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2022 End of Session Review April 2022

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2022 End of Session Review April 2022
 
Election Year and Post-COVID Session
The 444th Session of the Maryland General Assembly concluded at midnight on Monday, April 11, as we adjourned Sine Die (from the Latin “without day”) until January 2023. This session began with many COVID-19 protocols in place including weekly testing so we could conduct Senate business in person. We faced the uncertainty of the redistricting process and took actions in the Maryland General Assembly to support the people in Ukraine including a prayer vigil with Governor Hogan and the presiding legislative officers and passing bipartisan joint legislation to show the State of Maryland stands in solidarity with the government and people of Ukraine.
For the first time in two years, constituents started coming back to Annapolis including Jonathan Bauer of Berlin who was honored on the Senate Floor for his life-saving measures at the Route 90 Bridge in Ocean City; Pastor Dale Brown from the Ocean Pines Community Church as a guest chaplain on the Senate Floor; Crisfield High School students and teachers visiting the State House for a long-anticipated in-person tour; District 38 2021 Teachers of the Year Somerset Logan Webster, Wicomico Dustin Thomas, and Worcester Aarti Sangwan who were presented with official resolutions in the Senate Chamber; and District 38 Maryland Century Farm Families – Lloyd Brittingham Farm in Parsonsburg (1915) and the Dryden Farm in Newark (1918) who were inducted into the Century Farm Program by Governor Larry Hogan at the State House.
 
The majority of my time in Annapolis was focused on my work in the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee and my leadership role as Policy and Communications Chair of the Maryland Senate Republican Caucus. I also serve on the Veterans Caucus and Watermen’s Caucus. Constituent service remains my top priority as my team and I assist constituents in navigating all aspects of COVID-19 recovery from unemployment to small business assistance and providing updates on legislative and Shore priority issues.
Here are some of the highlights from the 2022 legislative session:
 
Cost of Living and Tax Relief
With Marylanders still recovering from the economic impact of the pandemic, record inflation of 8.5% (and climbing) has been driving up the cost of groceries, gas, goods, and services. With a once-in-a-generation budget surplus of $7.5 billion, I continued my advocacy for meaningful cost-of-living and tax relief and returning those funds to the taxpayers.
 
Among the top 2022 session achievements is the passage of Governor Hogan’s retiree tax relief legislation which I have cosponsored for the past several years. The Retirement Tax Elimination Maryland State Senator MARY BETH CAROZZA District 38: Worcester, Wicomico and Somerset Counties Act would include $1.55 billion reduction in taxes over five years for retirees sixty-five and older. Individual Marylanders who make less than $100,000 a year in retirement income will receive a $1,000 subtraction off the income taxes they owe and married couples making $150,000 or less will receive a $1,750 subtraction. That means 80% of Marylanders would receive substantial tax relief and for some it will be a complete elimination of income taxes. Attending this ceremonial bill signing on April 8th with Governor Hogan and the presiding legislative officers has been a highlight of my time in Annapolis after this eight-year push for retiree tax relief.
 
I also championed and cosponsored with my Senate Republican colleagues the complete repeal of the automatic gas tax which would have saved Marylanders $37.5 million in FY23 and $117 million by FY27. Although this legislation failed to advance, there was temporary relief on the gas tax. Republicans and Democrats came together and agreed on a 30-Day Gas Tax Holiday that runs through April 16th and saves Marylanders 36 cents per gallon during that time. Unfortunately, the General Assembly did not act on the Republican proposal to extend the gas tax holiday so Marylanders should be prepared for a large jump in gas prices.
 
Other Tax Cuts
I also supported opportunity tax credits for businesses that hire individuals with barriers to employment as well as sales tax exemptions on diapers, baby products, medical devices, oral care products, and diabetic products that were passed into law this session. I also cosponsored a bill to provide tax credits to support Maryland’s hospitality and tourism industries and supported legislation to allow counties to offer “hometown hero” property tax credits for veterans, first responders, and public safety professionals. Legislation providing a vehicle excise tax exemption to active-duty military ensured that those members stationed in Maryland and those retiring from the State after their service do not have to pay the vehicle excise tax when registering their vehicle in Maryland after it was previously registered in another State.
 
The “Digital Downloads Tax” was passed during the 2020 Session during the worst of the pandemic and was vetoed by Governor Larry Hogan in 2021 but overridden. The “Netflix Tax” charges a new 6% sales tax on digital content including streaming services such as Netflix, Disney+, Spotify, and Hulu as well as digitally downloaded content such as audiobooks, ebooks, and computer software. Senate Bill 735 - Repeal the Netflix Tax Act of 2022 would have returned $100 million a year to Maryland’s working families, but the Senate Democrats, unfortunately, did not move it out of committee.
 
While I strongly supported and am glad, we moved forward with retiree tax relief and other targeted tax relief, I believe more should have been done to return a larger portion of the historic $7.5 billion budget surplus to Maryland taxpayers.
 
Fiscal Year 2023 Budget and Shore Priorities
The General Assembly passed Governor Hogan’s $61 billion fiscal year ‘23 budget which includes $350 million for tax relief for retirees, working families, and small businesses this year; $2.4 billion in the Rainy Day Fund; $50 million to support tourism; $36 million to support economic development and revitalization, and $35 million to restore funding for providers serving victims of crime.
 
Shore priorities include $12.7 million for the Maryland Tourism Development Board to boost travel and tourism in Maryland, $1 million to support small businesses and other economic recovery efforts through the Main Street Maryland Program, $1 million for Junior Achievement Eastern Shore, $1 million to support the University of Maryland Eastern Shore’s School of Pharmacy and Health Professions; $1.9 million for the renovation of Blackwell Hall at Salisbury University, and $11.5 million for the Applied Technology Center at Wor-Wic Community College. In addition, Wor-Wic benefits from an overall $65 million increase in the Community College Cade funding formula.
 
Local projects included in the fiscal year ‘23 capital budget are $150,000 total for a 10-unit hangar at Crisfield Airport in Somerset County; $200,000 total for the renovation and expansion of the Somerset County Courthouse in Princess Anne; $200,000 total for the Delmar Community Center; and $200,000 for safety improvements and renovation of the Ocean Pines Fire Department South Station in Worcester, which is in addition to the $1.35 million included in Governor Hogan’s supplemental budget.
 
A major Shore priority, returning Highway User Revenues back to local jurisdictions, was passed on the last day of the 2022 session. The HUR bills (HB 1187/SB 726), sponsored by Delegate Carl Anderton of Delmar, would increase the share of transportation funding for local jurisdictions from 13.5% to 15.6% in FY ’24 and to 20% by FY ’27. This is record-level funding for local jurisdictions and will bring long-term certainty to local transportation projects. I cosponsored the Senate HUR bill.
 
Local Priorities: Agritourism, Beach Erosion Control, Shrimp, Firewood, Sunday Hunting The Worcester County Agritourism bills (SB 32 which I sponsored, and HB 12 sponsored by Delegates Hartman and Otto) added Worcester County to the list of 18 other jurisdictions in which farm structures used for agritourism activities are exempted from certain commercial building requirements. This legislation, which was passed, is a win-win for both farm families who made need to diversify to pull in additional revenue just to keep the farm and for tourists who will have more options to explore and experience our local farms. Legislation that would add special events and occasions to the statewide agritourism definition passed the Senate but did not clear the House.
 
Senate Bill 64/House Bill 1300, which I sponsored in the Senate and Delegate Wayne Hartman sponsored in the House, allows for the repair, renovations, and limited additions to existing structures within the Beach Erosion Control District. This legislation was needed for the Ocean City Life-Saving Museum, built in 1891, to come into compliance with the federal Americans for Disabilities Act and current fire safety codes. Both bills made final passage which now will allow the $600,000 secured in last year’s State capital budget to be used for ADA and fire safety code upgrades at the Ocean City Life-Saving Museum.
 
I joined with Watermen’s Caucus Chair, Delegate Jay Jacobs, in sponsoring legislation that would allow the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to establish regulations for the new shrimp fishery pilot program approved last year by the Maryland General Assembly. Recent findings have concluded that shrimp are in our Atlantic coast waters and harvesting them will create a new economic boost as well as contribute to local and state revenues.
 
Working with the Maryland Forest Association, I sponsored a bill with Delegate Chris Adams from Wicomico (SB 695 and HB 1140) that would give the Maryland Department of Natural Resources the authority to establish a Voluntary Firewood Treatment Certification Program to allow Maryland’s forest operators to continue to export their firewood products to other states. Legislation sponsored by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources designating acreage for the Pocomoke River Wildlands and the future trail along the Pocomoke State Forest from Snow Hill to Pocomoke also was approved and signed into law by the Governor.
 
For the second year in a row, Delegate Charles Otto and I introduced legislation to allow Sunday hunting in Somerset County for each Sunday of game bird and game mammal season. The Somerset County Sunday hunting bill also includes Sunday hunting on public land leased to a hunt club. While the House had approved a full day for Sunday hunting both last year and this session, the Senate would only pass a Sunday hunting bill that would limit Sunday hunting to 30 minutes before sunrise through 10:30 am. The House version of the Sunday hunting bill in Somerset made final passage. Also, two local Wicomico County bills, supported by the local jurisdictions, were approved allowing for a limited alcohol license for dinner theaters and banquet facilities.
 
Health Care
Expanding access to quality health care continues to be a major priority as Marylanders continue to recover from the pandemic. With the acute workforce shortage in all sectors, I cosponsored and supported legislation to address the severe health care workforce shortage (SB 230 and SB 440, and HB 1208 both passed). My 2022 physician assistant revisions bill to address the significant costs and time delays associated with hiring a physician assistant will be reintroduced next session. A stakeholder’s group of physician assistants and physicians will work on a bill to reduce the impediments facing physician assistants while ensuring that physician assistants are not independent practitioners.
 
I also cosponsored Senate Bill 94–Public Health - Maryland Suicide Fatality Review Committee, introduced by Senator Addie Eckardt, to address the factors contributing to suicide deaths and facilitate system changes to prevent suicide deaths. This legislation was approved and signed into law on April 8th .
 
Parental involvement should be at the forefront of our policy decisions, including medical care and procedures on minors. I introduced legislation (SB 891) which allows parents and guardians to be involved in assessing the risks, benefits, and impacts of non-emergency medical procedures performed on their children, including abortion. Maryland is one of two states, including Delaware, which permits an abortion provider to override parental consent or notification. While this legislation did not advance, I will continue to press for the inclusion of parental rights in all legislation and policies.
 
I voted against and strongly supported the Governor’s veto of the expansive abortion law that allows non-physicians to perform abortions and provides $3.5 million a year on abortion 5 training in addition to the several million dollars a year that Marylander taxpayers already pay for the 4,000 abortions a year. Several commonsense amendments, including those that I introduced, would have required parental notification for minors 13 years old and younger, and information on mental health services to those women showing distress or depression after the abortion, were rejected by the Democrat supermajority. With the passage of Maryland’s new expansive abortion law, I am not proud that Maryland becomes known as an abortion destination.
 
Paid Family Leave
I was disappointed that the Maryland General Assembly rushed and moved forward with Senate Bill 275 – Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program that creates a state-run insurance program, funded by a new $1.6 BILLION payroll tax paid by employers and employees, to cover up to 12 weeks of paid leave in a 12-month period during which time the employer must keep the employee’s job open for that employee. Under some circumstances, individuals could qualify for up to 24 weeks of leave. The bill does not require the employee to have worked for the current employer for any amount of time before taking the leave so an employee could start work and then begin the 12 weeks of leave a few days into the new job. The bill also fails to set the contribution rate in statute, allowing it to change every two years. Businesses already are operating under a tremendous amount of uncertainty with so many employers struggling to find and keep employees. I voted against this bill and voted to support the Governor’s veto as this bill simply fails to balance the needs of the employees and employers, especially during a difficult economic recovery from the pandemic.
 
Crime and Public Safety
As the violent crime crisis continues to plague our State, Governor Hogan and Senate/House Republicans have continued to push for increased funding for Maryland’s law enforcement and for commonsense violent crime legislation. Passage of the Governor’s Re-Fund the Police Initiative, a three-year, $500 million investment in increased support for law enforcement and for increased crime control and victim protection services, was a major accomplishment this session and a real win for the people of Maryland.
 
Despite the Governor and Senate/House Republicans making passage of violent crime legislation among the top priorities this session, the Democrat majority refused to take action on legislation to increase penalties against repeat, violent offenders, making theft of a handgun a felony, and closing the “drug-dealer loophole” where drug dealers are exempted from increased penalties for committing a crime with a firearm. Instead, the Maryland General Assembly with strong Republican opposition passed legislation adding onerous new regulations on lawabiding gun owners and legislation that would put a Constitutional Amendment to legalize recreational marijuana on the November 2022 ballot.
 
As a member of the Workgroup on Child Custody Court Proceedings Involving Child Abuse or Domestic Violence, I remain committed to advancing legislation to better protect the safety and well-being of those children who experience trauma as they go through these court proceedings. This session, legislation requiring training for judges involved in child custody cases involving child abuse or domestic violence made it to final passage. Next session, I look forward to reintroducing my bill that would provide similar training for child custody evaluators who make recommendations to the judges in these child custody cases.
 
One of my priority public safety initiatives has been establishing protocols for law enforcement canines injured in the line of duty to receive emergency medical services as long as no humans need those emergency services at the same time. After I introduced my legislation (SB 70), I was in contact with the leadership of the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems (MIEMSS) who assured me that a pilot emergency medical services protocol for police canines could be put in place without legislation. I secured a commitment from MIEMMS to work with the Worcester County Sheriff’s Department and the Ocean City Fire Department to move forward with this protocol this summer.
 
In an effort to strengthen the retention and recruitment of law enforcement personnel and 9-1-1- specialists, I introduced two Law Enforcement Officers’ Pension System (LEOPS) bills this session that would allow local government jurisdictions to authorize sworn 9-1-1 specialists to become members of the LEOPS and a local bill that would allow the Crisfield Police Department to join LEOPS in 2023. While these bills did not advance this session, I will be working with my colleagues on the Senate Budget Committee during the interim to move forward with both of these initiatives. I cosponsored legislation that clarifies personal protection or self-defense can qualify as a good and substantial reason to carry, wear, or transport a handgun and that establishes a Local Law Enforcement Coordination Council to support our law enforcement. These two measures did not advance this session.
 
Education and Transparency
The Maryland General Assembly considered several pieces of legislation that would increase quality, transparency, and safety in our schools and assist students with college readiness and apprenticeship programs–which I strongly support. I co-sponsored Senate Bill 318–More Opportunities for Career-Focused Students Act of 2022 which requires schools to inform students of apprenticeship opportunities in the same way schools inform students of postsecondary education opportunities. This legislation passed the Senate unanimously but ran out of time in the House for final passage.
 
I introduced Senate Bill 786– Curriculum Transparency and Publication Act with the intention to increase curriculum transparency for parents, taxpayers, and the general public. This would require each public school to post its educational curriculum on its publicly accessible website without being overly burdensome to teachers. Although the Chair of the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee opted not to move my bill, I remain committed to working with the leadership of local school systems, school personnel, and parents regarding questions about curriculum and other education-related issues. Also, I cosponsored “Brynleigh’s Act” which increases awareness of seizure symptoms among school personnel and establishes seizure action plans in the schools, and supported legislation to ensure equivalent access to educational resources for students with disabilities. Both bills made final passage. Finally, I strongly opposed and voted against virtual school legislation (SB 362/HB 1163) that would eliminate the Eastern Shore of Maryland Educational Consortium’s blended virtual education program that serves over 360 students from seven of the nine Shore counties.
 
Environment
The legislature passed a sweeping climate change bill that will have a devastating economic impact without making a meaningful impact on climate change. This bill accelerates Maryland’s already ambitious environmental goals by setting out to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 60 percent of 2006 levels by 2031, an increase from the current goal of 40 percent. I supported amendments to minimize the financial impact and voted against the final bill.
 
I cosponsored legislation (SB 541) to preserve Maryland’s parklands, farms, forests, and open space, and supported several other bills that would provide direct support to local jurisdictions for sustainability goals (SB 14); establish a school grant program (SB 124) to reduce and compost school waste; and the George “Walter” Taylor Act (SB 273) that will protect Marylanders and the environment from exposure to toxic PFAS chemicals.
 
Looking back over the past session, there usually is one unifying bill that stands out for bringing people together. My pick for the 2022 session is the passage of Senate Bill 5 – Tuskegee Airmen Commemoration Day. This bill officially honors the Tuskegee Airmen, comprised of nearly 1,000 Black pilots who flew during World War II and were supported by more than 15,000 cooks, security personnel, and other staff. The Tuskegee Airmen are credited with integrating the military and their exploits during World War II, including their actions during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, are legendary. This commemoration will allow the Tuskegee Airmen’s story of bravery and leadership to be shared with future generations of Marylanders.
 
In closing, I remain grateful for the opportunity to represent my constituents as a Maryland State Senator. Please continue to share your views and your requests for assistance with me at marybeth.carozza@senate.state.md.us or at www.marybeth.carozza.com. I look forward to seeing you back home.
 
In Service,
 
 
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