• Major Legislation Passes the House of Delegates – Information on Tax Credit for STudent Debt

    Monday is cross-over day in Annapolis. All bills have to be passed in the House of Delegates by the end of the day to be heard in a timely fashion by the Senate. We passed hundreds of bills. There are a lot more bills that passed the Senate that will now be voted on by the House of Delegates. Here are some of the more significant bills. You can read more about any of these bills by clicking on this link: http://mgaleg.maryland.gov If you have any questions about anything going on in Annapolis, send me an email.

    HB 3 – Requires Maryland To Join The US Climate Alliance This bill requires the Governor to include Maryland as a member of the U.S. Climate Alliance by July 1, 2018, and stipulates that withdrawal from the alliance is conditional on approval from the General Assembly.

    HB 296 – Tax Credit for Corrections Officers – Allows retired corrections officers from age 55 to 64 years of age to deduct up to $15,000 of their retirement income from their Maryland taxable income.

    HB 308 – Freezing The Tax Exemption For Estates At $5 Million – This is my legislation and will save Maryland over $60 million. If this legislation does not pass, estates with $11.2 million will be paying no taxes. We need this money for our schools.

    HB 327 – Tax Credit for Retired Veterans – Income for retired veterans will not be taxed in Maryland. It will be phased in starting in 2019.

    HB 365 – Saving The Personal Exemption on Your Maryland Tax Form– Under the new Federal tax law that passed Congress in December, Maryland residents would see an $800 million tax increase. This is because the new tax bill eliminated the state personal tax exemption ($2,000 for an individual and $4,000 for a couple). This bill safeguards the tax exemption to make sure it is not eliminated.

    HB 372 – Metro Funding – Allocates $150 million to help fund Metro. Hopefully along with money from Virginia and DC, this will enable Metro to have some stable funding.

    HB 532 – Election Day Voter Registration – This bill puts a referendum on the ballot this year to allow people to register to vote on Election Day. Hopefully it will make it easier for people who haven’t registered but decide they want to get involved to be able to vote.

    HB 593 – Expanding Tax Credit for Student Debt to Graduate Debt – Two years ago we passed legislation to give up to $5,000 in tax credits to former students with undergraduate student debt (priorities for those with the highest debt to income ratio). This year we are trying to expand it to those who have high graduate student debt.

    HB 671 – Tax Credit for Teachers Who Buy Supplies for Their Students – This bill enables teachers to reduce their taxable income by $250 if they buy school supplies for their students.

    HB 807 – Highway User Funds – This bill restores needed highway user funds to municipalities. In the past these funds were cut back by 90%. This legislation restores the money at 95% of the previous level.

    HB 888 – Banning Bump Stocks – This will ban bump stocks and devices similar to bump stocks. Bump stocks allow a semi-automatic firearm to fire at a rate similar to that of a fully automatic firearm. The shooter in Las Vegas used a bump stock and was able to shoot over 1,100 rounds of ammunition in just a couple of minutes. All of us witnessed the horror and carnage that took place in Las Vegas. Bump stocks and similar devices have no place in Maryland and it is vital that we pass this commonsense protection.

    HB 993 – MD Pension Climate Change Risk Act – Requires that the investment policies for the State Retirement and Pension System include concerns about climate risks in the choice of investments.

    HB 1302 – Lethal Violence Protective Order – Calls for a protective order that would allow family members or police officers to petition a judge to impose the instant seizure of a firearm or ammunition from a person they believe pose an immediate and present danger to self or others. This type of legislation would prevent incidents like Parkland/Suicides/Domestic Violence Shootings such as just happened in Prince George’s County that resulted in the death of a police officer

    HB 1412 – HOV Lanes on Route 50 – One of the annoying things for me is that you cannot use the HOV lanes on Route 50 from the Beltway to Route 301 24 hours a day / 7 days a week. This bill would only restrict the use of the HOV lanes from 6 to 9 AM and 4 to 7 PM Monday to Friday.

    HB 1536 – Expansion of the Maryland Dream Act – would allow qualifying Dreamers to pay in-state tuition rates at public four-year universities. (Right now, they pay only in-state tuition if they go first to a community college.)

    HB 1646 – Making Criminal Defendants Turn In Guns – This bill would make it mandatory that a judge tell a criminal defendant in a sex abuse case that he/she has to give up their guns to the court prior to trial or the acceptance of a plea of guilty.

    HR 1695 – Hate Crimes – Use of a Noose or Swastika to Threaten or Intimidate – This bill prohibits a person from affixing, erecting, or placing a noose or swastika on the property of another without authorization, with the intent to threaten or intimidate any person or group of persons. Violators are guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment for up to three years and/or a $5,000 maximum fine.

    HB 1782 – Health Insurance – Individual Market Stabilization – This legislation will stabilize skyrocketing individual health insurance premiums by taxing insurance companies and using the money to pay the biggest claims. The legislation would levy a surcharge of $380 million on insurance companies that do business in Maryland, which are paying about that much less in federal taxes this year because of a one-time exemption provided by the recent overhaul of the U.S. tax code.

    Using that money for a “reinsurance fund” will lower premiums for everyone in the individual insurance market, officials and advocates said, heading off a potential crisis stemming from anticipated increases in premiums of between 30 and 50 percent and the possible departure of CareFirst, Maryland’s only statewide insurer for the estimated 154,000 individuals who buy their own plans rather than get coverage through an employer or government program.

    There are a lot of other bills that passed and others that will be voted on Monday. We will keep everyone updated on important bills as they move through the legislature.

    Reminder – $5,000 Tax Credit for Student Debt Now Available

    Have you (or do you know someone who has) incurred at least $20,000 in undergraduate student loan debt and have at least $5,000 in outstanding undergraduate student loan debt remaining? If so you are eligible for a tax credit of up to $5,000 on your 2017 personal income tax!

    As a result of legislation passed by the Maryland General Assembly, there is a new tax credit available for Maryland residents.
    The only requirements are you must:

    o Have incurred at least $20,000 in total undergraduate student loan debt;

    o Have at least $5,000 in outstanding student loan debt during the tax year for which you are applying.

    The deadline is September 15th to be eligible to receive a credit on this year’s taxes. There are $5 million of tax credits available. Priority will be given to those with the highest ratio of student debt to gross income and then to those who graduated from Maryland institutions.

    You can find out more about the tax credit and get an application form by going to: http://mhec.maryland.gov/preparing/Pages/StudentLoanDebtReliefTaxCredit.aspx . If you do not yourself have student debt, pass the word to your friends and relatives.

    We hope that if HB 593 passes, this tax credit will be extended to graduate school debt. We will keep you updated.

  • Progress in Annapolis, Scholarship Information and Tax Credit Reminders

    Progress in Annapolis

    Over 1,700 bills have been introduced in the House of Delegate. Each bill has to have a public hearing. We have been holding hearings every day (often until the evening) to hear all the witnesses who want to testify. We have already had hearings on 1,000 of these bills and now the bills that have been approved by their respective committees have to be voted on by the full House of Delegates. After the House approves a bill, it has to be approved by the Senate and then signed into law by the Governor.

    Here are three important bills that we voted on last week.

    HB 281 – Computer Science in the Schools – This bill requires public high schools to offer at least one high-quality computer science course beginning in the 2021-2022 school year; establishes the Maryland Center for Computing Education to identify ways to expand access to high-quality computer science education, strengthens the skills of educators, and increases the number of computer science teachers; and requires the Center to work with institutions of higher education.

    HB 230 Restricts the State’s ability to withdraw from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) by requiring statutory approval from the General Assembly prior to withdrawing.

    HB 251 – Family Life and Human Sexuality Curriculum – Boundaries and Consent This bill mandates age appropriate instruction on the meaning of “consent” and respect for personal boundaries as part of the school curriculum.

    Gun Bills

    Because of the recent horrific events in Parkland Florida, I will review some of the major gun bills that are being discussed in Annapolis

    HB 888 / SB 707 Banning Bump Stocks The bills would ban bump stocks and devices similar to bump stocks. Bump stocks allow a semi-automatic firearm to fire at a rate similar to that of a fully automatic firearm. The shooter in Las Vegas used a bump stock and was able to shoot over 1,100 rounds of ammunition in just a couple of minutes. All of us witnessed the horror and carnage that took place in Las Vegas. Some 58 people lost their lives and hundreds more were injured. Bump stocks and similar devices have no place in Maryland and it is vital that we pass this common sense protection.

    HB 1646 – MAKING CRIMINAL DEFENDANTS TURN IN GUNS – This bill would make it mandatory that a judge tell a criminal defendant in a sex abuse case that he/she has to give up their guns the court prior to trial or the acceptance of a plea of guilty or the equivalent of a plea of guilty.

    HB 1302 – Lethal Violence Protective Order – Calls for a protective order that would allow family members or police officers to petition a judge to impose the instant seizure of a firearm or ammunition from a person they believe pose an immediate and present danger to self or others. This type of legislation would prevent incidents like Parkland/Suicides/Domestic Violence Shootings such as just happened in Prince George’s County that resulted in the death of a police officer

    HB 730 – CLOSING THE GUN LENDING LOOPHOLE – Takes care of a loophole that allows people to lend guns to others without having to register the transfer.

    Progress on My Legislation

    There are new developments on three of my bills

    HB662 – Presidential Candidate Tax Transparency Act – This bill would require a candidate for President of the United States to release their last five years of tax returns in order to appear on the ballot in Maryland. I introduced it last year but it did not make much progress. This year the Senate version of the bill, introduced by Senator Paul Pinsky, is likely to pass the Senate next week. That means there will be momentum to get the bill passed in the House of Delegates. Maryland might become the first state to pass this legislation. I wonder what Trump will tweet.

    HB 308 – De-coupling the Estate Tax From the Federal Estate Tax – This would put the tax exemption for estates at $5 million (all estates under that number would be tax free) and not raise it to the Federal level of $11.2 million. This will save the state $60 million. This bill was voted out of the Ways and Means Committee last week and will be voted on by the House of Delegates next week.

    HB 951 Higher Education Degree and Job Certification Without Debt Act of 2018 – One of the main components of this bill phases in tuition-free community college for students pursuing a AA degree or job certification with family income below $150,000. The Senate version of this bill is moving to a vote on the Senate floor next week, which means there is a good chance that a version of my bill will move next week.

    Two of my other bills have already passed the House of Delegates.

    Both of these bills now have to be heard by Senate Committees, voted by the full Senate, and then signed by the Governor in order to become law.

    HB 400 Advance Notice to Municipalities for Mosquito Spraying
    This bill simply asks that the state and county notify municipalities twenty-four hours before there is any spraying for mosquito control so residents can be alerted to keep their pets and children inside when spraying is being done

    HB 305 Homestead Tax Credit Eligibility Awareness Campaign
    My legislation will require the Department of Assessments and Taxation to put a reminder notice in the assessment notices that go out every three years to all those homeowners who are eligible and have not applied for the rebate.

    Scholarship Available

    It’s that time of year again! When you think FASFA, think of requesting my scholarship application!!! My scholarship application for students living in District 47A is now available by emailing me at Jimmy.Tarlau@house.state.md.us. The deadline for my scholarship is Friday, April 13th! Each Delegate and Senator are able to bestow scholarships to students attending a Maryland college, university, or private career school. You may receive scholarships from all of your delegates, as well as, your senator.

    Pay attention to these tax credits. .

    The Homestead Credit

    The Homestead Property Tax Credit is eligible to every resident homeowner. The Homestead Credit limits the increase in taxable assessments each year to a fixed percentage. Every county and municipality in Maryland is required to limit taxable assessment increases to 10% or less each year. You can view a listing of homestead caps for each local government here http://dat.maryland.gov/realproperty/Documents/Homestead_ Percent_Caps.pdf

    Over 500,000 people who are eligible for the Homestead Tax Credit have not applied for the credit. Every week I meet someone who has not filed for the homestead tax credit and has lost thousands of dollars over the last five or six years. You may be one of these people. You can look on-line at http://sdat.dat.maryland.gov/RealProperty/Pages/default.aspx Type in your address and you can see at the bottom of the page whether you are getting the Homestead Tax Credit and the Homeowners Tax Credit (see below).

    If you need some help to figure this out, send me an email with your address or call me at 301-335-6099.

    Low-income Homeowners’ Property Tax Credit

    Offers property tax break for people regardless of age who make less than $80,000 per year and have a net worth of less than $200,000 (not including retirement accounts or value of your home.) Amount of tax credit depends on how much property tax exceeds a certain percentage of your income. Call 800-944-7403 for more information.

  • Hot Topics In Annapolis

    The legislative session in Annapolis lasts three months.  One month has passed and we have accomplished a lot (passage of Paid Sick Leave, Ban the Box, and Denial of Parental Rights to a Rapist bills), but most of the work is still ahead of us.  There have been over 1,700 bills introduced and every bill has to have a public hearing.  We have over 700 bills to be heard in my Ways and Means Committee.  That will mean long days of public hearings over the next few weeks.  All bills have to be heard and voted on by the House and Senate by midnight on April 9th,

    My Legislation

    I have introduced 16 bills this year and have had hearings on 9 of them.  Two of my bills have been voted on favorably by their respective committees and are now waiting a vote by the full House of Delegates:

    HB 400     Advance Notice to Municipalities for Mosquito Spraying

    This bill simply asks that the state and county notify municipalities twenty-four hours before there is any spraying for mosquito control so residents can be alerted to keep their pets and children inside when spraying is being done

    HB 305     Homestead Tax Credit Eligibility Awareness  Campaign

    The Homestead Credit limits the increase in taxable assessments each year to a fixed percentage.  Every county and municipality in Maryland is required to limit taxable assessment increases to 10% or less each year.

    The problem is that in 2009 the government found that some properties that were not owner-occupied were getting the credit, so they made everybody fill out a one-time application for the credit.  Some people did not apply and they have not been receiving the tax credit.  There are close to 500,000 homeowners in Maryland who  do not receive the homestead tax rebate.

    My legislation will require the Department of Assessment and Taxation to put a reminder notice in the assessment notices that go out every three  years to all those homeowners who are eligible and have not applied for the rebate.

    Other Important Bills I Am following

    There is a lot of important legislation that is being discussed in Annapolis.  I have listed below just a small list of some of the bills I am following.  You can find the status of all bills at www.mgaleg.maryland.gov .  If you are interested in a specific bill or topic, please send me an email.  I will continue to update everybody when important legislation passes the General Assembly

    • PROTECTING MARYLAND’S HEALTHCARE SYSTEM AGAINST FEDERAL ASSAULTS – Preserves insurance coverage by responding to Congress’ repeal of Affordable Care Act individual mandate (HB1167/SB1011)
    • FIGHT FOR FIFTEEN – raising Maryland’s minimum wage over time to $15 (HB664/SB543).  Delegate Diana Fennell is the Prince George’s leader on this issue
    • FUNDING FOR METRO – House Bill 372 carves out $150M from the transportation trust fund to create a dedicated funding stream for Metro contingent on DC & Virginia following suit
    • PROTECTING TREES – A bill strengthening the Forest Conservation Act (HB766)
    • CANNABIS LEGALIZATION – An amendment to Maryland’s constitution allowing voters to decide on legalization of recreational marijuana (HB1264)
    • PUBLIC FINANCING OF POLITICAL CAMPAIGNS.  Establishing a system of public financing of campaigns for candidates for election to the General Assembly (HB 785)
    • CLEAN ENERGY – increasing the percentage of renewable sources used to generate electricity (SB732/HB1453 = 50% by 2035, HB878 = 100% by 2050)
    • NET NEUTRALITY AND INTERNET PRIVACY – reversing the FCC’s decisions at the state level (HB1655, HB1654)
    • REDUCING CARBON EMISSIONS – Joining a coalition of states that will address climate change by incentivizing the reduction of carbon emissions through a carbon tax (HB939)
    • EDUCATION LOCK BOX – Proposing an amendment to the Maryland Constitution to limit the uses of certain revenues to educational opportunities and programs for the children of the State in public schools, the advancement of educators, and the construction of school facilities.  (HB 1697)
    • REGIONAL GREENHOUSE GAS INITIATIVE EXTENSION ACT – This bill will ensure Maryland remains in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, our regional cap and trade program for power plants. (HB 230)
    • PRETRIAL SERVICES GRANT FUND – Providing funds  to ensure all eligible defendants are afforded the opportunity for Pre-Trial release and to enhance public safety by providing community monitoring and referral to services that will increase the likelihood of appearance for trial and to reduce the risk for re-arrest. (HB 447)
    • COMPUTER SCIENCE IN THE CLASSROOM   Requiring school boards to require public high schools to offer  computer science courses beginning in the 2021-2022 school year and appropriating funds to train teachers.  (HB 281)

    Maryland Legislative Leaders Unveil Broad Education Bill Based on Kirwan Panel’s Recommendations

    The long-awaited Kirwan Commission Preliminary Report was issued last week.  The report paints a bleak picture of the state of Maryland education based on findings that the average public school is underfunded by $2 million every year.

    Maryland has fallen in education rankings from No. 1 a few years ago to No. 6 now,

    The panel  has been working for 18 months to devise new funding formulas for Maryland’s public schools and recommendations for policies to keep the state’s education system among the nation’s best.

    The panel’s preliminary report  suggests that any new funding formula must be sufficient to finance universal pre-kindergarten for students of all incomes and provide more money for schools in low-income neighborhoods.

    The recommendations also seek to devise a way to pay teachers more, establish more career and technical programs, and develop a more challenging curriculum for high-achieving students who want to quickly attain associate’s degrees.

    The commission will work until later this year to recommend how to implement and fund its recommendations.

    Legislative leaders are advancing some small recommendations from the Commission this session in one omnibus bill (HB1415/SB1092).  They want to pass a bill in the current session that ends in April to get some of that new money flowing for the next school year. Ideas included in the bill include:

    • Establishing a Career and Technical Education group, composed of individuals with expertise in CTE programs and the needs of the business community to develop rigorous CTE pathways leading to industry-certified credentials.
    • Expanding the current program of early childhood education by increasing the funding for prekindergarten expansion grants.
    • Requiring the Maryland State Department of Education  to develop a comprehensive recruitment program aimed at the top 25% of graduates from high schools (in each school system) to encourage them to consider teaching as a profession.
    • Expanding and fully fund the Maryland Teaching Fellows Scholarship to provide tuition remission for teachers in return for a commitment to teach in high-needs schools.
    • Establishing a grant program for jurisdictions or schools with high concentrations of poverty to provide additional academic instruction through after-school and summer programs.

    House Economic Matters Committee Votes Down Anti-Worker Legislation

    Like clockwork, every legislative session, legislators hostile to workers and their unions introduce legislation to compromise collective bargaining. They call it “right to work.” This year, it was introduced as HB 264. Several states have shifted to “right to work” status in the last eight years, and wages in those states have dropped precipitously despite corporate earnings increasing. The proposal is a race to the bottom that Maryland has rightly rejected year after year. Maryland rejected it again when  the House Economic Matters Committee voting 13-7 to kill the bill.

    The Committee also voted 12-11 to oppose legislation that was seeking to delay the effective date of the earned sick leave legislation that passed last year and was implemented by veto override this year. Qualifying workers were able to start earning sick leave as of February 11, and with the defeat of SB 304, that benefit will continue to be available to them.  I want to thank my team-mate, Diana Fennell, who is on the Economic Matters Committee for her leadership on both issues.