Legislative checkup, February 2008 (part 1)

Now that the General Assembly has reached the point where no new bills can be introduced outside of the Rules Committee, it’s a good time to see what our local Delegates and Senators are sponsoring as far as new and revised laws and regulations. And I would have had almost 2400 bills’ worth of fodder to go through; however, once I got it down to bills our local folks had placed their names on the number became much more manageable. Then I just looked at bills which piqued my interest as ones which would have statewide impact and finally boiled it down to a total of about 50 pieces of legislation.

Today I’m going to focus on what I consider the top 25 of those that are sponsored by one of more of the local Democrat delegation. Some of these are also underwritten by members of the local GOP delegation but because I went through Democrats first, I’ll place these today and enter ones exclusively from the Republicans tomorrow.

First let me go through the cast of characters. Representing the western side of Wicomico County and points north are Delegates Rudy Cane (D-37A), Addie Eckardt (R-37B), and Jeannie Haddaway (R-37B); along with State Senator Rich Colburn (R). On my eastern side of Wicomico County and points south and east, we have Delegates Norm Conway (D-38B), Page Elmore (R-38A), and Jim Mathias (D-38B); with State Senator Lowell Stoltzfus (R). As a courtesy to Congressional voters, I’m also listing State Senator Harris as a co-sponsor where appropriate.

Now to the bills. Because the local Democrats have no State Senators, all of these are House bills listed in numerical order with their local sponsors, with crossfiled Senate bills listed concurrently. Of course I link to the General Assembly website so a reader can see just what the bill is about and how it would change Maryland law.

HB115 (Cane) would require the state of Maryland to place a statement on certain state-issued checks reminding the recipient they may be eligible for state medical or children’s health insurance assistance. It will officially make it through committee on Tuesday.

Nothing like trying to drum up more dependents for state programs. Shouldn’t an individual take responsibility for finding these things out on their own?

HB288 (Eckardt, Elmore, Haddaway, Mathias) requires applicants at the MVA present proof of citizenship or legal presence. As written, the bill applies to those born after December 1, 1964 but will become law for all ages in 2017. A hearing is scheduled for March 19.

Right now I grandfather in (born two months before the cutoff) but I’m not worried about showing a birth certificate. It’s good to see Delegate Mathias cross over on a common-sense bill – there’s a couple other examples of this today too.

The Maryland Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2008 is HB358/SB819 (Delegates Conway, Eckardt, Elmore, Haddaway, Mathias, and Senator Colburn). State expenditures over $25,000 with certain exceptions would be available for inspection on a searchable website. This had a House hearing on February 6, no Senate hearing is scheduled.

If it’s like the MLIS website this would be an outstanding help to Maryland residents.

A series of bills was introduced at the request of the O’Malley Administration to deal with the subprime mortgage and foreclosure issue. These bills are:

All four were co-sponsored locally by Delegates Conway, Eckardt, Haddaway, and Mathias. They’ve all had their Senate hearing earlier this month and a House hearing for these will be February 21.

I’m not sure what impact tightening these laws will have, time will tell if these are prudent or an overreaction.

HB364/SB269 (Cane) is another Administration-requested bill that extends the work zone speed cameras used in Montgomery County to statewide use and increases the fine. Both bills get their hearing next week.

Just like red light cameras, it’s another way to make revenue for the state because as written they can’t put points on your license for an offense nor can insurance companies charge you more. Of course, to contest you have to prove you weren’t driving rather than the state prove that you were. By the way, they give you 10 over and the first year you get a warning.

HB368/SB268 (Mathias – co-lead sponsor, Conway, Eckardt, Elmore), the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative – Maryland Strategic Energy Investment Program, is an Administration-sponsored bill as well. It repeals the Maryland Renewable Energy Fund and replaces it with a similar fund that will also spend money on, among other items, climate change research and targeted programs to reduce electricity demand for low- and moderate-income households.

Still falling for that manmade global warming bullshit, huh? I will grant that reducing energy consumption where we can while maintaining our standard of living is a good thing, but it won’t affect the climate.

HB370/SB211 (Delegates Eckardt, Elmore, Haddaway, and Mathias; Senator Colburn) is another Administration bill mandating DNA sample collection from those arrested or charged with certain crimes.

Tim Patterson at Gunpowder Chronicle (a fellow Red Maryland contributor) has his concerns about a similar bill in this session’s hopper.

HB371/SB214 (Delegates Cane, Eckardt, Elmore, and Mathias; Senators Colburn and Stoltzfus) is another Administration bill that requires the State Retirement and Pension System to divest from companies doing business with Iran.

I guess I’d like to know how much we actually have invested in particular companies and determine these things on a case-by-case basis. One could argue that we should do the same with China and a host of other countries too.

HB374/SB205 (Conway, Elmore, Mathias) is an Orwellian Administration-sponsored bill that will “(establish) the State goal of achieving a 15% reduction in per capita electricity consumption and peak demand by the end of 2015; requiring that, by specified dates, the Public Service Commission shall adopt regulations or issue orders requiring each electric company to procure or provide to specified customers specified energy efficiency and conservation measures and services that are designed to achieve specified energy reduction targets by specified dates, etc.” It already had its hearing.

That’s how we get the compact fluorescent light bulbs that are made in China and have enough mercury in them that if they’re broken it’s a hazmat spill. On the one hand, the Administration bitched about the 72% BG&E increase two years ago, yet they look to increase regulation forcing yet more rate increases to keep these companies profitable. Oh yeah, utilities are supposed to operate at a loss.

HB376/SB208 (Conway – lead co-sponsor, Eckardt, Elmore, Mathias) is yet another Administration-requested bill called the High Performance Buildings Act. The House version has a hearing set for February 26, the Senate version had its hearing.

Essentially this requires all new state buildings and ones that undergo major renovations to comply with a LEED Silver rating, including new schools. The state will pick up part of the difference for school buildings until 2014. Again, we’re catering to the green crowd on this one and I don’t feel it’s necessary.

HB451/SB100 (Cane – lead sponsor, Conway, Elmore, Mathias) establishes a Minority Environmental and Land Trust, at a cost of $950,000 annually for seed money through 2013.

HB508/SB99 (Cane – lead sponsor, Conway, Elmore, Mathias) establishes a Virtual Environmental Science Center that’s intended to be funded by the Minority Environmental and Land Trust established above. Both of these related bills have a House hearing February 19 and already had a Senate hearing.

Is this something that’s truly filling a need or just an excuse to put more of the Governor’s friends on a state board and create another administrative position for the person running the center?

HB512/SB302 (Cane) establishes the Maryland Affordable Housing Investment Fund and an accompanying board. These bills will be heard in late February.

And where will this fund get its money? To start, beginning in FY 2010 the state would be required to set aside $19,740,000 annually to the fund, with subsequent increases indexed to inflation, PLUS a 2 cent increase per $100 of assessed value for property owners – that is, unless you’re a utility, then it’s 5 cents per $100.

HB519 (Cane, Mathias) requires the State Board of Education to establish a weighted numerical assessment system to calculate a total score that students are required to achieve to graduate from a public high school in the State. Hearing is March 5th.

What happened to passing a test? We know that this system will eventually be dumbed down so that in order to graduate you only have to demonstrate the ability to breathe.

HB598 (Cane) establishes the Commission on Minority Business Enterprise, and will have a hearing on February 27.

If you want to put together a commission, how about one dealing with how to make Maryland more business-friendly for entrepreneurs regardless of race, creed, gender, etc.? That might get us someplace, because I can see all this commission will want is more set-asides and the like.

HB613 (Cane) proves that obnoxious ideas never die, they get re-introduced in the next session. This is the infamous Maryland Education Fund, which will get some of its funding from the unused portion of any gift card you receive. Not only that, issuers of gift cards will have to keep detailed records so they can figure out which cards are deemed by the state to be abandoned. Way to kill my Christmas shopping. It’ll be heard March 11th.

HB898/SB434 (all six Delegates co-sponsor, Cane is lead) is the Incentives for Agriculture Act of 2008. It requires a $5 million investment for FY10-13 with money given as tax incentives to maintain agricultural land and for biofuels, among other things. The hearing on the House version is March 6.

I guess the issue I would have is using a tax burden to tie the hands of a farmer who may want to do something else with his land down the road by eliminating the recapture. Just another way to use the tax code to modify behavior.

HB947/SB646 (Haddaway, Mathias) authorizes individuals to be debt management consultants. Generally in the past debt management has been the realm of non-profit organizations, but this allows individuals who want to be in that line of work the opportunity to start their own businesses. Senate hearing is February 27 and House hearing is March 11.

It’s a rare victory for business and entreprenueurial interests, and another good crossover by Delegate Mathias.

HB1236 (Cane) is, I believe, the infamous “illegal aliens get in-state tuition” bill, similar to the 2003 one which got Andy Harris in trouble during the campaign. Instead of the term “immigrant students” used in 2003, they now say “Maryland High School students” but the bill’s language is similar. Hearing is slated for March 4.

HB1314/SB583 (Delegate Mathias, Senator Colburn) revamps the charge of the Public Service Commission. Someone smarter than I on the subject needs to read through this, but it looks to me like an effort at reregulation. A House hearing is set for March 4.

HB1328/SB645 (Cane) repeals the death penalty in Maryland. They have late hearings on this bill, March 6 in the Senate and March 13 in the House. This may be one they try to sneak through fast.

Didn’t we just have some guy who was a lifer break out of a hospital and wreak havoc until he had his suicide by cop? Stiffs don’t escape the grave except in monster movies.

HB1416 (Cane) mandates that a study be done to look at the impact the Intercounty Connector highway will have on global warming. Key in this bill is the provision that no state money can be spent on the highway until the study is complete this December, effectively stopping its progress for six months.

When you’re stuck in gridlock down there where the highway’s supposed to go, you can thank these legislators for wasting your time because their real goal is to cram everyone onto mass transit, regardless of personal safety therein.

This concludes part 1, with a look at 25 bills the GOP is sponsoring tomorrow.


Author: Michael

It's me from my laptop computer.

6 thoughts on “Legislative checkup, February 2008 (part 1)”

  1. Michael:

    With AES going out of business and the other firms tanking, any chance you’ll be laid off soon so you can return to Ohio?

  2. Nope, sorry. You’re stuck with me. However, Toledo is always looking for people who aren’t too smart and simply vote for the Democrat machine.

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