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NOW YOU KNOW: End-of-session review part II

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The following is an op-ed piece from Delegates Kathy Szeliga and Ryan Nawrocki.

Welcome back to the 2023 End of Session Review, a continuation of last week’s article! This article outlines additional measures that took place during the Annapolis legislative session – some good and others not so much.

In March, Governor Moore announced that Maryland would move to electric cars only. The ban is phased in over several years such that Maryland will require 50% of the vehicles sold in the state to be electric within the next four years and will have a total ban on the sale of gasoline-powered cars by 2035. We oppose this.

The Clean Trucks Act of 2023 requires Maryland to adopt California standards for selling medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. The Clean Trucks Act requires Maryland to adopt regulations that include the California Advance electric truck regulations, which currently require up to 75% of new mid- and heavy-duty vehicle sales to be electric vehicles by 2035. This will start in 2026, even if heavy-duty trucks do not exist for various industries. This terrible bill will increase the price of any goods delivered by an electric truck. We voted no.

One of Governor Moore’s legislative initiatives was the mandatory requirement to significantly raise Maryland’s minimum wage. His bill would have increased Maryland’s minimum wage to $15 per hour, effective Oct 1st, and increased the wage annually after that. However, the legislature amended the bill significantly. As a result, the annual increases were stopped, and the $15 wage increase was delayed to Jan 1, 2024. This increase will reduce the services seniors on a fixed income can afford, drive up costs, and increase youth unemployment. We supported the amendment to stop the annual increases and voted against this bill.

The crime crisis continues to plague Baltimore City. It is spilling over into the surrounding areas, including ours in Baltimore County. Juvenile crime is an even bigger problem; too many kids have been killed by violence this year in record-breaking numbers. We introduced legislation to bring mandatory sentences to repeat violent offenders using illegal firearms. The liberals in Annapolis refused even to give that bill a vote. Every year for at least a decade, the Republicans introduce a bill to make stealing a gun a felony. It is only a misdemeanor. The bill dies on a party-line vote every year. We will keep trying. The majority party also refuses to close the drug dealer loophole that says if someone is dealing drugs and has an illegal firearm, they cannot be charged with the firearm crime.

Baltimore City’s State’s Attorney Ivan Bates pressed for increased mandatory sentencing for people illegally carrying firearms. The measure did pass. We support that. Unfortunately, the liberals had to put it in a bill with bad concessions. We voted against HB824, which was working to limit your ability to carry a firearm legally. It passed along party lines.

HB1190, Juveniles-Truancy Reduction Pilot Program-Expansion, passed the House unanimously but did not make it through the Senate. This program would have held juveniles and their parents accountable when they chronically miss school. We enthusiastically supported this bill. Students can only learn if they are in school.

SB1, an unconstitutional bill, will prohibit law-abiding citizens from using their wear-and-carry permits just about anywhere. Citizens licensed after a strict application process by the Maryland State Police to wear and carry a firearm would essentially be permitted to carry only on the private property where they live. Largely on party-line votes, the bill passed and is still wildly unconstitutional. It will be challenged in court immediately. We both voted against SB1 and fought vigorously against it. Unfortunately, the Maryland General Assembly has focused on taking away law-abiding citizens’ rights rather than juveniles and felons with illegal guns. Governor Moore signed this bill yesterday with much fanfare. The NRA filed a lawsuit against the state of Maryland shortly after the bill was signed. It is unconstitutional and will certainly be overturned by the courts, only after Maryland has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars or more defending the law.

Despite the odds, we have defeated some bad bills, including Physician Assisted Suicide for the 6th time. However, Maryland passed multiple pieces of legislation that enshrine abortion rights, including adding a constitutional amendment on the 2024 ballot that will allow late-term abortions with little to no restrictions. We will have much work to do together over the next year and a half. Defeating an abortion amendment on the ballot will require massive efforts and strategic messaging throughout the state.

SB552 will give Maryland tax checks to illegal immigrants adding them to the earned income tax credit bill available to citizens. The amount is $530 for those filing without children and an additional $500 per qualified child. HB588 will allow illegal immigrants to join the Maryland Health Exchange insurance program and even get subsidies from taxpayers. We voted against both of these bills.

A new Fun Tax will charge a 6% sales tax to people who rent their private home swimming pool, tennis court, bocce ball court, or any other amenity on an app (SB691). However, suppose that same person rents their backyard pool or amenity without an app. In that case, the renter avoids paying the 6% tax…for now. We voted no.

During the 2022 election, Marylanders voted to legalize recreational marijuana by a wide margin. Legislation for this session needed to be written to implement sales by July 1, 2023. Major concerns came up while crafting and passing the legislation. All medical cannabis businesses will be forced to convert and include recreational marijuana or forfeit their license. The fees are very high to convert all licenses, and they cannot be sold for five years. This is the third time the rules have changed on the current licensees, sending a message to businesses across our state that lawmakers are willing to upend their business models regularly.

In addition, this bill requires CBD/hemp products available in health stores, pharmacies, and grocery stores only to be sold in a marijuana dispensary, except topicals. This places products many use regularly in less accessible locations, especially for our seniors. We both wanted to support this legislation but had to vote against it because it had too many problems. Next year, the legislature must return and fix the issues this bill creates.

We continue to advocate for tax cuts for our seniors to ensure that Maryland is competitive for retirement. Unfortunately, none of the bills we supported made it through. Maryland’s tax structure pushes our retirees to other states with more friendly retirement tax codes. Let us keep our grandparents in Maryland! We did support an amendment that would have taken the Earned Income Tax Credit offered to illegals and given it to our seniors instead, but it sadly died along a party-line vote.

The work is not over during the interim. We continue to work with constituents to listen to your concerns and ideas for legislation for the 2024 session. We stand adjourned until January 10th.

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