Anyone with a warrant out for their arrest in Anne Arundel County could have their tax refund withheld under a proposal by Sen. Ed Reilly.
When Maryland lawmakers return to Annapolis Wednesday for the 2020 General Assembly session, it will be the second time the Crofton Republican tries to convince them to pass his plan, and it’s likely not completely foreign to residents either — it used to be law in Anne Arundel County.
It started as a pilot program here, he said, and after a few years, the policy was adopted by other counties with a sunset provision. But when lawmakers tried to make the law permanent, he said, it failed.
Opponents say the policy disproportionately impacts marginalized groups, because of racial disparities in policing.
Reilly’s bill is one of more than two dozen pre-filed by the Anne Arundel County delegates and senators in the lead up to the 2020 session, which begins Wednesday at noon.
It will be the first without former Speaker of the House Mike Busch since 1986. After Busch died on the second-to-last day of the session last year, delegates elected Baltimore County Democrat Adrienne A. Jones to step into the role. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller has said he’ll step down from the leadership position after more than three decades of leadership. Baltimore Sen. Bill Ferguson has been selected to replace him.
Under new leadership, education reform will take a front seat throughout the session as democratic lawmakers attempt to pass a new funding formula, while local lawmakers are likely to pursue a financing authority for City Dock in Annapolis, and the authority to pursue a progressive income tax structure on a county-by-county basis, an idea pushed by County Executive Steuart Pittman.
So far, local lawmakers have pre-filed legislation relating to hate crime definitions, access to voter registration information for ex-felons, and veterans’ services.
For Reilly, getting a green light to reinstitute the warrant intercept program in Anne Arundel County is among his top priorities.
Despite his insistence that the program is color blind, a 2018 report on the program from the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention showed that blacks were disproportionately affected. A total of 204 individuals had their tax refunds withheld because of a warrant — 101 of those individuals were black, 97 were white.
Reports from 2017 and 2016 also show that more than half the individuals impacted in Anne Arundel County were black, while the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that Anne Arundel County is 17.9% black and 74.2% white.
“The warrant intercept program is blind to race, gender, ethnicity, so it may be reflective of local policing,” Reilly said.
In 2018, $122,932.49 in tax returns was withheld in Anne Arundel County, according to the report. That is an average of $602.61 per person.
The bill encourages people to go to court and take care of their warrant so they can get their tax return, rather than waiting until the warrant is served. This also protects both residents and officers, Reilly said, by removing the point of conflict sometimes involved with serving a warrant.
Reilly’s bill is designated as an emergency bill that would become law as soon as it was signed by Gov. Larry Hogan. It would authorize government officials charged with serving a warrant to inform the comptroller of outstanding warrants, and would require the comptroller to withhold an individual’s income tax refund until the warrant is no longer outstanding.
This includes criminal arrest warrants, or warrants resulting from a failure to appear before a court of the state, a violation of the Maryland Vehicle Law that is punishable by a term of confinement, or a violation of probation.
It applies only to individuals who reside in Anne Arundel County or have an outstanding warrant from Anne Arundel County.
Reilly expects it to sail through the local delegation and pass with local courtesy, a legislative tradition that gives wide discretion for lawmakers to pass bills affecting only their jurisdictions.
He said his other pre-filed bill might present more of a challenge.
Senate Bill 16 which would require the State Board of Master Electricians to establish a Master Electricians Guaranty Fund.
Currently, if an electrician fails to perform, the only recourse is for the Board of Elections to cancel or revoke their license to do business, Reilly said. But this bill would essentially create a safety net for consumers who are hurt financially by an electrician — the consumer could apply to the guaranty fund for reimbursement.
He proposes that the fund be kept up by electrician licensure fees, which he said may have to be increased to keep it afloat.
“I expect significant opposition,” Reilly said. “I don’t know if it will pass.”
Still, he said, it’s worth a try. The issue was brought to his attention by one of his constituents, and he wants to protect others from having similar negative experiences.
Sen. Pam Beidle, D-Linthicum, is sponsoring a bill that would regulate the Board of Community College Trustees at Anne Arundel Community College.
Senate Bill 31 would require board members to live inside the county, set a four-year term limit, and set a three-term limit for the number of consecutive terms board members can serve.
Beidle is also the lead sponsor on a bill that would take Anne Arundel County’s liquor board from three members to five.
Beidle said she’s heard of instances over the past few years where one of the three board members is unable to make a meeting or has to recuse themself from a vote, which leaves only two people voting on an application.
“So if one says ‘yes,’ and one says ‘no,’ the constituent goes home with nothing,” Beidle said.
Senate Bill 32 would require that the Alcoholic Beverages Board of Commissioners be made up of one member from each of the state legislative districts in the county, limits each member to serving four consecutive two-year terms, and mandates political diversity by allowing no more than three members to be of the same party.
Beidle said this bill is only part of her effort to improve the way the liquor board works in the county. She expects to see nearly a dozen related bills but has only pre-filed one other bill.
Senate Bill 37 would require businesses reapplying for a license to sell more food than alcohol in the 12 months preceding the application for a Class B or Class H license. The renewal application would have to come with a sworn statement that gross receipts from food sales for the year immediately preceding the application were at least equal to 51% of the gross receipts from the sale of food and alcoholic beverages.
This would impact restaurants and hotels that have Class B licenses and sell beer and light wine for on- and off-premises consumption, and those that have Class H licenses, which allow for on-premises consumption only.
State Sen. Bryan Simonaire, R-Pasadena, has introduced adjacent alcohol legislation applicable only in Anne Arundel County. Senate Bill 52 would define the term “assessment term” as it related to alcoholic beverages licenses in the county.
The bill states that “assessment district” means a tax assessment district established by the county through local law.
Simonaire also filed a bill that would exempt certain applicants for business and professional licenses from having to provide fingerprints if they had previously provided fingerprints as a part of another application. Simonaire could not be reached for comment.
Simonaire also sponsored a bill that would make a time-limited bill passed in 2017 permanent. The bill allows active military, former prisoners of war, disabled veterans and recipients of the Purple Heart Award to be given complimentary hunting and fishing licenses. It was enacted and 2017, and without the passing of Simonaire’s bill, the program will end.
Senate Bill 25 would repeal the requirement for a related Department of Natural Resources report to be delivered to the governor and the General Assembly by Dec. 31, 2019, and repeal the previously determined program termination date, therefore continuing the program.
In a separate effort to honor veterans, Del. Mike Rogers, D-Laurel, filed a bill that specifies the eligibility for veterans seeking to reside at homes supervised by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Specifically, the bill says homes should be open to active duty veterans who were honorably discharged from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps, as long as they are a resident of the state.
The bill states that these homes should also be open to the spouses of eligible veterans.
Veterans and their spouses who sought to live in the homes would be charged sliding fees, depending on their ability to pay.
Del. Mark Chang, D-Glen Burnie, chairman of the Anne Arundel County House delegation, filed a bill that would designate July 27 each year as Welcome Home Korean War Veterans Day in recognition of the service and sacrifice of Korean War veterans.
More than 5.8 million Americans served in the Korean War and at least 531 Marylanders were among the 36,000 Americans who lost their lives in Korea, the bill outlines. Chang said designating an official remembrance day is an appropriate way for the state of Maryland to thank and honor its armed forces for their service and sacrifice.
If passed, this bill would be enacted on July 1, making the first annual Welcome Home Korean War Veterans Day July 27, 2020.
Chang, who was first elected delegate in 2014, is the first Korean-American to serve Anne Arundel County in the General Assembly.
Just months after a state-wide Hate Bias Report showed Anne Arundel County leading the state with a rising number of incidents, Chang has pre-filed a bill that would clarify the law around using an item or symbol to threaten or intimidate another group.
Over the past few years, there have been several instances of bias incidents, including nooses found at schools, swastikas found on bathroom walls, and recently an effigy found hanging from a tree alongside the property of the county’s first black councilman.
In 2018, a Pasadena man who was seen in security camera footage playing with a noose at Crofton Middle School was found not guilty by a Judge Paul Harris Jr., because his actions did not name a specific target.
“In essence, the State asks that the Court add ‘group of people’ to the list of potential victims,” Harris wrote, adding, “That is exactly what the Court cannot do.”
House Bill 5 would prohibit a person from placing or inscribing any actual or depicted noose or a swastika on any real or personal property, public or private without the express consent of the owner, owner’s agent or the lawful occupant of the property, with the intent to threaten or intimidate any person or group of people.
Depending on the severity of the offense, these acts would be punishable by fines up to $20,000, and imprisonment up to 20 years.
Chang also filed a bill that would prohibit the enforcement of eviction from a rental property that is a person’s primary residence from Dec. 18 to Jan. 8. It would suspend landlords’ eviction enforcement requirements during the same time period.
This would prevent a judgment or a warrant of restitution issued against a tenant to be executed by the landlord or any county official during that period.
Grace on attendance
Additionally, Chang is sponsoring a bill that would give students with mental illnesses a break on attendance. House Bill 26 would make absences due to a student’s mental illness lawful, although the number of excused absences is not included in the bill.
House Bill 26 states that each county board should develop a written attendance policy specifically for students with mental illness, and make it accessible on the county board’s website.
If passed, this bill would take effect before the 2020-2021 academic year.
Voting rights for ex-felons
Maryland Policy & Politics
Del. Sandy Bartlett, D-Maryland City, is teaming up with Sen. Cheryl Kagan, a Democrat from Montgomery County, on legislation that would require correctional facilities to provide an inmate who has completed their sentence with a voter registration form and information about voting rights before releasing them.
“Not all ex-felons are aware that their right to vote has been restored,” Bartlett said. For her, it’s about restoring dignity and helping people realize their rights.
While individuals are not eligible to register to vote while they are serving a court-ordered sentence of imprisonment for a felony conviction, they are eligible to register to vote upon completing their sentence, according to the Maryland State Board of Elections.
The only case in which an individual is not eligible to vote after completing a felony conviction sentence is if they were convicted of buying or selling votes.
The bill requires that a correctional facility inform an individual that they are eligible to vote after being released from the facility, but that they must register to vote in order to exercise their right to vote.
When Kagan asked for Bartlett’s support on this bill, she said she didn’t hesitate for a second. It hits close to home for her, she said, because she has a family member who was previously incarcerated and has now had their voting rights restored.
“It makes me a little bit emotional,” Bartlett said. “It’s a pretty big deal I have seen a level of pride and restoration of dignity because of the ability to vote (for ex-felons).”