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100 New Maryland Laws Take Effect

Residents of Maryland can cheer the arrival of over 100 new laws, effective July 1:  just in time for “Independence Day.”  The laws include myriad new or adjusted rules on licenses to serve alcohol, requiring union representation fees for those in public education institutions, and fifteen million dollars in potential bond debt.

Garrett County Memorial Hospital is a 55 bed hospital.  Senator Edwards (Republican, D-1) sponsored the successful bid to authorize the County Commissioners to borrow up to $15,000,000 in order to assist in financing the cost of hospital improvements.  The votes for this legislation were 135-0 in the House and 46-0 in the Senate.

In an effort to be competitive with other states (as Gov. O’Malley would say), Maryland is imposing a 11.5% tax on short term rentals of motorcycles (instead of the current 6% vehicle excise tax) .  This also shifts the tax burden from the dealer/lessor to the renter.  To be fair, this is an increase in transparency.  The proceeds from this tax will continue to be split between the Transportation Trust Fund and the Chesapeake Bay 2010 Trust Fund.  The vote for this 92% tax increase?  Unanimous in the House and Senate.

The Charles W. Riley Firefighter and Ambulance and Rescue Squad Member Scholarship is established.  Initially, in FY 2014, this is at a cost of $358,000 to the taxpayers of Maryland.  Subsequently, the cost of sending select firefighters and first aid squad members to college will be borne by taxpayers through traffic case surcharges.  The vote was another unanimous one in the House and SenateIt’s easy to be generous with other people’s money, no matter your party affiliation.

Fans of Mixed Martial Arts may be interested to know that the State Athletic Commission will now license and regulate amateur MMA and amateur kickboxing, to include drug testing.  All contestants will have to submit blood tests to prove negative results for HIV, hepatitis, and other diseases and fines of $1,000 – $5,000 will be levied for non-compliance.   Failure to pay a boxing and wrestling tax will result in a $5,000 fine.  Some of these items are newly applied to amateur MMA and kickboxing, while they already applied to professional contests.  In the General Assembly, only Delegates Burns (Democrat, D-10) and Lafferty (Democrat, D-42) voted against these expanded regulations.

If you drive through a toll booth without paying, and do not pay the toll due or elect a court date within 30 days of the notice, the MVA must refuse or suspend the registration of the vehicle judged to be a toll scofflaw.  Formerly, the MVA had the option to suspend the registration.  Essentially, if one’s EZ Pass isn’t working and one doesn’t mail a check in time, one now has to deal with driving in a suspended registration, MVA flag fees, the inability to sell his/her vehicle, etc.  There was no dissenting vote on this legislation.

All public school employees must pay a representation fee if not a member of the union.  In a public school, one may choose not to join the union; this means that a representation fee will be deducted from one’s paycheck.  The State of Maryland states that there is a monopoly on union bargaining (an “exclusive” representative may bargain with the district).  Those opting out for religious reasons must still have the fee deducted, but it will go to a non-religious charity that is approved by the school entity and the employee.

Those Marylanders utilizing prepaid wireless services will now have a $.60 fee per transaction, to contribute to the 911 Trust Fund.  The fiscal note for this bill states that in FY2014, this charge will result in $4,000,000 in “revenue”.   The vote was unanimous in the Senate and in the House, only eight of the 141 Delegates voted against this new tax.

An additional surcharge of up to $10 will be added to filing fees for certain court cases in Baltimore City.  This surcharge amount to $2,000,000, which will be used to “enhance benefits” and hire more personnel in the sheriff’s department.  This legislation passed unanimously in the Senate (twice) and 29 Delegates voted against.

SB740, the College and Career Readiness and College Completion Act of 2013, was controversial enough to warrant an AG letter.  From the fiscal and policy note:

[Maryland State Dept. of Education] MSDE, in collaboration with the local boards of education and [Maryland Higher Education Commission] MHEC, and with input from other stakeholders, must study the transition courses required by the bill and examine the development, content, and implementation of transition courses to be delivered to students in grade 12 who are not college and career ready at the end of grade 11. The study must include the alignment of transition courses with the Common Core State Curriculum as well as whether the courses should be credit-bearing and should be considered to meet the requirements for high school graduation.

This bill passed unanimously in the Senate; 35 House members voted against.

A Commission on Child Custody Decision Making will be empaneled to study the practice, principles, and process for child custody decision making in Maryland – because we know that increased government involvement usually makes anything better.  The vote was 131-6 in the House and 46-1 in the Senate.

And relax, home gardeners – composting facilities will be regulated and need to pay permit fees.  This is yet another bill that was requested by a government bureaucracy in order to grow itself.  And the General Assembly gladly acquiesced:  unanimous in the Senate and only one dissenter in the House.

To be fair, there are a few bills which relax (slightly) current government restrictions.  One example is a prohibition of public schools asserting a copyright on a pupil’s work.  Another example:  a surviving spouse may drive a jointly owned vehicle without re-registering it.  And Marylanders may take an income tax credit of up to $750 for oyster shells recycled.

2014 is an election year.  Delegates and Senators who are in contested or somewhat contested races will be more careful in how they vote.  We need to be involved and fight these bad bills when they’re in committee – once a bill reaches the floor it’s almost guaranteed to pass.  Fighting a bill before it becomes a law is far easier than trying to repeal a bad law.  Please visit Maryland Legislative Watch to see how you can get involved in 2014.


Elizabeth Myers

Elizabeth Myers is a grassroots activist, certified Constitutionist (US and Maryland Constitutions, Institute on the Constitution), and fed up Marylander. Maryland Legislative Watch was started out of this frustration and the goal is to alert fellow Marylanders to bad (and a few good) bills that normally pass under the radar. Any writing on Watchdog Wire is my opinion only.

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Categories: Education, Must Read, Opinion, Policy, Politics, Regulation, Taxes
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