Delegate Addie Eckardt’s Final 2009 Legislative Wrap Up

“The 426th Session of the Maryland General Assembly ended Sine Die on April 13, 2009.

The budget with the Americans for Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) revenues built in for both the fiscal 2009 and 2010 State budget of $14.1 billion includes $2.5 billion in federal funds resulting from the ARRA. Of this amount, $1.1 billion reflects a higher federal match for the State’s Medicaid program, $296 million funds increases in the State’s education aid formulas, $242 million supports highway and mass transit projects, $712 million enhances existing federal programs, and $81 million supports costs traditionally funded with general funds.

In March the Board of Revenue Estimates lowered the general fund revenues forecast by almost $1.2 billion for fiscal 2009 and 2010. Consequently, current revenues are projected to decline 2.3% in fiscal 2009 and another 1.6% in fiscal 2010. Although there is a $1.6 billion, or 21.1%, increase in federal funds, the total budget grows by3.5%.

Education aid will be over $5.5 billion, an increase of $131.7 million, or 2.7%. Utilizing education aid allocated under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, all the Bridge to Excellence formulas are fully funded. This includes 100% funding for the Geographic Cost of Education Index to address cost differences among school systems. These amounts do not include an additional $193 million in ARRA funds that will flow through the State budget to local school systems. Maryland’s State colleges and universities are provided funding to hold in-state undergraduate tuition rates level for the fourth straight year. Aid for community colleges is one of the few areas of the budget that is increasing, as $7.7 million is provided to accommodate enrollment growth.

Medicaid funding grows over $200 million, and there is no reduction in services or eligibility for services. Funding in fiscal 2010 includes $652 million from the higher federal match established under the ARRA of 2009.

Bay Restoration Funds for enhanced nutrient removal total $130 million, and there is over $145 million in additional federal funds for the water quality and drinking water loan funds.

The budget actions result in a fund balance of almost $100 million. In addition the balance in the State’s Rainy Day Fund is estimated to be $651 million, or 5%, of general fund revenues at the end of fiscal 2010.

The local impact of the budget will be primarily in a reduction in Highway user revenues, costs of Real and Business Property Valuation program and cost sharing for the Office of Information Technology.

The Capital Budget authorizes $1.1 billion in the 2010 Maryland Consolidated Bond Loan program. Included are federal and special funds ($270million) identified as PayGo Funds.

LOCAL BILLS:

HB 111/SB19 (passed) increases the Dorchester County Sheriff’s salary by $1500 each year staring with the beginning of the new term in 2011 until 2014.

HB110/SB (passed) repeals the termination date on Dorchester County’s 3-year extension, from 12 to 15 years, on the length of operation of school busses. Dorchester County could save about $46,800 annually.

HB 112/SB331 (passed) changes the time of the year that the Dorchester County Board of Education elects its officers from the beginning of each calendar year to December of each year.

HB1507/SB330 passed and enables the Dorchester County Board of Education to provide Health Benefits for the elected school board members to take affect following the 2010 election.

HB425/ SB 333 passed and authorizes the Dorchester County Board of License Commissioners to issue Class B caterer’s licenses and beer and wine sampling or tasting (BWST) licenses, establishes license fees, creates additional exemptions from the geographic restrictions for certain premises, and authorizes the alcoholic beverages inspector in Dorchester County to issue summonses for witnesses to appear at inquiries and hearings conducted by the board. It increases the compensation for the board’s chairman and regular members to take effect at the beginning of the next term of office. The bill also exempts Secretary and Cambridge from the 300ft prohibition to establish a Class B Restaurant liquor license.

HB436/SB332 which would create a Class W Winery liquor license and enable a local winery to make wine, taste and sell wine at their establishment failed. The Winery bills are viewed as having statewide implications and would violate the long standing commitment to the three tiered system that clearly defines in law and separates those businesses that produce beer, wine, or alcoholic beverages from those who distribute and from those businesses who are in the retail sales of beer, wine or alcoholic beverages. This bill provides an economic development tool that would stimulate new business for the county and the state.

HB727 passed and extends the operation of school busses in Caroline County from 12 years to 15 years which could save the Caroline County Board of Education $44,000 annually.

HB455 Caroline County Elected School Board was amended to establish a “”hybrid”” Board of Education consisting of three elected, two appointed members and adds two nonvoting student members to the board. The three members will be elected at the November 2010 general election. The bill also increases the annual compensation for board members.

HB 43 (passed) allows school buses in Talbot County to operate for 15 years. The Talbot County Board of Education could save about $40,000 in student transportation expenditures annually.

STATEWIDE BILLS:

HB 387 Vehicle Laws-Lawful Status in the United States- Material Compliance with Federal Requirements passed 77-60 after extended debate and multiple amendments that if adopted would have promoted citizen safety as intended by the passage of the Federal Real ID Act. As the bill passed it creates essentially a two tiered drivers license system and grants permanent amnesty for those individuals who are illegal immigrants.

HB 72 (passed) and prohibits a person from using a text messaging device to write, send, or read a text message while operating a motor vehicle. I voted for this bill.

HB757 that I introduced (failed)and would clearly define fatigued driving and increase the penalty for this offence. Over the years several bills have been introduced to increase penalties for deaths caused by vehicle or vessel incidents, but all have failed.

ENVIRONMENT:

HB 315 Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act of 2009 passed and requires a plan of implementation for reduction of greenhouse gases by 2020 following a statewide inventory based on the 2006 data. I support.

HB 136, HB49, SB917/HB929 pertaining to pesticides and fertilizer all have failed.

SB 553/HB 609 (passed) establishes labeling requirements for lawn fertilizer beginning 2011, prohibits selling or distributing lawn fertilizer that is not low phosphorous fertilizer, requires specified manufacturers to reduce specified phosphorous levels, and institute reporting mechanisms.

HB 176 will require any person installing a replacement septic system in the Critical Areas and any new construction to use technology capable of reducing total nitrogen by fifty percent. I voted against. The increased costs may not be covered by existing grants.

HEALTH CARE:

Bills that would change the existing Maryland Institute for Emergency Services System (MIEMSS) all failed. The current system has been reviewed, changes made in the existing protocols and many believe there is no need to make changes at this time. A bill did pass that establishes a Joint Legislative Oversight Committee.

The Eastern Shore Delegation introduced HB1319 to establish a Rural Primary Health Residency Program to recruit and retain physicians in our rural areas. It was determined that initial steps for this project could be completed through a workgroup who will report back to the House Committee before next session.

BILLS THAT I CO-SPONSORED:

HB 714/SB627passed and provides loan assistance repayment for practicing physicians while establishing a new fund.

HB521/SB464 passed and includes Peninsula Regional Hospital System as a Rural Trauma Center for the purpose of physician reimbursements from the established fund.

HB503 would establish a Commission on Autism and would provide an inventory of services and resources including the cost for individuals affected by Autism.

HB 173 passed and establishes an Athletic Trainers Advisory Committee as a sub unit of the State Board of Physicians and provides for credentialing, training, supervision and defined the practice parameters.

HB 1261 passed and incorporates HB 8 and prohibits the distribution and possession of Salvia Divinorum to individuals under the age of 21 and establishes the appropriate and corresponding penalties.

SB 261/HB 299 (passed) establishes a mandatory 6-month driver’s license suspension for a person under 21 who breaks the law by possessing, consuming, or consuming and exhibiting the effects of consuming an alcoholic beverage.

HB 251 failed, which I cosponsored was introduced to expand the authority of a court to order the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) to suspend the license of an individual under age 21 for misrepresentation of age to purchase or otherwise obtain alcoholic beverages. This bill was a priority for Talbot County to reduce underage drinking.

HB 1211 that I sponsored, failed and could have delayed the implementation of the new Optical scan electronic voting machine system until after the 2010 election due to the additional cost to the rural counties while the counties are still paying for the touch screen system… Given other changes proposed for our voting system, the state could be facing a Perfect Storm going into the 2010 elections.

HB 103/SB 175 that I sponsored, passed and directs the Department of Natural Resources to apply to the Army Corps of Engineers for a permit to dredge fossil oyster shell.

HB 452 (passed) requires charitable organizations with gross annual incomes of more than $500,000 to submit an audit performed by an independent certified public accountant (CPA). Charitable organizations with gross incomes between $200,000 and $500,000 must submit a review by a CPA; the Secretary of State may require an audit or review if the amount of gross income is less than $500,000.The bill takes effect June 1, 2009.

OTHER BILLS:

SB 279 (passed) restricts the death penalty to cases in which the State presents the Court or jury with (1) biological evidence or DNA evidence that links the defendant with the act of murder; (2) a videotaped, voluntary interrogation and confession of the defendant to the murder; or (3) a video recording that conclusively links the defendant to the murder. The bill prohibits a defendant from being sentenced to death if the State relies solely on evidence provided by eyewitnesses in its case. I voted against.

HB298/SB 264 would require service fees to be included in items for bargaining in collective bargaining units in the state. This change could require state employees who are not currently members of a collective bargaining unit to pay a mandatory “”service fee”” without any specific vote in the process. I voted against.

SB277 passed and authorizes the use of speed cameras in school zones and work areas only throughout the states. I voted against.

HB1181/SB467 was re-referred to committee after lengthy debate and reconsideration and did not pass. The bill would require a court, after a temporary or final protective order hearing, to order the expungement of court records about the proceeding under specified circumstances. The bill was not acceptable to Domestic Violence Groups.”

Comments