past Friday was the 45th day of the 90-day session of the Maryland General Assembly in Annapolis. As we prepare for the second half of the session, let’s all head to the theater lobby, grab ourselves a snack, and recap the first reel of the 2021 session.


In an early tragic scene, Democrats overrode Gov. Hogan’s vetoes from last year, meaning that Marylanders can soon look forward to a tax on digital advertising and the implementation of the Kirwan Commission’s education reform plan.

The digital ad tax raises taxes on anyone who advertises digitally and is estimated to cost Maryland taxpayers $250 million every year. With COVID-19 related restrictions still in effect, this is the absolute worst time for the State to take even more money out of the wallets and pocketbooks of businesses and consumers who are already struggling. Before the Democrats could celebrate the passing of this first-in-the-nation tax, several groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Internet Association, filed a lawsuit against the state seeking to declare the law unconstitutional.


The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Act, also known as Kirwan, is a massive education spending bill that will cost Maryland taxpayers approximately $32 billion over the first 10 years. Additionally, a funding mechanism to pay for Kirwan has not been established. At the end of the day, Maryland taxpayers will soon find themselves picking up the check for these expensive education reforms.

In “Gone with the Wind,” Scarlett O’Hara screams “As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again!” before the intermission starts. Unfortunately, Maryland taxpayers may find themselves starving after paying for these bills that were passed despite vetoes by the governor.

The blockbuster of this session has been the passing of the governor’s $1 billion coronavirus RELIEF Act, which provides tax relief to businesses and individuals and direct stimulus payments to families who need it. After Hogan and legislative leaders had already reached a deal on the specifics of the Act, House Democrats attempted to jeopardize the entire bill by adding an amendment that would allow undocumented immigrants to also receive a stimulus check. Much like Messala who betrayed his childhood friend Judah Ben-Hur in Ben-Hur, these legislators threatened to destroy the entire bill with this provision, which would have denied assistance to all Marylanders. Fortunately, the Democrats removed the amendment and the bill passed with bipartisan support.

However, the Democrats have vowed to make sure undocumented immigrants still receive support in a separate bill. Senate Bill 218 expands the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit to give taxpayer-funded credits predominately to immigrants who are living here illegally. If the bill passes, it will cost a show-stealing $60 million per year for the next three years.

In Lawrence of Arabia, T. E. Lawrence traveled 600 miles across the Sinai Desert determined to accomplish the impossible – capture the Red Sea port of Aqaba. This Session, Republican caucuses in both chambers have introduced important legislative packages capable of being passed, but the passage, like Lawrence’s, will prove exceedingly difficult.

The Senate Republican Caucus’ package intends to “ensure Maryland’s election integrity and reassure the public that the major deficiencies uncovered in the 2020 emergency election policies will be resolved,” as stated in its news release. Carroll County Sen. Justin Ready’s Senate Bill (SB) 838 will require an election judge to establish a voter’s identity by requiring the voter to present certain proof of identity. SB36 and SB233 will tighten up absentee or mail-in ballot procedures to lessen the chance of fraud or tampering. SB340 makes the punishment harsher for those convicted of voter fraud, voter intimidation, voter suppression, and voter impersonation. I pray that these bills fare better than Tony and Maria’s ill-fated relationship in “West Side Story.”

One screen over, the House Republican Caucus has introduced a Business Relief Package, which will help businesses that are suffering due to the pandemic. According to its news release, HB1177 will make “any COVID-19-related distribution from retirement income in the 2020 or 2021 tax year untaxable for Maryland income tax purposes’' and HB257 “will allow certain businesses to receive a refund of their business personal property tax they paid in 2020.” Carroll County Delegate April Rose’s HB1083 will “establish consistency and oversight of the decisions made by county health officers.”

Let’s return to our seats and watch the rest of the 2021 Session, which is sure to produce plenty of drama, and hopefully a happy ending.


Christopher Tomlinson, third vice chairman of the Maryland Republican Party, writes from Melrose. Find him on Facebook at ColumnistChrisTomlinson or email him at