The Maryland General Assembly ended its usual 90-day legislative session early, on March 18 instead of April 6, due to the coronavirus. Although Session 2020 ran aground after encountering a once-in-a-century pandemic, lawmakers passed over 650 bills, including several terrible pieces of legislation.
Witness some of the flotsam and jetsam (otherwise known as debris) left bobbing about from the wreckage: The 21st–Century Economy Sales Tax Act, applying a 6% sales tax to all digital downloads; House Bill (HB) 4 requiring background checks on private sales and transfers of rifles and shotguns; and the infamous Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Act, known as the Kirwan Commission’s recommendations bill.
“At a time when businesses were closing left and right and folks were losing their jobs willy-nilly, the legislature passed the boondoggle known as Kirwan, without any realistic plan as to how to pay for it other than to kick the can down the road for others to figure out,” lamented Del. Haven Shoemaker. “Talk about fiddling while Rome burns!”
However, it is not all bad news. There were several victories that conservatives across Carroll and the state should celebrate. “Our biggest victories are what we defeated,” said Del. Susan Krebs.
For starters, the Plastic Bag Reduction Act of 2020 was bagged. This outlandish piece of legislation would have banned stores from providing customers with plastic carryout bags across the state. Although the bill passed the House, the Senate was unable to approve the bill before the clock ran out.
HB1628 would have decreased the sales tax rate from 6% to 5% while expanding the tax to cover almost all professional services. If this bill had passed, Marylanders would have ended up being taxed on haircuts, veterinarian services, lawn care, auto repairs, and even tax preparation services, just to name a few. Taxpayers in every corner of the Old Line State should be grateful that a projected 52% tax hike was vanquished thanks to the work of Republican legislators, vocal business owners, and Gov. Hogan.
Several bills introduced by Democrats that would have turned Maryland into a “sanctuary state” were sent to Davy Jones’ Locker. HB388 would have prohibited law enforcement from asking individuals about their immigration status and would have prevented local jurisdictions from being able to transfer illegals over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) without a warrant. HB677 was trying to stop state and local jurisdictions from having contracts with ICE that allows them to hold ICE detainees. HB403 attempted to make it harder for ICE to access hospitals, courthouses, and public schools. Thanks to the hard work of many, none of these bills were able to sail through to passage.
Carroll County’s Republican legislators were not only playing defense their entire time in Annapolis in 2020. Our hometown senators and delegates got numerous bills passed.
Several bills introduced by Del. Jesse Pippy, representing southwestern Carroll, passed. HB246 makes it a felony to solicit a parent, guardian, or custodian of a minor for sexual acts with that individual’s child, and makes it punishable by 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine for a first offense. HB1083 “expands the list of underlying crimes for criminal gang offenses” and “specifies that assets divested from gangs as a result of local investigations and prosecutions must go to local jurisdictions to be used only on specified services and law enforcement-related efforts,” according to the bill’s fiscal and policy note.
HB571/Senate Bill (SB) 238 was sponsored by the Carroll County delegation and will benefit Carroll by allowing bars to stay open until 2 a.m. instead of 1. Every county that surrounds Carroll already has a 2 a.m. closing time, which puts Carroll’s bars and taverns at a disadvantage and results in intoxicated drivers sprinting for the county line on any given night. Once this bill goes into effect July 1 local watering holes will receive a much-needed boost after being closed due to the coronavirus.
Carroll County’s legislators also secured treasure in the form of funding for multiple local projects in Hogan’s fiscal year 2021 capital budget — $1 million for facility improvements to the Carroll County Public Safety Training Center; $500,000 to the Hampstead wastewater treatment plant for much-needed upgrades; $500,000 for Mount Airy’s Center Street project; and $250,000 for the Charles Carroll Community Center in Silver Run.
In addition, through various bond initiatives, Sen. Justin Ready and Shoemaker brought home bounties for local nonprofits: $250,000 for the Carroll County Agriculture Center for facility upgrades; $100,000 for the Westminster Rescue Mission for a women’s drug treatment program; $40,000 for the Historical Society of Carroll County to maintain historical buildings; and $30,000 for the recently merged Penn-Mar Human Services and Change Inc. for technology improvements.
Those who represent Carroll in the Senate and House of Delegates had no idea this session would end early, something that hadn’t happened since a special session was suspended in 1861 during the Civil War. Despite this, our delegates and senators served us well by torpedoing and sinking awful legislation and by floating and passing bills that will benefit Carroll for years to come.
Christopher Tomlinson, a member of the Carroll County Republican Central Committee, writes from Melrose. Email him at CCTtomlinson@gmail.com.