With student safety in mind, bill would put armed officer in every school in Maryland [Commentary]

One of a series of weekly commentaries from Harford County state legislators regarding the 2018 Maryland General Assembly session.

The beginning of March means spring is just around the corner, and with it comes a renewed perspective on things after shaking off the doldrums of winter. For those who follow Maryland politics, it also means the legislative session is more than half over, and things are really ramping up in Annapolis to get legislation passed before midnight on April 9. To date, over 3,000 bills have been introduced – 1,223 in the Senate and 1,782 in the House of Delegates – all of which have the potential to impact the lives of every Marylander. While there’s still much work to be done to help Harford County and the rest of Maryland live up to its fullest potential as a preeminent place to live, work and visit, progress has been made over the past several weeks to get the pendulum swinging in the right direction.

The issue at the forefront of every Americans’ mind right now is obviously school safety. After the tragic events of 9/11, airline safety changed both quickly and permanently. Sadly, this hasn’t been the case with school safety in the aftermath of school shootings. As a father and legislator, nothing is more important to me than ensuring the safety of children. Therefore, this week I introduced legislation that would require an armed law enforcement officer be placed in every elementary, middle and high school in Maryland. This bill will also allow private schools to hire a law enforcement officer to protect their schools. The role of Special Resource Officer would require hundreds of hours of training as well as continued re-certification.

The other issue I hear most about from all of you is how you can keep more of your hard-earned money in your wallets. There’s no denying that years of tax-and-spend economics employed by previous administrations has left Marylanders over-taxed, over-burdened and overwhelmed.

The good news is the federal 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) that was passed in December simplified and reduced federal taxes for the vast majority (71 percent) of Marylanders. Under this new plan, Marylanders will save $2.8 billion in federal taxes each year, and more than 80 percent of middle-class taxpayers will see reduced taxes with an average savings of $1,200. Without legislative action, though, Marylanders will pay $500 million more in state and local taxes due to Maryland’s complex and burdensome tax structure.

The Senate has unanimously passed the Income Tax Credit Bill (Senate Bill 184), which will prevent taxpayers’ bills from rising next year by ensuring that Marylanders can continue to take personal exemptions on their tax returns (this bill is currently in the House). I hope we can keep this momentum going by also passing the Republican Caucus’ four-pronged legislative package aimed at simplifying state taxes in order to bring you much needed tax relief.

Under Senate Bill 191 (aka the “Decoupling Bill”), you could choose to itemize your state deductions if you take the standard deduction at the federal level.

State property taxes now adhere to the $10,000 cap that the federal tax bill put in place on local and state taxes. However, Senate Bill 194 would allow a filer to deduct their entire property tax payments instead of adhering to the new $10,000 cap.

Senate Bill 318 would increase the state standard deduction for single and joint filers. Our current state standard deduction has not been increased since 1992, and is so small that it’s insignificant.

Finally, Senate Bill 567 would decrease state income tax rates.

On the local level, I’ve co-sponsored SB 208 for upgrades to the Harford chapter of Sexual Assault/Spouse Abuse Resource Center (SARC), as well as the Baity Building which houses the Children’s Center of North Harford. I’ve also introduced bills addressing the current Transource power line issue plaguing Northern Harford County, with hopes of identifying ways of protecting Marylanders statewide from projects like this in the future.

With just over five weeks remaining in the 2018 legislative session, I intend to keep fighting for legislation that brings real, common sense reform to the Free State. Lowering taxes, creating a friendlier business environment, keeping our families safer and investing in education are just a few of the issues we must keep focusing on to ensure Maryland experiences the kind of renewal you and your families deserve.

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