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 10, 2017. I want to thank all those who participated in this year’s legislative process. 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. This has been a very productive session. Please do not hesitate to reach out to my office to discuss legislation during the interim.
Fiscal Year 2018 Budget
The FY 2018 Budget $43.63 budget passed and for the third year in a row, there will be no new taxes passed by the Maryland General Assembly. We worked to stop more than 90% of the new proposed mandated spending. Governor Hogan has made an historic investment in K-12 public education by funding $6.4 billion in the FY18 Budget. The Governor has invested nearly $19 billion in K-12 public education since taking office. The General Assembly worked together to preserve the Governor’s proposed investments to allow the number of P-TECH schools in the State to double and to secure funding to allow for the continuation of the bipartisan BOOST program. In FY18 Budget, the Governor invested over $20 million to tackle Maryland’s heroin and opioid crisis, that will go toward treatment, recovery, and enforcement. Over $1 billion in the budget will go towards preserving our most precious natural asset, the Chesapeake Bay. We continue to achieve fiscal responsibility to improve the quality of life for all citizens.
Senator Eckardt’s 2017 Passed Sponsored Legislation
• Senate Bill 343 – Bay Restoration Fund – Eligible Costs – Expansion
SB 343 expands the Bay Restoration Fund (BRF) eligible costs to include 100% BRF grant eligibility for secondary wastewater treatment plants that are upgrading to Enhanced Nutrient Removal (ENR) technology. This bill allows 100 percent of the cost to upgrade from secondary to ENR treatment. Upgrades to minor Waste Water Treatment Plants will be significantly more affordable for users. SB 343 shall take effect July 1, 2017.
• Senate Bill 436 – Income Tax – Credit for Nurse Practitioner or Licensed Physician in Preceptorship Program – Alterations
Senate Bill 436 makes alterations to last year’s bill that makes an income tax credit available for Nurse Practitioners. Clarifications to this bill includes language that ensures the Board of Nursing would asses a separate $15 fee for the renewal for the Nurse Practitioner and corrects the number of hours for a community-based clinical training for the Nurse Practitioners.
• Senate Bill 622- Sales and Use Tax – Tax-Free Period for Back-to-School Shopping – Sale of Backpacks and Bookbags
SB 622 allows for backpacks and bookbags that cost $40 or less to be exempt from the sales and use tax during Maryland Back-to-School Shopping week.
• Senate Bill 717- Connecting Rural Maryland Act of 2017
This bill establishes a task force to examine and assess types of Internet-broadband, wireless, cellular, and landline services in rural areas throughout Maryland. The task force will 1) assess current service connectivity’s; 2) evaluate to see if there are any redundancies and gaps in the current services; and 3) evaluate any federal funds applied for in response to previous broadband studies in the State.
• Senate Bill 823- Task Force to Study Tax Sales in Maryland
SB 823 establishes a task force that will evaluate and assess the impact of the tax sales in Maryland. Representatives from local tax industries, including individuals from the water liens industry, will help assess the current process in the State. This Act shall take effect June 1, 2017 and will remain effective until June 30, 2018.
• Senate Bill 957 - Counties and Municipalities – Land bank Authorities
SB 957 expands current enabling power to establish by ordinance a land bank authority. This proposed legislation allows for two or more local governments to enter into an agreement to create a single land bank to act on behalf of the local governments, which may include one or more water and sewer authorities. SB 957 shall take effect Oct. 1, 2017.
• Senate Bill 1033 – Residential Property – Vacant and Abandoned Property – Expedited Foreclosure
SB 1033 establishes a foreclosure process for “vacant and abandoned” residential properties in the State. This bill outlines what must be found by the Court to expedite the foreclosure process. SB 1033 shall take effect Oct. 1, 2017.
• Senate Bill 1190 – Bay Restoration Fund – Upgraded Wastewater Facilities – Grants to Counties and Municipalities
Senate Bill 1190 allows for counties and municipalities that upgraded a wastewater facility to Enhanced Nutrient Removal (ENR) before July 1, 2013 to be awarded a grant, on a first-come, first-serve basis, from the Department of Environment within the funds from the Bay Restoration Fund. This bill goes into effect October 1, 2017 and shall remain in effect for a period of 2 years.
Other Items of Interest
• Senate Bill 226 – Biotechnology Investment Tax Credit – Qualified Maryland Biotechnology Company – Definition
HB 373 alters the definition of a qualified Maryland biotechnology company that may claim the biotechnology tax credit. A company qualifies for this tax credit if it has been active for up to 15 years or has been active for no longer than 12 years from the date the company first received a qualified investment. This act takes effect June 1, 2017. Through amendments, companies who relocate to Maryland in two months and use Maryland investors can qualify for this tax credit.
• Senate Bill 307 – Maryland Open Transportation Investment Decision Act – Application and Evaluation
The bill establishes an opportunity for MDOT to develop a scoring mechanism while continuing their current established priority list for statewide transportation projects. A workgroup is established to review and analyze the process of funding projects and will report to the legislature at the end of the two year period. This bill shall take effect July 1, 2017.
• Senate Bill 317 – More Jobs for Marylanders Act of 2017
After considerable debate and discussion with several bill sponsors, the Governors team, and the Senate Budget and Tax committee, four bills were combined into one for a comprehensive manufacturing/jobs, workforce, apprenticeship training bill focusing on opportunities for our smaller rural counties struggling with retention of existing businesses and recruitment of new businesses.
The More Jobs for Marylanders program provides a 10 year income tax credit, within the Department of Commerce, for manufacturers that meet specified requirements and create new jobs at a qualified facility. This bill 1) establishes an income tax credit for businesses that employ an eligible apprentice; 2) establishes a Workforce Development Sequence Scholarships for eligible students who enrolled in a job skills program at a community college; 3) requires vocational goals to be establishes for high school students; and 4) requires State agencies to analyze and report specified information on registered apprenticeship programs.
• Senate Bill 397 – Local Income Tax Overpayments – Local Reserve Account Repayment Forgiveness
SB 397 repeals the requirement that a county or municipality that received an overpayment of local income tax revenue to reimburse the State. $21 million of local income tax payment was misdirected over the years. Unfortunately, this error has required a number of counties and municipalities to repay the state. This bill provides aid to counties and municipalities throughout Maryland.
• Senate Bill 521 – Community Colleges – Small Community Colleges – Funding
SB 521 alters the amount of unrestricted state aid granted to small community colleges beginning in FY19 to help bring fairness to the allocation of grant funding to all community colleges. As amended, Chesapeake College and Wor-Wic Community College will receive $851,300 in the FY19 budget and each fiscal year thereafter.
Heroin and Opioid Crisis Legislation
SB 967 and SB 1060 addresses early intervention, treatment, and prevention of heroin and opioid use and abuse. Senate Bill 967 focuses on expanding services and intervention programs through current Drug Court practice. Institutions of higher education must offer education credits related to substance use disorders, as well. Lastly, this bill requires the Governor to include in the FY19 budget, and each year thereafter, specified rate adjustments for community behavioral providers.
Senate Bill 1060 requires the State Board of Education to expand existing programs that encompass drug addiction and prevention education for public schools. This bill also requires local board of educations to establish a policy requiring schools to store naloxone, authorize a trained school nurse to administer it, and hire a community action official or regional community action official.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org