Senator Addie Eckardt, District 37 reports

Submitted to the Dorchester Banner
State Senator Addie Eckardt (R-37) reports on the results of this year’s General Assembly.

ANNAPOLIS — Senator Adelaide C. (Addie) Eckardt (R), District 37, representing Dorchester, Caroline, Talbot and Wicomico counties, sends this dispatch from her Annapolis office:

The Maryland General Assembly adjourned on April 8, 2019 in memory and honor of House of Delegates Speaker Michael Busch, who passed away the day prior to Sine Die; Mike Busch was strong leader, a dedicated public servant, and most importantly, a good man. I served with Chairman Busch for eight years on the House Economic Matters Committee as well as under his leadership as Speaker for twelve years when a member of the House Appropriations Committee. We will forever remember and cherish the legacy he leaves the great State of Maryland.

Thank you to all who participated in making this year’s legislative process so successful. Despite some areas of disagreement, both the Administration and the General Assembly were able to find common ground and work in a bipartisan fashion on many important policy initiatives to benefit Marylanders during this productive session. Below, please find a summary of key legislation that I sponsored or supported, as well as other bills of interest from this legislative session. During the interim, please do not hesitate to reach out to my office to discuss recent or future legislation.

Fiscal Year 2020 Operating Budget
Again, I am proud to serve on the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee to help allocate funding for the final FY 2020 budget ($46.6 billion), a product of compromise between both parties, the Governor, and the legislature. There is an increase in state spending by 3.31 percent over fiscal year 2019 but this increase is below the 3.75 percent target cap set by the Spending Affordability Committee. There is an increase in the state’s Rainy Day Fund to 6.0 percent of general fund revenues, previously 5 percent, and is in line with the recommendations of the Spending Affordability Committee but below the 6.5 percent proposed by the Governor. Including the surplus left in the General Fund ($118.2 million).

Regarding education, state support for K-12 public schools totals $7 billion in Fiscal Year 2020, with direct aid to local school systems increasing by 7.5 percent. Between both the Capital and Operating budgets, spending for school facility needs, such as construction and renovation, totals $500 million.

Resources are dedicated to the preliminary recommendations of the Kirwan Commission, with spending on recommendations totaling $255 million in Fiscal Year 2020; in FY 2021, legislators have set aside $355.3 million for the recommendations of the Commission, and set aside $370 million in FY 2022, with an additional $130 million allocated if certain revenues are raised. This spending is fiscally responsible and draws from existing revenue sources.

The budget meets the initiatives of Governor Hogan and, for the fifth year in a row, Marylanders will see no tax increases. The Governor’s $13 million initiative to fight violent crime in Baltimore is fully funded and this budget also fully funds the expansion of the successful More Jobs for Marylanders tax credit program to Opportunity Zones designated in the State. Funds are directed to create positions in the Office of the Inspector General to ensure accountability in education spending.

Additionally, funding for BOOST, a program to assist low-income students in enrolling in private schools, is in line with previous year’s funding. This represents a $3.4 million reduction from the Governor’s proposal, but is greater than the House proposal, which would have reduced funding $4.5 million.

The State’s Medicaid funding totals $11.2 billion, and increases funding for combating the opioid epidemic by $80 million. The budget provides a 3.5 percent rate increase for providers serving those with behavioral health needs and the developmentally disabled. State employees are provided a 3 percent for July 1, 2019, and with a 5 percent increase for law enforcement and a 6% increase for correctional officers.

The budget is balanced despite a March revenue write-down of $268.5 million. The state still faces projected structural deficits over the next four fiscal years with spending commitments outpacing revenues by $829 million in Fiscal Year 2021. The structural deficit in future years is largely due to mandated spending legislation passed by the General Assembly. The Department of Legislative Services estimates that 70% of all spending is mandatory.

Local Initiatives in the Capital Budget
Senator Eckardt’s 2019 Passed Sponsored Legislation
• SB 6 – Wicomico County – Alcoholic Beverages – Basket of Cheer Permit authorizes the Wicomico County Board of License Commissioners to issue basket of cheer permits to qualifying nonprofit organizations. The bill takes effect July 1, 2019.
• SB 19 – Wicomico County – Alcoholic Beverages – Bed and Breakfast License establishes a Class B-BB (bed and breakfast) on-sale beer and wine license for the County. The bill takes effect July 1, 2019.
• SB 111 – Dorchester County – Alcoholic Beverages – Class A Licenses authorizes the Dorchester County Board of Licenses Commissioners to issue Class A beer, wine, and liquor licenses to holders of Class B and Class D licenses. The bill takes effect July 1, 2019.
• SB 178 – Behavioral Health Programs – Medical Directors – Telehealth requires regulations governing behavioral health programs to include a provision authorizing a behavioral health program to satisfy any regulatory requirement that the medical director be on site through the use of telehealth by the director.
• SB 509 – Property Tax – In Rem Foreclosure – Vacant and Abandoned Property authorizes counties and municipalities to adopt the In Rem system, which would eliminate the tax sale certificate process on all types of vacant buildings. The In Rem process can cut the timeline in half and is a good way for interested counties to have more control over the outcome of the property.
• SB 524 – Maryland Medical Assistance Program – Telemedicine – Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners and Psychiatrists includes psychiatric nurse practitioners who provide Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) or mobile treatment services (MTS) as those eligible to receive reimbursement for telemedicine health care services.
• SB 634 – Electric Cooperatives – Powers – Conducting or Communications Facilities authorizes electric cooperatives to lease out their backbone of excess broadband fiber to last mile internet service providers, therefore, having a much shorter distance to then travel with their own fiber or wireless devices. This is a unique initiative offered on behalf of our local electric cooperatives to expand coverage and connect more of our rural areas through internet, broadband, and service.
• SB 888 – Dorchester County – Sunday Hunting – Deer Firearms Season authorizes the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to allow a person in Dorchester County to hunt deer on the second and third Sunday of the deer firearm season on private property. The bill takes effect July 1, 2019.
• SB 889 – Dorchester County – Sunday Hunting – Deer Bow Hunting Season authorizes the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to allow a person in Dorchester County to hunt deer on Sunday during the bow hunting season from the first Sunday in October through the second Sunday in January on private property. The bill takes effect July 1, 2019.
• SB 890 – Dorchester County – Sunday Hunting – Deer Muzzle Loader Season authorizes the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to allow a person in Dorchester County to hunt deer on a Sunday during the deer muzzleloader hunting season on private property. The bill takes effect July 1, 2019.
• SB 920 – Talbot County – Alcoholic Beverages – Election Day repeals the prohibition on the sale or provision of alcoholic beverages within an election district in Talbot County on election days during the hours when the polls are open. The bill takes effect July 1, 2019.
• SB 943 – Talbot County – Alcoholic Beverages – Substitute Member for Board of License Commissioners authorizes the Governor to appoint a substitute member to the Talbot County Board of License Commissioners, in the instance that a member is unable to perform their duties for an extended period of time. The bill takes effect July 1, 2019.
• SB 944 – Behavioral Health Programs – Outpatient Mental Health Centers – Medical Directors allows for psychiatric nurse practitioners to serve as the medical director of an outpatient mental health center, including through the use of telehealth.
Schools and Education
• SB 529/HB 87 – State Board of Education –Membership — Teacher and Parent Members increases the membership of the State Board of Education from 12 to 14 members, by adding 1 certified teacher who is actively teaching and 1 parent of a student enrolled in a public school, and establishes processes to appoint these members. This bill takes effect June 1, 2019.
• SB 1030 – The Education Blueprint for Maryland’s Future establishes The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future as State education policy, based on the recommendations of the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education (Commission). The intent of the bill is to transform the State’s early childhood, primary, and secondary education system into a world-class system through the following policy areas: early support for young children and families, high-quality and diverse teachers and educators, college and career readiness, additional resources and services to those students who need them, and a strong accountability system to make sure the Blueprint is effectively administered. Funding is also identified for the upcoming years in this legislation.
Public Safety
• SB 113/HB 92 – Public Safety – Handgun Permits – Payment of Fees allows for any method of payment approved by the Secretary of State Police to be accepted when paying the handgun permit fee.
• SB 284/HB 1090 – 9-1-1 Specialists – Compensation and Benefits expands eligibility of an existing local property tax credit for 9-1-1 public safety telecommunicators. In addition, the bill states that it is the intent of the General Assembly that jurisdictions employing 9-1-1 specialists appropriately classify and compensate workers. The bill takes effect June 1, 2019, and applies to taxable years after June 30, 2019.

• SB 339/HB 397 – Public Safety – 9-1-1 Emergency Telephone System (Carl Henn’s Law) enhances and alters the regulatory framework that governs the State’s 9-1-1 system. Among other things, the bill expands the responsibilities of the Emergency Number Systems Board (ENSB), increases the State 9-1-1 fee, authorizes a local government to increase its 9-1-1 fee under specified circumstances, and applies both fees to each separate outbound call voice channel capacity instead of each account. Currently, people pay a monthly surcharge of $1 on one phone bill but this legislation increases the fee to $1.25 per phone line on a family plan; this will help fund Next Generation 911, an internet-based system that will improve location accuracy and eventually let callers send video and other multimedia messages to call centers.

• SB 541/HB 486 – Education – Personnel Matters – Child Sexual Abuse and Sexual Misconduct Prevention sets forth a process, including requirements for specific documentation regarding whether an individual has ever been disciplined for allegations of “child sexual abuse” or “sexual misconduct,” for the hiring of public school and nonpublic school employees who have direct contact with minors. The bill takes effect July 1, 2019.
• SB 569/HB 1268 – Public Safety – Rape Kit Testing Grant Fund – Established establishes a Rape Kit Testing Grant Fund to provide “law enforcement agencies” with funding for testing of sexual assault evidence collection kits by “forensic laboratories.” The Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention (GOCCP) must administer the fund, establish and publish procedures to distribute funding and report by September 1 each year to the General Assembly regarding the distribution of funds from the fund. A co-sponsor of this legislation, Senator Eckardt has also recently been assigned to the Maryland Sexual Assault Evidence Kit Policy and Funding Committee.

• HB 641 – Criminal Law – Sexual Contact With an Animal – Aggravated Cruelty to Animals defines “sexual contact with an animal” and expands consequences generally relating to aggravated cruelty to animals.
• SB 853/HB 433 – Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission – Police Officer Certification – Eligibility (Freedom to Serve Act) modifies the eligibility requirements for a person to be certified as a law enforcement officer by the Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission (MPTSC) to require that an individual be (1) a U.S. citizen or (2) a permanent legal resident of the United States and an honorably discharged veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces, provided that the individual has applied to obtain U.S. citizenship and the application is still pending approval. MPTSC must terminate the commission of a public officer who fails to obtain U.S. citizenship as required.

• SB 1000/HB 1343 – Public Safety – Handgun Permit Review Board – Repeal repeals the Handgun Permit Review Board in the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS). A person who is denied a permit to wear, carry, or transport a handgun, or a renewal of such a permit, or whose permit is revoked or issued with restrictions by the Secretary of State Police, may request to appeal the decision to the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH), instead of requesting that the board review the decision and then appealing the board’s decision to OAH. The bill (1) authorizes an individual with a hearing request pending before the board on the effective date of the bill, after specified notice by DPSCS, to file an amended request for a hearing by OAH and (2) requires OAH to schedule and conduct a de nova hearing on the matter, as specified. By January 1, 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022, OAH must report to the Governor and the General Assembly on specified items relating to such hearings.
• HB 1167 – Labor and Employment – Apprenticeship Career Training Pilot Program for Formerly Incarcerated Individuals – Establishment establishes the aforementioned training program in the Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation (DLLR) which must administer the pilot program and provide grants on a competitive basis to employers that employ formerly incarcerated apprentices who meet specified criteria in Baltimore City and Dorchester County.

Health Care
• SB 299/HB 124 – Tanning Devices – Use by Minors prohibits an owner, employee, or operator of a tanning facility from allowing a minor younger than age 18 to use a tanning device. The restrictions on tanning facilities do not apply to the use of any “phototherapy device” by a health care practitioner acting within the scope of their license, or by order of a health care practitioner acting within the scope of their license. Violators are subject to existing civil penalties.
• SB 301/HB 145 – Hospitals – Patient’s Bill of Rights establishes additional duties for a hospital administrator and specifies the minimum required contents of a hospital patient’s bill of rights. The Office of Health Care Quality (OHCQ) must monitor the compliance of each hospital with the patient’s bill of rights requirements. The Maryland Department of Health (MDH) must report to the General Assembly on hospital compliance with the bill’s provisions by January 1, 2021.
• SB 447/HB 471 – Health Occupations – Requirements for the Practice of Optometry – Miscellaneous Revisions alters provisions relating to the practice of optometry for therapeutically certified optometrists.
• HB 754 – Health Insurance and Pharmacy Benefits Managers – Cost Pricing and Reimbursement is an emergency bill that prohibits a contract between a pharmacy benefits manager (PBM), a pharmacy services administration organization, or a group purchasing organization (GPO) and a pharmacy from becoming effective unless certain measures have been taken.

• HB 759 – Pharmacy Benefits Managers – Pharmacy Choice prohibits a pharmacy benefits manager (PBM) from requiring that a beneficiary use a specific pharmacy to fill a prescription if (1) the PBM has an ownership in the pharmacy or (2) the pharmacy has an ownership interest in the PBM. The bill takes effect June 1, 2019.
• HB 768 – Health – Prescription Drug Affordability Board establishes a Board to protect State residents and other stakeholders from the high costs of prescription drug products. The bill takes effect July 1, 2019.
• SB 802/HB 814 – Maryland Easy Enrollment Health Insurance Program establishes a Maryland Health Insurance Option and a Maryland Health Insurance Option Fund to identify coverage through an income tax check off; based on response, resources could then be provided for enrollment.
• SB 946 – State Prescription Drug Benefits – Retiree Benefits – Revisions establishes prescription drug out-of-pocket (OOP) reimbursement or catastrophic coverage programs for specified State retirees, dependents, or surviving dependents who are enrolled in a Medicare prescription drug benefit plan. State employees hired after June 30, 2011, remain ineligible for most prescription drug coverage from the State when they retire, except for a new program that reimburses OOP costs for life-sustaining drugs not covered by Medicare. By July 1, 2019, the Secretary of Budget and Management must notify specified individuals of their eligibility to enroll in the programs. The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) must provide specified one-on-one counseling to Medicare-eligible retirees.

Veterans Affairs
• SB 105 – Maryland Veterans Service Animal Program – Therapy Horses expands the Maryland Veterans Service Animal Program to include nonprofit training entities that use trained therapy horses for interaction with veterans. The expansion allows such organizations to receive funding from the Maryland Veterans Service Animal Program Fund. The bill takes effect June 1, 2019.
• SB 521 – Veteran Suicide Prevention – Comprehensive Action Plan requires the Maryland Department of Health (MDH) to develop a comprehensive action plan to increase access to and availability of professional veteran health services to prevent veteran suicides; by July 1, 2020, MDH must report on changes needed to implement the action plan.
• SB 810/HB 672 – Housing –Local Housing Grant Program for Homeless Veterans and Survivors of Domestic Violence establishes the Local Housing Grant Program for Homeless Veterans and Survivors of Domestic Violence to provide grants to counties for housing vouchers to be given to homeless veterans and survivors of domestic violence.
• SB 816/HB 81 – Property Tax Credit – Surviving Spouse of Veteran alters the eligibility criteria of a local option property tax credit for specified members of the U.S. Armed Forces and surviving spouses by requiring the surviving spouse to be at least 65 years old to be eligible for the property tax credit. In addition, the bill enables a surviving spouse who is under age 65 to continue to receive the property tax credit if the surviving spouse qualified and received the property tax credit before June 1, 2019. The bill takes effect June 1, 2019 and applies to taxable years beginning after June 30, 2019.

• SB 852 – Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation – Veterans and Military Service Members and Spouses – Occupational Licenses requires the Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation (DLLR) to issue an expedited license to an eligible service member, veteran, or military spouse, as defined, within 60 days after receiving a completed application. The definitions of veteran and military spouse are altered to remove specified time limitations. DLLR and its occupational and professional licensing units must prominently publish the time period established under the bill on their respective websites, in addition to other related information.
• HB 1093 – Income Tax – Subtraction Modification – Retirement Income specifies that death benefits paid as a result of service in the U.S. Uniformed Services qualify for the existing military retirement subtraction modification. The bill takes effect July 1, 2019, and applies to tax year 2019 and beyond.
Other Topics of Interest
• SB 533 – Sales and Use Tax – Short-Term Rentals requires certain short-term rental platforms to collect the sales and use tax on the sale of the right to occupy short-term rentals.
• SB 581– Economic, Housing, and Community Development – Opportunity Zone Incentives establishes the Opportunity Zone Enhancement Program to allow for qualifying businesses within an opportunity zone to receive enhanced incentives under specified tax credit programs.

• SB 728/HB 1301 – Taxation of Online Sales – Marketplace Facilitators and Sellers of Other Tobacco Products requires online companies without a physical presence in Maryland to collect sales tax; revenues in excess of $100 million will be distributed to the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education Fund.

Editor’s note: You may write to Senator Eckardt at: James Senate Office Building, 11 Bladen St., Room 322, Annapolis, MD 21401 – 1991; or e-mail: adelaide.eckardt@senate.state.md.us

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