It is a privilege to serve you in the Maryland House of Delegates. This legislative session presented more challenges to the quality of economic, community, and family life in Calvert County.
The 2021 Session of the Maryland General Assembly ended on Monday, April 12th, at midnight. The session was unique in that Maryland has a divided government– a Republican Governor and a supermajority of Democrats in the House of Delegates and the State Senate. Legislators introduced 1,387 House bills, 972 Senate bills, and 10 resolutions during the session. Of the bills that passed – many were good and some very problematic.
Additionally, this Session was different from years past regarding restrictions placed on the State Legislature due to COVID-19. As a result of the pandemic, the Maryland General Assembly adjourned early in 2020 for the first time since the Civil War. Since then, many Marylanders have continued to struggle with unemployment, and many businesses have been shut down by the Government. With all of this in mind, I am astounded at many of the bills passed by the majority party in Annapolis.
TAXES & SMALL BUSINESS
The only action the General Assembly is required to take during the Legislative Session is to pass a balanced budget. The budget passed by the General Assembly this year enhances the State’s savings accounts including $1.4 billion in the Rainy Day Fund and nearly $700 million remaining in the General Fund. All of this was made possible by the massive stimulus payments to the State by the Federal Government.
Regardless, Maryland is again raising taxes. Despite COVID mandates that closed thousands of businesses in the State in 2020, the Democrat Majority kept the Maryland General Assembly an extra week during the 2020 Legislative Session. Put simply, the Legislature remained ‘essential’, so as to pass HB1300, the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future (Kirwan) – a $32 billion initiative introduced in 2020 with no plan as to how it would be funded. To pay for it in part, HB932 was introduced in the 2020 Legislative Session. This bill imposes state sales tax on all digital downloads. This means that any digital download that you purchase, such as a book or an online course, will have a sales tax of 6% levied. What’s remarkable is that Democrats passed this tax increase and The Blueprint, while the rest of the State was forced to close. It’s remarkable that any legislature would raise taxes during a pandemic, let alone pass the largest, unfunded spending bill in the State’s history. I voted against both of these bills.
The Governor vetoed the digital download tax and Kirwan on May 7, 2020. His veto was overridden by the Democrats during the current 2020 Legislative Session. Consequently, massive tax increases will be required over many years to fund this initiative.
HB319 is one of the bills passed in the 2021 Session to help pay for The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future (Kirwan). HB319 allows counties to implement bracket-based local taxes. It also requires local governments in Maryland to impose a minimum tax rate of 2.25%, whereas, in current law, counties are required to levy a tax at a minimum of only 1% and no more than 3.2%. The bill encourages counties to implement a progressive income tax. Democrats in Annapolis passed this bill for the purposes of paying for the unfunded Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. I voted against this bill. Raising taxes on Marylanders during a pandemic is wrong and reprehensible.
The barrage of mandates and overregulation is simply unsustainable for a healthy and competitive economy. Simply put, residents, businesses and retirees will leave the state at an alarming rate if they can no longer afford to live in Maryland. I have heard from many business owners who have already begun the process of leaving – not because they want to, but because they have to – and with them, leaves the jobs.
Watch Maryland Democrats buy-off and engage in crony capitalism by providing free grants, tax credits and loans to only the connected, large companies (click here to watch)
HB670 – Police Reform and Accountability Act of 2021, among many things, repeals the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBOR). HB670 is part of a suite of bills introduced this year whose sole purpose is to ‘cancel the police’. I voted against this bill. I do not support efforts to defund the police or to disparage their profession. This bill will hinder police officers’ ability to effectively fulfill their job. It will put more power into the hands of violent criminals, which will only encourage more officers to leave their posts. In fact, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced that she will no longer prosecute ‘Trespassing’. Imagine having a State’s Attorney that does not believe trespassing is a crime. This is the majority party’s idea of ‘reimagining policing’. The Governor vetoed this bill on April 9, 2021- the veto was overridden by the Maryland General Assembly the following day, and is now the law of the State.
A Delegate who voted to ‘Cancel the Police’ – said that planting trees will keep you safe (click to watch)!
HB 1089 – Primary and Secondary Education – Expansion of Mental Health Services and Prohibition of School Resource Officers (Police–Free Schools Act), Prohibits a local school system from contracting with any law enforcement agency to assign police officers or other law enforcement personnel with arrest authority in schools or on school property, and further prohibits a school system from establishing its own police force. This is appalling to me in every respect. School Resource Officers (SROs) are oftentimes the only people to whom children can turn for help and guidance. They are a reliable security force that protects students and teachers, and often take on a counseling role for those who feel threatened, unsafe or seek a father figure. They act as a security presence for children in times of distress. If this bill is meant to expand mental health services, as the title suggests, taking away SROs directly conflicts with that intent.
My colleagues and I offered several amendments, all of which were rejected by the Majority party. Together, these “reforms” passed out of the House along party lines. I hope to have the opportunity to continue to work against similar legislation, and to support police officers and public safety.
EROSION OF THE FAMILY
This Session, two bills were passed that erode the family unit.
HB132 alters the age that a minor may receive mental health consultation to only 12 years old, without parental consent. This bill takes away the right of parents to be notified when their child is being diagnosed and treated, even if the treatment lasts for many months or longer. The bill effectively eliminates parental notification, parental due process and puts the decision-making authority into the hands of a 12-year old and a mental health counselor. I voted against this bill.
HB449 removes the terms “husband” and “wife” from marriage licenses and replaces them with the terms “Party 1” and“Party 2”. Every child deserves a mother and a father – not Party 1 and Party 2.
EQUITY VS. EQUALITY
This Session, the term “equity” was used interchangeably with “equality”. There is an enormous difference between the two. Equality relates to having access to similar opportunities and resources during the starting gate of life. Some individuals will seize the opportunity and some will not. Equity refers to forcing identical outcomes – regardless of merit and effort. I find it interesting that many of the same people promoting equity, also oppose School Choice and Educational Freedom. Yet, common-sense tells us that Educational Freedom and School Choice are the best way to improve equality of opportunity.
HB 78 establishes the Maryland Commission on Health Equity. Of the many responsibilities introduced with the bill, the commission will be charged with setting “…goals for health equity and (to) prepare a plan for the state to achieve health equity in alignment with other statewide planning activities.” According to the fiscal note, the commission will also make recommendations on integrating implicit bias training into health-related decision-making. In other words, politicizing healthcare.
HB953, introduced in this session, relies heavily on the idea of furthering equity rather than equality. The fiscal note of the bill indicates that it, “requires the chief of each law enforcement agency with a budget of or exceeding $50.0 million to (1) conduct an annual racial equity audit related to practices on hiring, discipline, and use of force within the department and (2) hire a racial equity coordinator to promote equity in hiring, discipline, and use of force practices within the department.” This bill suggests that in the hiring process, potential employees should not be hired on merit and by the content of their character, but by the color of their skin. Rather than working towards equal opportunity in the hiring process in general, the bill advocates for equal outcomes based on skin color.
To intermingle the terms “equity” and “equality” is intentionally false and misleading. Expanding opportunity and rewarding people on merit — is the best way to make a more just society.
Despite the ongoing debate over equity vs. equality, politicians voted to give themselves and the 77,000 state employees free electricity for their personal electric cars (click here to watch).
A top priority of mine this session was bringing students and teachers back into classrooms — full-time. We have seen students struggling mentally and academically as a result of virtual learning and lockdowns across the country. The long-term effects of a lack of social interaction in young children are detrimental and even irreversible. Maryland has been one of the slowest states to address these problems. Here are some bills that were introduced this year that I believe to be of great importance in furthering education in Calvert County, and across the state.
HB 716, “Special Education – Individualized Education Programs – Educational Evaluations (Education Equality For All Act),” provides that, if schools are closed and unable to perform the necessary evaluations special needs children are entitled to, the school system must provide parents with information to have these evaluations done independently. I am happy to hear that this bill passed and parents in Maryland will have more say in their children’s education moving forward.
Another great bill introduced this session, HB 939, allows families that live in a school district that fails to fully reopen by the fall 2021 semester to be eligible for an amount of money equal to the portion of the per-pupil spending that comes from the state. Families would be able to use those funds at any private or parochial school in the state. I believe in Educational Freedom. The Pandemic has underscored and demonstrated that parents should be able to choose the school that best serves the interest of their children. Keeping schools closed for such a long time has been detrimental to children. But, not all schools have been closed. Most private schools have been open since September 2020. This is why school choice is so important. Education dollars should follow the student, no matter which school they choose. Had this bill passed, parents could have used educational dollars to choose a public, private or charter school that best serves their children.
Here’s the video link to my debate on School Choice in Maryland
Similarly, HB 1161, would have provided a $250 per child tax credit to help offset some of the costs of educating Maryland’s children at home. Again, the Ways and Means Committee did not take any action on this bill and the bill died.
Here’s the hearing of my bill (HB1158) that requires training on the 1776 Report, so as to teach a common, unifying and non-politicized American History and to end Identity Politics
Several bills introduced this year that relate to election law in Maryland are very concerning. Given the widespread lack of confidence in the 2016 & 2020 Presidential Elections, the Legislature had a golden opportunity to improve election transparency and trust. SB683, which has passed out of the House and Senate, allows voters to be placed on a permanent absentee ballot list for each election – in other words, this bill normalizes permanent mail-in voting for all future elections, without Voter ID. In November of 2020, I received ballots at my home address that were addressed to individuals who didn’t even live at my home. Consequently, I submitted an amendment to SB683 that prohibits ballot harvesting ballot harvesting. My amendment was rejected along party lines and the bill passed. Why would an amendment preventing ballot harvesting, which is a practice that enables and encourages voter fraud, be rejected?
Here’s a video link to my Amendment to ban ballot harvesting
HB 153 is similar in that it would require the State Board of Elections to automatically send a vote-by-mail ballot to each registered voter. Without Voter ID, these bills make it very easy to cause mischief in our elections. We must restore confidence and transparency in our elections.
Another such bill that passed through the Senate, SB525, will allow incarcerated individuals within the City of Baltimore the opportunity to vote during elections. Similarly, HB222 facilitates the dispersal of ballot drop-boxes in jails so that incarcerated individuals can vote.
All of the previously mentioned election law-related bills reduce transparency and increase the likelihood of election fraud.
The meticulous planning that accompanies homeownership came under attack by politicians who want to condemn those who made responsible business decisions while seeking to improve their quality of life. This past year brought unprecedented struggles on property owners and tenants alike, but rather than seeking solutions surrounding personal accountability, the majority party sought to protect those who do not have interests in physical community investments. Some changes include efforts to cancel rents, increasing taxes and regulations on property owners, and protecting tenants who fail to meet contractual obligations.
HB50 – Tenant Protection Act of 2021, creates headaches for property owners and expanding protections for tenants who fail to comply with their written agreements. This bill provides loopholes for people to escape paying rent, leaving property owners to bear the burden.
Another such bill, HB1061, would force properties in southern Maryland that fall under code home rule to register their rental properties and pay a fee as a condition of leasing the property. The Charles County Delegation introduced this legislation to impose fines, and raise taxes on homeowners. The bill effectively makes rentals more expensive.
HB1008 – Failure to Pay Rent Proceedings – Sealing of Court Records, requires the District Court to seal court records related to failure to pay rent proceedings. This bill will prevent landlords from checking court records to ascertain the past rental history of potential renters. This bill passed the House but failed to move in the Senate.
Additionally, HB104 delays property owners from repossessing their property from a renter who has failed to pay their rent and has failed to vacate from the property.
Climate Solutions Act of 2021
My office has received many emails from constituents who are concerned about climate change. I share their concerns. The fastest and best way to solve the problem of carbon emissions is via nuclear power. Nuclear energy is the only base-load power source that is entirely carbon-emissions free! It is true that old-style nuclear reactors produce a waste product that must be stored. However, emerging nuclear technologies such as the Travelling Wave Reactor (TWR) are revolutionizing nuclear energy. TWR’s use the waste product of traditional nuclear reactors as their fuel source. Yes – that is correct – these new reactors are 100% carbon emissions free and recycle the nuclear waste, making them one of the only renewable energy sources on the planet.
If we are truly serious about combating climate change, then we should use all clean energy resources at our disposal. It is also important to note that nuclear energy is a proven base-load energy source that can support current energy needs and be used to transition Maryland off of older energy sources. Did you know that Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant, Maryland’s only nuclear power plant, can provide the state with up to 44% of its total energy and accounts for 84% of the state’s carbon-free energy production?
France, the host of the Paris Climate Accords, utilizes nuclear energy for 75% of its energy needs. This is because nuclear energy is entirely carbon-emissions-free!
Conversely, solar is not 100% renewable. All solar panels have a lifespan. When they reach the end of their useful life, they are difficult, sometimes impossible, to recycle. In fact, many of these used solar panels have begun to fill up landfills across the world. The panels contain many toxic chemicals and elements. I encourage you to research this burgeoning problem, as it will increase as large solar arrays are decommissioned. We must not be short-sighted in our mutual endeavor to create a cleaner and safer environment for all.
I urge you to research nuclear energy further so as to better understand its applicability to solving climate change. Below is a link to a video from Bill Gates where he talks about Climate Change and how he truly believes that nuclear energy is going to play a huge role in solving the problem. He also discusses some of the many challenges and impediments to a complete transition to wind and solar. I urge you to watch the video and share your opinions, once you have had the opportunity to research nuclear energy & other alternative energy sources further. https://www.ted.com/talks/bill_gates?language=en
I only share all of this information with you to illustrate the point that solving climate change requires nuclear energy. Let’s work together to support innovative and cutting-edge technologies to fight climate change and ensure that our environment and world are protected for the future.
Here’s my debate on single-use plastic bags – Solving pollution is about Innovating not Banning
BILLS AFFECTING CALVERT COUNTY
HB1016 – Calvert County – Alcoholic Beverages Licenses – Annual Fees is a bill that I introduced in this session that is intended to alleviate some of the strain on small businesses in Calvert County from shutdowns in 2020. This bill requires the Calvert County Board of License Commissioners to reimburse bars or restaurants for the fees they must pay to maintain an alcoholic beverages license. I am pleased this bill passed, and it is my hope that it will provide some needed relief to bars and restaurants that were closed during COVID.
Public Facilities Bonds are supposed to be used for the construction and improvement of certain infrastructure in the county. Calvert County currently has $115,683,750 in bonding authority. HB 1173 entitled “Calvert County – Public Facilities Bond” was introduced by the Calvert County Delegation this session. The original amount that the bill was requesting was $26,453,345, but we amended the bill down to $20 million. When the bill passed through to the Senate, it was amended back up to the original amount of $26,453,345. There comes a certain point where the Calvert County Commissioners do not need this much bonding authority, especially with federal COVID Relief monies, and a whopping $115,683,750 of unused bonding authority. This large amount can encourage overspending and mischief.
HB655 led to the death of local privilege. This bill mandates that counties governed by a board of commissioners – such as Calvert, St. Mary’s, and Charles Counties – must change how they conduct their elections. I have never seen such an overreach from the General Assembly, who denied requests from the affected counties. The body hasn’t historically infringed on the decision-making and requests of local governments, but did so this Session. A majority of the Calvert County Delegation, the Calvert County Board of Commissioners, and I — rejected this bill. The bill is a partisan power grab by the majority party in Annapolis, tightening their vice-grip on local governments.
HB1357 also affects Calvert County. It requires the Calvert County Board of Education to provide an opportunity for public comment at each Board of Education public meeting. The Calvert County Board of Education has used COVID as an opportunity and excuse to deny public comment. Remarkably, the Superintendent and the Board of Education wrote letters in opposition to this common-sense, transparency legislation. In other words, they oppose parental input and have politicized the non-partisan Calvert County Board of Education. After a year of virtual learning and no opportunity for parents to voice their concerns about the well-being and education of their children, I believe this bill is badly needed. While the bill died in committee, it is my understanding that public comment periods have been restored.
While some in Annapolis continue to ignore calls for common sense, fiscal reform — rest assured, I will fight for policies that encourage economic opportunity, fiscal responsibility, and lower taxes on behalf of the people of Calvert County. To that end, I will continue to work diligently to bring tax relief to Marylanders while still funding priorities. My approach will be to focus on common-sense, fiscal responsibility. Please continue to closely monitor future Legislative Sessions, as your advocacy and support are crucial to making Maryland a great state once again.
Additionally, I know that many are still struggling to receive unemployment benefits caused by the mandated shutdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Should you or any other Calvert County residents find yourself struggling with the current unemployment insurance crisis, please do not hesitate to contact my office regarding your claim. As your representative, I will reach out on your behalf to the Maryland Department of Labor and do everything in my power to assist you in resolving your claim.
To keep families in Calvert County informed, I send out occasional email updates on state and local issues that may be of interest. If you are not receiving my updates and would like to be added to the email list, please send your name, address, and phone number to email@example.com or feel free to reach my cell phone at (301) 802-3159.
Yours in service,
Mark N. Fisher, Chair
Calvert County Delegation
Message from our State’s Attorney
The Maryland General Assembly has done crime victims a grave disservice by voting to override Governor Hogan’s veto of Senate Bill 494. This Bill, which will become law on October 1st, permits juveniles convicted as adults of serious crimes, to obtain an automatic review of their sentences after 20 years’ incarceration and again 3 and 6 years thereafter. Because the reviewing Judge may not increase the sentence, the legislation offers convicted murderers, rapists, and other felons the opportunity evade the parole system and get out of prison prematurely.
Senate Bill 494 was opposed by State’s Attorneys across Maryland and locally by Senator Bailey (R), Delegate Fisher (R), Delegate Clark (R), and me. Why? Because of the adverse impact on victims and their families. At each review hearing, victims will be compelled to revisit the horror inflicted upon them by the defendant. Moreover, the procedure will not be fair. In almost every case, the hearings will be handled by Judges and prosecutors who did not initially participate in the case and who are unfamiliar with the facts and circumstances.
What happened to victim’s rights? What happened to truth in sentencing? The public deserves to know that a Judge’s sentence means what it says. Increasingly, it means less and less.
Robert H. Harvey, Jr.
State’s Attorney for Calvert County