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Legislative Session Wrap-Up: Regular Session 2010

Posted by admin on May 1, 2010  |   Comments Off on Legislative Session Wrap-Up: Regular Session 2010

Dear Friends,

I have just finished the last session of the term and am looking forward to beginning my campaign. During the summer I am hoping to see you at community meetings, fairs and festivals. Most of all I hope to take the time to stop by your home while campaigning in your neighborhood.

I am very proud of the achievements of your 43rd District team in the past four years. Each of us have earned a leadership role in the Maryland General Assembly. Each of us has brought our own strengths to our position. I have been honored to Chair the Environmental Matters Committee and work on issues that impact our environment, preserve open space, and fund our parks and playgrounds. My committee also worked on the crisis facing our communities with mounting foreclosures. At the same time, we helped to create affordable housing and protect tenants rights.

Again, look forward to seeing you!

Continue Reading…

Laslo Boyd: Looking back at the 2010 General Assembly

Posted by admin on April 16, 2010  |   Comments Off on Laslo Boyd: Looking back at the 2010 General Assembly

The clock struck midnight and after the dust had settled, 808 bills had worked their way through both chambers of the Maryland General Assembly. While there will be lots of thorough and systematic reviews of the session, what you’ll get out of this column are a few of my observations and the results of my interviews the next day with Senate President Mike Miller and House Speaker Mike Busch.

A bit of context setting is important. The state is facing major financial problems as a result of the national downturn in the economy. The dominant issue for the session was balancing the state budget, which this year meant making significant cuts while trying to not damage key priorities. The other external factor impacting the session was this year’s elections, with Republican Bob Ehrlich looming on the horizon.

While there were some significant differences between the two chambers, Miller and Busch seemed, on the whole, pleased with the manner in which the budget had been handled. Key areas of agreement included the full funding of education, the continued constraints on tuition increases, money for the Chesapeake Bay Trust Fund, a number of health care bills and a key unemployment benefits initiative that will lead to Maryland receiving an additional $29 million from the federal government.

Both presiding officers were quick to share credit for successes. Speaker Busch, for example, cited House Judiciary Chair Joe Vallario for negotiating the final bill on sexual predators that had generated so much controversy during the session and that passed on the final day. Similarly, he noted the “great job” that Environmental Matters Committee Chair Maggie McIntosh has done in getting the various parties to agree on a stormwater management bill.

Miller talked about how Democrats and Republicans worked together in the Senate, citing both the budget and a bill on teacher pensions. That bill passed the Senate, but did not receive approval in the House. The issue definitely will come back next year as the result of the establishment of a seven-member study commission to try to resolve the differences that currently exist on the proposal.

Busch mentioned the failure to pass that bill, as well as the one that would have required ignition interlocks for people convicted of drunk driving, as among his frustrations of the session. Miller’s list included the pension bill, the proposal to provide tax breaks for corporations that contributed to religious schools and the Rosecroft table game bill as his major disappointments.

The upcoming election was clearly on both of their minds and was reflected in their observations about the session. Miller pointed out that the final budget “emphasized what the governor is all about.” Busch pointed to the difficult decisions that the legislature had to make and wondered whether the public would appreciate what had been accomplished rather than take it for granted.

Other issues, some of which attracted a lot of public attention, were not mentioned in our discussions. For example, the new law that Marylanders are most likely to notice is the one requiring hands-free devices when driving and using a cell phone. At this point, it’s a secondary offense, which means that you can’t be pulled over just for talking on a cell phone. But if other states are any guide, the next step will be to make it a primary offense.

A series of educational reforms passed with the intent of making Maryland more competitive in its efforts to get federal “Race to the Top” funding. Maryland did not submit an application in the first round and how enthusiastic state education officials are about this effort is still far from clear.

Earlier this year, I wrote about a bill that had barely failed in the previous two sessions that would put new rules and reporting requirements on the scrap metal industry. As one legislator who had been involved in the prior effort told me after the bill was approved this year on the final day, “I’m no longer a cynic.”

I have, in prior years, given an award for the worst bill of the session. This year, the runaway winner is Del. Don Dwyer of Anne Arundel County for his ridiculous effort to institute impeachment proceedings against Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler. Dwyer, who apparently doesn’t have enough real legislative work to do, decided that because he didn’t personally agree with an opinion of the attorney general, that the difference of opinion constituted grounds for impeachment. I wonder if Dwyer will cite that effort to his constituents as one of his proudest accomplishments in this session.

Finally, let me bring to your attention SB 26. Under the Maryland Constitution, the General Assembly is obligated every 20 years to give voters the opportunity to decide whether they want to have a constitutional convention to either amend or rewrite the state’s constitution. SB 26 places that question on the November ballot this year and gives you the chance to think about something other the candidates for office.

Laslo Boyd is a partner at Gonzales Research and Marketing Strategies. He also teaches courses at both Towson University and the University of Baltimore. His e-mail address is lvboyd@gmail.com.

The List: How does your legislator rank?

Posted by admin on April 1, 2010  |   Comments Off on The List: How does your legislator rank?

Influence is in the eye of the beholder: A look at perceived highs and lows in the House and Senate

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist — or the prodding of a political newspaper, for that matter — to figure out that Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. and House Speaker Michael E. Busch are the most influential lawmakers in the State House.

Still, The Gazette asked, and the results we received couldn’t be any clearer.

Each presiding officer topped his chamber’s list of most influential lawmakers, where presiding officers have landed in the two previous publications of “The List.”

Rank hath its privileges.

We asked a select group of State House observers who has, and who lacks, influence. Influence, of course, is in the eye of the beholder. Maybe it’s the parliamentary prowess to pass a bill, or the legislative legerdemain to kill another. It could mean the brains to master a complex issue, or a good sense of timing — when to stand and when to stand pat.

The result is a highly unscientific poll. The margin of error is plus or minus a whole lot.

But even if the results need a grain of salt, political watchers with a sodium-restricted diet can enjoy some of the findings.

For one, money talks in Annapolis.

Five members of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee are among the Senate’s most influential. And nine members of the House Appropriations and Ways and Means committees are among the most influential in the lower chamber.

For another, jurisprudence walks, at least in the Senate. Five members of the Judicial Proceedings Committee are on the least influential list. (Education, Health and Environmental Affairs provide four others.)

Another point: Political winds can blow in any direction. Two delegates made the top 20 most and least influential lists: Dels. Saqib Ali and Christopher B. Shank.

And one more point: The Annapolis political set doesn’t cut any slack for newbies. The legislature’s least-experienced members — Sen. Edward R. Reilly and Del. Charles A. Jenkins, who are both serving their first sessions this year — made the least influential list in their respective chambers.

By contrast, experience did little to boost the influence of the chambers’ senior members, Del. Hattie N. Harrison and Norman R. Stone Jr.

The Gazette previously assessed influence in 2002 and 2006.

As in previous years, invitations to participate were limited to a hand-picked group of State Circlers. E-mails with instructions on the voting were sent to lawmakers, cabinet secretaries, a handful of lobbyists, representatives of important organizations and a few experienced reporters.

With assurances of anonymity, we allowed respondents to write in what they thought about lawmakers. We present a sampling today. A dozen comments mention “smart.” Fifteen mention “respect.” Many talk about a legislator’s chances in 2010.

Respondents were asked to rank the top 10 senators and top 20 delegates. For a senator, a No. 1 vote got 10 points, a No. 2 vote got nine points, etc. For a delegate, a No. 1 vote got 20 points, a No. 2 vote got 19, etc. The lawmakers then were ranked by their point totals.

The least influential list worked the same way.

Internet balloting allows us to share the results for each member, as well as all the comments posted.

Democrats dominate the legislature, and they dominate our lists. All of the 10 most influential senators are Democrats, as are three of the least influential in the Senate. Two Republicans crack the top 20 in the House of Delegates, although seven of the least influential in the House are Democrats.

Each senator got at least one vote, either for his or her influence or a lack thereof. Five delegates — four Democrats and one Republican — received no votes either way.

20 most influential delegates

1. Michael E. Busch (D-Dist. 30) of Annapolis
2. Maggie McIntosh (D-Dist. 43) of Baltimore
3. Joseph F. Vallario, Jr. (D-Dist. 27A) of Upper Marlboro
4. Sheila E. Hixson (D-Dist. 20) of Silver Spring
5. Kumar P. Barve (D-Dist. 17) of Gaithersburg
6. Dereck E. Davis (D-Dist. 25) of Upper Marlboro
7. Peter A. Hammen (D-Dist. 46) of Baltimore
8. Norman H. Conway (D-Dist. 38B) of Salisbury
9. John L. Bohanan, Jr. (D-Dist. 29B) of California
10. Anthony J. O’Donnell (R-Dist. 29C) of Lusby
11. Adrienne A. Jones (D-Dist. 10) of Woodstock
12. Talmadge Branch (D-Dist. 45) of Baltimore
13. Curtis S. Anderson (D-Dist. 43) of Baltimore
14. Brian J. Feldman (D-Dist. 15) of Potomac
Michael L. Vaughn (D-Dist. 24) of Bowie (tie)
15. Justin D. Ross (D-Dist. 22) of Greenbelt
16. Shane E. Pendergrass (D-Dist. 13) of Columbia
17. James E. Proctor, Jr. (D-Dist. 27A) of Brandywine
18. Saqib Ali (D-Dist. 39) of Gaithersburg
19. Christopher B. Shank (R-Dist. 2B) of Hagerstown
20. Brian K. McHale (D-Dist. 46) of Baltimore

From the Maryland Gazette: http://www.gazette.net/thelist/

Delegate McIntosh at Sustainable Communities Day

Posted by admin on March 26, 2010  |   Comments Off on Delegate McIntosh at Sustainable Communities Day

State Delegate Maggie McIntosh, D-Baltimore, at Sustainable Communities Advocacy Day in Annapolis explains the best stewart for a sustainable Maryland.

Maggie’s Legislative Update for March 19, 2010

Posted by admin on March 19, 2010  |   Comments Off on Maggie’s Legislative Update for March 19, 2010

Dear Friends,

In this update, I’d like to highlight three bills/legislative packages that will have a significant impact on jobs and public safety in Baltimore City, some of which we passed in the House of Delegates this morning.

The Sustainable Communities Act of 2010

The Heritage Tax Credit, which especially benefits urban areas like Baltimore City, sunsets in July of this year. The Administration’s House Bill 475 reestablishes the Heritage Structure Rehabilitation Tax Credit Program as the more comprehensive Sustainable Communities Tax Credit Program – a key component in our continued effort to create and save jobs in Maryland. The bill changes the program into a traditional tax credit program and more than triples the funding for businesses to create these jobs. It increases funding for the program by authorizing the Maryland Historical Trust (MHT) to award $50 million in credits for the next three years. The legislation would provide the following tax credits depending upon the type of project.

  • 20% for the rehabilitation of a single-family, owner-occupied residential certified historic rehabilitated structure
  • 25% for the rehabilitation of a certified historic structure that is a high-performance building (meets certain energy efficiency standards)
  • 10% for the rehabilitation of a qualified rehabilitated structure
  • 20% for any other qualifying rehabilitation

The value of the tax credit can’t exceed $3 million for a commercial rehabilitation or $50,000 for any other project. The bill also makes several changes to other State programs, including the Community Legacy and Designated Neighborhood Programs. As I said before, this is a great benefit for Baltimore City; it creates jobs and preserves our city’s historic buildings and neighborhoods. The bill was heard on March 9th in the Ways and Means Committee, and I’ll be keeping an eye on its progress.

Tougher Sex Offender Legislation

Last Friday, the House Judiciary Committee passed both Republican and Democratic sponsored bills to strengthen Maryland’s laws against sex offenders.  Seven bills received unanimous, bipartisan approval and five of them went to the floor of the House of Delegates today for a full vote.

The House Judiciary Committee approved:

  • House Bill 936 brings Maryland into compliance with the notification and registration provisions of the federal Adam Walsh Act. Under the bill, homeless sex offenders, sex offenders convicted of indecent exposure, possessors of child pornography, and offenders who repeatedly abuse children under the age of 14 are required to register on the Maryland Sex Offender Registry. The bill also expands information posted on the Registry to include places of employment, other residences, and a plain language description of the crime.
  • House Bill 473 requires lifetime supervision of serious and repeat sex offenders after completing their original sentence. Lifetime supervision could include GPS monitoring, requiring ongoing polygraphs, restricting an offender’s movement to their place of work and home etc. The bill also subjects juvenile sexual offenders to extended supervision.
  • House Bill 931 reconstitutes the Sex Offender Advisory Board in order to make recommendations on how to best manage sex offenders and protect the public from them.
  • House Bill 289 eliminates diminution credits for an offender convicted of first and second degree rape and first and second degree sex offense against a child under the age of consent (16 years old).
  • House Bill 599 eliminates diminution credits for repeat third degree sex offenders, whose victims are children under the age of consent (16 years old).
  • House Bill 1046 requires a judge, instead of a district court commissioner, to determine whether a registered sex offender arrested for any crime is entitled to pretrial release and creates a rebuttable presumption that the registered sex offender poses a danger to the community.  The legislation also requires that a criminal rap sheet include documentation that someone is a registered sex offender or if they have had extended supervision.
  • House Bill 1053 strengthens the State’s prohibition against possessing or promoting child pornography.

Over the past four years, the legislature has provided several new tools to help law enforcement prosecute violent sex offenders. During the 2006 special session, the legislature passed Jessica’s Law, which requires a 25-year mandatory minimum sentence for first degree rape and sex offenses.  In 2007, the legislature eliminated the possibility of parole for Jessica’s Law offenders. That same year, the legislature passed a law requiring court-ordered mental health assessments of sex offenders convicted of sexual abuse against a minor. In 2008, Governor Martin O’Malley and the legislature followed implementation of Jessica’s Law with a bill requiring the collection of DNA on arrest for any crime of violence or felony burglary. Over 24,000 DNA samples have been eliminated from the State’s backlog and, as a result, over 100 sex offenders have been arrested. This year’s legislative package will help us to strengthen Maryland’s criminal law against sex offenders even further, and I can gladly announce that  HB 289, HB 473, HB 599, HB 931, and HB 1046 all passed in the House of Delegates this morning with unanimous support, and now cross over to the Senate.

Job Creation Tax Credit

HB 92 is an emergency Administration bill that provides tax credits for businesses that hire unemployed workers. The credit has been increased from $3,000 per employee to $5,000 per employee and is only valid for an employee hired between the effective date of the bill and December 31, 2010.  A total of $20 million in credits would be provided, allowing for a fast burst of job creation in our state.

Each employer could claim a maximum of $250,000 in tax credits, equating to 50 employees hired per employer. A qualified employer must be either operating a business in Maryland and filing state income tax returns, or be a nonprofit organization, and certified as eligible by the Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation.  A qualified employee hire must be a Maryland resident, must be currently receiving unemployment insurance benefits or have exhausted their unemployment insurance benefits in the last 12 months, and cannot be otherwise employed full-time.

House Bill 92 passed the House of Delegates this morning with a vote of 132 for and 5 against. It now goes to the Senate for approval.

We’ve had the opportunity to move some great legislation out of our chamber thus far, but the session is far from over. Please continue to keep me posted on your thoughts as we move toward our mid-April conclusion.

Maggie

Unemployment Facts and Figures

  • National unemployment is currently 9.7%, and Maryland unemployment is around 7.5%.
  • The current average duration of unemployment is 29 weeks, the longest since record-keeping began in 1948. Unemployment insurance benefits are provided for 26 weeks.
  • The Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund has seen a 92% increase in claims over the last two years. More than 400,000 claims were filed in 2009.
  • In fiscal year 2009, the State paid out $891 million in unemployment benefits, as compared to $478 million in fiscal year 2008. In addition, 93,000 people exhausted their benefits in 2009, up from 35,000 in 2008.

Background on Unemployment Insurance Benefits and Non-Citizens

  • State law specifically addresses eligibility for non-citizens to collect UI benefits. In addition, under federal rules, a worker must demonstrate they are working legally in order to get UI benefits.
  • They must give a Social Security Number (SSN), or otherwise demonstrate their legal status for UI benefits. If they have a SSN, DLLR goes directly to the Social Security Administration (SSA) to verify the number, name, and date of birth. If there is a discrepancy, the worker has to go to the SSA to straighten it out.
  • There is no other system that can be used, including E-Verify, to do a more comprehensive job than how it is done now by DLLR through direct contact with the Social Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security. E-Verify is available to other departments andprivate companies to access information for this purpose, but DLLR does not need E-Verify.

Maggie McIntosh
House of Delegates
Maryland’s 43rd District
maggie.mcintosh@house.state.md.us