This is the first of the bi-weekly updates that I will send out and post on my website regarding the 2016 General Assembly Session. The 2016 Session has started off strong! Leaders have informed us that there have been a record-level of bills requested for drafting, meaning we may have some very long days in hearings and on the floor voting. (This is a picture of me and my friends and fellow Baltimore legislators, Cory McCray and Antonio Hayes).
Yesterday we celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and received a special speech from a member of my class – Del. Terri Hill – regarding Dr. King. The General Assembly’s annual commemoration of Dr. King is something I have started to look forward to every year – pausing to honor and remember such a great man reminds all of us what we need to do for our communities and country.
I also had the great pleasure of welcoming a student from Thomas Johnson Elementary & Middle School to Annapolis! Josephine’s teacher contacted me in the fall and said that Josephine had expressed a desire to meet me – I encouraged her to come down to Annapolis this session, and yesterday I met with Josephine and her parents! In addition to meeting with me and touring the grounds, they also joined me at an Appropriations Briefing.
I will be introducing several bills, and will detail those in my next update. This coming Wednesday, the Governor will release his budget. As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I will be spending the bulk of my time this session working to make sure that the budget is fiscally prudent and socially responsible — that it strengthens our state and does not resort to political pandering to any party. Today, I want to highlight some important votes that we are taking this week and that many people have asked me about – the veto overrides.
Veto Override Votes
This Wednesday we will be focusing on several bills that the Governor vetoed after we passed them last session. Below is some quick information about each vote. For the same reasons that I initially voted to support this legislation, I will also vote to support the over-rides of these vetoes.
HB 71 Capital Budget Line-Item Veto– ($2.0M for Maryland Hall for the Arts) Last session, the Governor executed a capital budget line item veto for funds designated to the “design construction, and equipping of renovations to its facility to improve disability access to Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts gallery and theater spaces in Anne Arundel County.” This line-item veto by the Governor of a capital project was the first of its kind in several decades. This is an important arts space for Anne Arundel County, and the project is important to make the building more accessible to people with disabilities.
SB 190 Sales and Use Tax Clarification- Application to Hotel Rooms – This bill clarifies existing law to close a tax loophole exploited by travel websites to ensure that online travel companies collect and remit Maryland’s existing sales tax based on the retail price of hotel rooms charged to the customers. The legislation received broad-based support from the local business community including: the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, the Maryland Hotel and Lodging Association, Marriott International, Hilton Hotels, and Gaylord National. This is about putting our businesses on an equal playing field with the online community.
HB 980/ SB 340- Voting rights- Ex- Felons – This bill will allow a person released from incarceration to be eligible to register to vote. It will enfranchise nearly 40,000 Marylanders who are – right now – not allowed to vote, even though they are no longer incarcerated. Not only do these individuals pay taxes (without the corresponding right to vote), but also the American Probation and Parole Association testified last year that “civic participation is integral to successful rehabilitation and reintegration.”
SB 517– Use and Possession of Marijuana and Drug Paraphernalia This bill makes the use and possession of marijuana in a public place a civil offense, with a fine up to $500, and also repeals the prohibition on possession of marijuana- related paraphernalia. In 2014, the Maryland General Assembly made the possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana a civil crime. This bill closes a loophole that left marijuana paraphernalia as a jailable offense, while possession of marijuana was a citable offense. Driving under the influence of marijuana, or any drug, remains a crime.
SB 528- Criminal Procedure- Seizure and Forfeiture This bill specifies that cash of $300 or less may not be forfeited unless the funds are directly connected to the distribution of illegal drugs. Read more about this issue here.
Stay in Touch
You can follow the bills that I am sponsoring and co-sponsoring this year by checking out my page on the Maryland General Assembly’s website.
CASH Campaign: The Baltimore CASH Campaign is about to begin preparing taxes for free for families that made under $54k this year. They do such amazing work to help pump EITC funds into the Baltimore economy AND save people from nasty predatory tax preparers AND help people get every last dollar they are entitled to AND help them save for their futures- sometimes for the first time ever. As you know. To see if you qualify and schedule a free appointment, visit www.bmorefreetaxes.org or call 410-234-8008! Spanish speaking services are available at CASA.
WalMart Closure: If you or someone you know needs to access prescription drugs that were being filled at WalMart, please let me know by contacting me at the email/phone below. My office has contacted the City Health Department to help to coordinate access and ensure that no prescriptions go unfilled.
Please feel free to contact me throughout session on the issues that are most important to you, your family, and your community. Our office phone number is 410-841-3319 and email address is Brooke.Lierman@house.state.md.us.
I encourage you to come to visit Annapolis between now and the end of session in April. Please email or call my office to let us know if you are coming. I would be happy to set up a tour for you, and to visit with you while you are here!