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Week Eight: Joint Republican Caucus Bills, Carozza Bills, Minimum Wage/Tip Credit Bills, etc

2023 Maryland General Assembly Update
Week Eight: Joint Republican Caucus Bills, Carozza Bills, Minimum Wage/Tip Credit Bills, Teachers of the Year,
and a Sneak Preview
The Joint Republican Caucus held a March 1st press conference to highlight legislation aimed to combat Maryland’s violent crime crisis, including legislation to make theft of a handgun a more serious crime.
Currently, Maryland’s theft statute is based on the value of the stolen item, meaning that the theft of an item valued at less than $1,500 is a misdemeanor. I cosponsored Senate Bill 564, that would classify the theft of a handgun as a felony offense regardless of the value of the handgun.
I also cosponsored Senate Bill 744, which would raise the penalty for using a firearm in a violent crime to a felony; remove the drug dealer loophole where drug dealers receive a lighter sentence than someone else convicted of the same offense; increase penalties for illegally possessing a firearm to 5 years or $10,000 fine on first offense, and then to 10 years or a $10,000 fine thereafter; and make knowingly selling a firearm to someone who plans to use it to commit a crime a felony.
As the violent crime crisis continues to plague our State, we must continue to push for legislation that increases penalties against repeat, violent offenders. We still have several weeks to go with this year’s session, and we on both sides of the political aisle should make it a priority to pass these crime bills now.
I also am cosponsoring Senate Bill 18, which would establish a Police Retention and Recruitment Workgroup to identify and examine issues and factors potentially contributing to the decline in police officer retention statewide and to make recommendations that would boost law enforcement retention and recruitment.
The Joint Republican Caucus also has been taking the lead in increasing the Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today budget, also known as the BOOST Program, which provides scholarships to low-income and at-risk youth to attend a non-public school. According to the January BOOST report, 3,268 students received scholarships during the 2021-2022 school year. Over half were students of color, 247 were special education students, and 1,030 were English language learners.
This program provides low-income families the same choice that high-income families have in deciding how their children should be educated. Every child has a unique learning style, and while we need good public schools, we also need to give every child the chance to learn in their optimal environment, and the BOOST Program has been an effective option for many Maryland students.
Unfortunately, Governor Wes Moore reduced the BOOST Program by 20% in his FY24 Budget and the General Assembly has started phasing out the BOOST Program through the budget process rather than the legislative process, meaning there will be no public hearing where impacted families can voice their concerns. Despite this barrier, several students who participate in the BOOST Program visited Annapolis on Thursday to protest Governor Moore’s BOOST cuts.
Even though the $10 million BOOST Program is only 0.11% of Maryland’s $8.8 billion public schools’ budget, the Teacher’s Union has lobbied heavily against the BOOST Program, claiming that this meager fraction puts existing public schools in danger.
Republicans have introduced House Bill 737 – The Right to Learn Act, which would officially codify, fully-fund, and stop the phase-out of the BOOST Program. The Right to Learn Act also allows students trapped in failing schools, meaning a school that received two stars or less on their Maryland School Report Card for two consecutive years, to seek other education options.
Families who elect to seek alternative options would receive the per-pupil spending equivalent in an Education Savings Account from which they could fund qualified education expenses such as tuition for a public school in another jurisdiction, a private or parochial school, or a homeschooling curriculum.
The Senate Finance Committee voted unanimously in favor of Senate Bill 135 on Wednesday, which would establish an Ocean City promoter’s license in Worcester County. The bill also authorizes the Worcester County Board of License Commissioners to issue the license to a for-profit organization to sell beer, wine, and liquor at entertainment events within the town limits of Ocean City.
We want to attract first-class performances and festivals while maintaining the safest possible service and sale of alcohol at these events. This bill would encourage a longer tourism season, leading to more full-time jobs, more investment, and more economic growth._
I also testified in strong support of Senate Bill 642 before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on Thursday. As amended, this local bill would allow out-of-state recreational vehicle dealers to participate in vehicle shows for motor homes or recreational trailers that take place within Worcester County. These out-of-state dealers would not be allowed to take deposits or point-of-sales but would be allowed to display their products. The closest in-state dealer is 74 miles away from Ocean City and therefore, many out-of-state dealers from Delaware and Virginia are physically closer and more accessible.
By allowing out-of-state RV dealers to display at Ocean City’s first RV show in the fall, more people would be interested in attending the show, which boosts tourism overall, and also boosts sales for those Maryland RV dealers who can sell RVs at the show.
The Senate Education, Energy, and Environment Committee on Wednesday heard Senate Bill 316, which requires that financial literacy courses be available in public schools while giving local flexibility and with free teacher training provided by the Maryland Council on Economic Education. I cosponsored a similar financial literacy bill. 
The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on Thursday for Senate Bill 803 which would prohibit the use of a tip credit for tipped employees beginning July 1, 2027, and would instead require former tipped employees to receive the State minimum wage.
Currently, restaurants pay tipped employees a base hourly wage that their tips are then added to. If this combined wage is not equal to the minimum wage, the employer is already required by law to make up the difference.
This would be detrimental to restaurants, which already operate on razor-thin margins, who are still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. This also hurts restaurant employees in Ocean City, including food runners, bussers, servers, and bartenders. With tips, their hourly range is $17-50 an hour. If Maryland is moving away from a tipping industry as this bill suggests, these employees will have far less earning potential.”
In conjunction with Senate Bill 803, Governor Moore introduced Senate Bill 555, known as the Fair Wage Act of 2023, which would establish a State minimum wage rate of $15 per hour beginning October 1, 2023, and would require future wage increases to be tied to inflation. This is the third time in the past decade that lawmakers have debated the State minimum wage and would move up the current timetable negotiated during Governor Hogan’s administration by two years.
The current timetable has been well established and businesses all over Maryland are preparing for 2025. We are already dealing with skyrocketing costs due to supply chain issues and unprecedented inflation. Moving the timetable up is simply taking advantage of small businesses who are still feeling the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic.
From left to right: Kristin Cashman of Pocomoke High School (Teacher of the Year for Worcester County), Senator Carozza (R-District 38), Rebecca Matthews of Wicomico High School (Teacher of the Year for Wicomico County), and Jennifer Carey of Carter G. Woodson Elementary (Teacher of the Year for Somerset County).
Elmo also paid a visit to the Maryland Senate on Friday to celebrate Read Across America Day when the United States recognizes and celebrates the value of literacy. Teachers encourage students to participate year-round in the Read Across America program through events, partnerships, and reading resources in order to expand their knowledge of the world around them. 2023 marks the 25th anniversary of Read Across America.
Americans have always been avid readers since the American Revolution. said Carozza. When Ben Franklin was Postmaster General, he set up a system of overnight mailing, allowing Americans to be informed faster than their British counterparts. It’s exciting to see that students continue to learn that knowledge is power.
The Delmarva Chicken Association in partnership with Farm Credit hosted Chicken Day in Annapolis on Tuesday for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic. Delmarva has been growing meat chicken for 100 years and the chicken industry has a $5 billion annual economic impact on Delmarva.
Photo: L -R) Delmarva Chicken Association leaders Holly Porter (left), Zach Evans, Senator Carozza (R-District 38) and Delegate Otto (R-District 38A), and Bill Massey (far right) of Mountaire Farms on Chicken Day in Annapolis.
Newton Bui of Worcester County, a grower with Mountaire Farms, provided the chicken that was served to Maryland’s elected officials and staff.
Several other locals visited Annapolis this week including Mayor Meehan of Ocean City; ; Eddie Lee, Realtor from Salisbury; Alishia Potter, realtor and former Delmar resident; students attending Towson University including Jayden Johnstone, Jisela Ramos, Steven Baker, Stephany Zetterstrom, and Lezah Gannon; and members of the Oyster Alliance including Dan Worrell of Worcester County.
The Senate Education, Energy, and Environment Committee will hold hearings on Senate Bills 796 and 824, which would authorize the Department of Natural Resources to allow an individual in Wicomico and Worcester County, respectively, to hunt on each Sunday of game bird and game mammal season.
Given that the Maryland General Assembly has approved Sunday hunting for several other Maryland counties, it’s only fair that Worcester and Wicomico have the same rights. This legislation would give Worcester and Wicomico County families more time to hunt during a limited season for game bird and game mammals.
The House Health and Government Operations will hold hearings on House Bills 727 and 722, known as the Physician Assistant Modernization and Parity Acts, which would update the laws regarding the working relationship between Physicians and Physician Assistants to better reflect current practices in the post COVID-19 pandemic world. I am the Senate sponsor of these bills.
Additional Resources
Following Legislation and Testifying
Not only does the General Assembly provide multiple ways to participate in your state government proceedings, but a full set of videos is also available online:
  • Understanding the MD General Assembly
  • Finding your legislator
  • Searching for bills by number, sponsor, subject matter
  • Understanding a bill
  • Tracking a bill
  • Searching media
  • Creating a personal MyMGA Account
  • Witness Sign Up-to testify on Bills
I look forward to hearing from you soon! Please contact me on issues important to you.
Don't forget to visit me on the web at:
In Service,
Mary Beth Carozza
State Senator-District 38
Worcester, Wicomico, and Somerset

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