News from Annapolis
Delegate Trent Kittleman - District 9A
April 20, 2021

End of Year
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Dear Neighbor,

THANK YOU, once again, for giving me the opportunity to be here in Annapolis to serve as your Delegate. I particularly appreciate the email correspondence you send. It gives me important feedback and is a critical part of what I do. I try to answer everyone promptly but will take extra time if I feel it is warranted to give you a more thorough answer.
In each of the last six years, I have published a weekly online newsletter (News from Annapolis) during the 12 weeks of the legislative session. It is available to everyone who sends me their email address, and each Newsletter can be viewed from the Home Page of my website,

This year’s Session began in a year when COVID was still wreaking havoc with the lives of so many and disrupting all semblance of normalcy; when constituents were banned from the State Capital and the House Office Building; when lobbyists and citizen activists were unable to meet with legislators; when testimony on bills was limited and had to be given via computer; and when only half of the legislators were seated in the House Chamber while the other half were housed in a separate building called the “Annex” where their chance of being recognized to speak on a bill was about 50-50.  

Yet despite the undemocratic circumstances and the majority’s promises to the contrary, more partisan bills have been passed this year than in any recent year. At least 133 bills voted on in the House were opposed by virtually all Republicans and supported by virtually all Democrats. And at least 128 of those bills passed both houses and went to the Governor for his signature. Fortunately, persistent Republican efforts in committee were successful in getting some of the worst provisions removed, turning terrible bills into merely bad bills. 
FIRST – The Good News This year, there was one exception to the partisanship.  After the federal government passed the new CARES Act, sending $3.9 billion to Maryland, the General Assembly and the Admini-stration agreed, generally, on how to spend it. The graph shows how the funds were broadly allocated. And in a rare moment of bipartisan support, $800,000,000 of the new money was specifically allocated in the RELIEF Act (Recovery for the Economy, Livelihoods, Industries, Entrepreneurs, and Families), submitted by the Governor, and only modestly amended by the General Assembly before passing unanimously in the Senate and with only one dissenting vote in the House.
Leaving aside the question of whether the fed’s continued deficit spending, robbing our children and grandchildren of their futures, is a good or bad thing, the influx of the federal largess put Maryland in the position of having more money than they knew what to do with. This situation could have turned out poorly had Maryland chosen to use the new funds to create entirely new programs requiring more and more funding each year. Fortunately, in another rare and lucid moment, the legislature and administration did not do that. They took the Responsible step of using the funding to do three things: (1) most importantly, to help Marylanders who were financially harmed by the steps taken to allay the pandemic, (2) finance much-needed infrastructure projects, and (3) to pay down on the State’s fiscal obligations. For example:
  • Pass a balanced budget
  • Return $1.4 billion to the Rainy Day Fund
  • Contribute more that the amount of actuarially-required funds into the pension system, helping to accelerate progress toward adequate funding
  • Retain $700 million in the General fund that will be able to eliminate the structural deficit and create a structural surplus of $121 million in fiscal 2026 – assuming, of course, that the state continues Governor Hogan’s practice of fiscal responsibility.
There were three themes to the far left liberal agenda this year:
1.     Empower tenants; disadvantage landlords
2.     Empower undocumented immigrants, criminals, and unions: disadvantage taxpayers, police, and employers
3.     Expand access to voting; ignore opportunities for fraud (because “fraud doesn’t exist!” according to the majority)
(Criminal Justice)
One of the first actions of the Legislature this session was to override Governor Hogan’s veto of last year’s HB-4 – Rifles and Shotguns – Secondary Transactions. This bill provides that a shotgun or rifle may only be transferred (including lending) to another person by a licensed firearm dealer. Among the few exceptions were immediate family members.  Republican efforts were successful in adding language that expanded and specifically listed the relationships exempted. This brand of gun control successfully keeps guns out of the hands of honest, law-abiding citizens. This Session, Governor Hogan once again put forth several bills that would have actually controlled the use of guns by criminals.  
HB 633 – Gun Theft is a Felony Acy of 2021. In Maryland, handguns are treated like regular property when it comes to theft, the level of offense is determined by the value of the item. So, in many cases, stealing a handgun in the State of Maryland only result in a misdemeanor charge. We know that 30% of guns that wind up at crime scenes are stolen. It is hard to believe that the radical progressives in the House were able to kill this bill. Can you imagine anyone voting against it? Neither can I – which is why the Judiciary Committee did not act on this bill (which means no committee members must go on record voting against such a bill). 
HB 678 – Stopping Dangerous and Violent Criminals Act of 2021. Under current law, those convicted of a violent crime are eligible for parole after they serve 50% of their sentence. In Maryland, violent crimes include acts like murder, kidnapping, manslaughter, carjacking, armed robbery, and rape. HB 678 would have required those convicted of violent crimes to serve at least 90% of their sentence before being eligible for parole. The Judiciary Committee did not act on this bill. 
SB 494 - Juvenile Restoration Act - prohibit a judge from sentencing a juvenile to life without parole (JLWOP), authorizes a judge to sentence below a mandatory minimum, and allows for an individual who was a juvenile at the time of the crime to petition a judge for sentence modification after they have served 20 years. Every Republican voted against this bill; all but seven Democrats voted FOR it.(You can judge how bad the bill is by the number of moderate Democrats who dare to vote with us.)
HB 222 - Value My Vote Act - requires the State Board of Elections to establish a program to inform incarcerated individuals who have the right to vote in upcoming elections (those who are incarcerated in a pretrial capacity and those incarcerated for misdemeanor convictions) and how they may exercise the right to vote. passed by the House, the bill was very prescriptive and required ballot drop boxes at each prison; Republican efforts in the Senate got this provision stricken. Nonetheless, the bill passed both chambers and now heads to the Governor. All but 1 republican voted AGAINST; all democrats voted FOR. 
 HB 745 – Election Law – Early Voting Centers.  This bill almost doubles the number of requisite early voting centers from 26 to 51. The additional voting centers will increase the cost to local governments, collectively by $830,000 annually, escalating to $1.1 million annually beginning in FY 2026. All but four Republicans voted AGAINST this bill; all Democrats voted FOR it. 

Another bill passed expanding the opening hours of the early voting centers from 10 a.m. to 8 a.m. During debate on these bills, I asked the question, “With eight days of early voting – including weekends, the traditional Election Day, and vote by mail, is there anybody who does not have access to voting?” No one wants to limit the right to vote; but at this point, further expansion is totally unnecessary and expensive. I don’t believe this is how our tax dollars should be spent.
SB 683 – Permanent Absentee Ballot List -- This bill allows for a voter to request permanent absentee ballot status and be placed on a permanent absentee ballot list. Local boards of elections must send an absentee ballot to each voter on the permanent absentee ballot list in each election. The bill also requires that absentee ballot applications be sent to each eligible voter before a primary election. The cost of this bill is:
All but one Republican voted AGAINST the bill; all Democrats voted FOR it.
(Police “Reform”)
Police reform was the focal point of this legislative session. Unfortunately, as is frequently the case, the legislature went overboard. Governor Hogan said, “These bills would undermine the goal . . . we share of building transparent . . . and effective law enforcement . . . and instead further erode police morale, community relationships, and public confidence. They will result in great damage to police recruitment and retention.” The Carroll County Commissioners agreed with Governor Hogan. “It was strictly political. Democrats vs. Republicans ... with complete disregard to rural counties,” Commissioner Stephen Wantz, said. “It takes away the ability for us to do what we need to do to protect our citizens. This is wrong in every sense of the word.”
SB – 178 - Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021 - Personnel Records - Investigations of Law Enforcement Officers (Anton's Law) is a candidate for one of the worst bills passed by the General Assembly during my years in Annapolis.  It allows for the publicizing of unsubstantiated complaints against police officers filed by unsworn individuals. These unfounded accusations will be available to the press and the public indefinitely. This unprecedented public access to personnel records is not allowed for any other public official i.e., teachers, correctional officers, or elected officials- even if the allegations are found to be true. Every Republican voted AGAINST; all but six Democrats voted FOR.

SB 627 – Police Reform and Accountability – Forfeiture of Retirement Benefits. Although this bill originated in the Senate, it was completely rewritten in the House. Even the bill’s name changed. One of the bipartisan efforts in the Senate struck the penalty that would forfeit an officer’s pension. The House Judiciary Committee used this bill as the vehicle for the sole purpose of reinstating the forfeiture provision This “new” bill requires that a police officer’s pension must be forfeited in whole or in part if the officer, in the course of his duties, commits a felony, commits perjury, or commits a misdemeanor relating to truthfulness. NO OTHER PUBLIC OFFICIAL IS SUBJECT TOP SUCH A PENALTY – NOT TEACHERS, CORRECTIONAL OFFICERS, OR ELECTED OFFICIALS. Every Republican voted AGAINST this bill; all but one Democrat voted FOR.  
HB 998 - County Boards of Education - In-Person Instruction and Related Services - Requirement (Vulnerable Student Protection Act) – required schools to provide critical services in-person to at-risk students for 2021-2022 school year. Even if schools are closed, this bill would require specific services such as special education, speech and language services, counseling and behavioral health, physical and occupational therapy, and nutritional services be offered on an in-person basis to at-risk students. Students entitled to these in-person services would include students with disabilities and other at-risk populations including economically disadvantaged, homeless, and those in foster care. The Ways and Means Committee failed to act on this bill

HB 939 - Education - Student Education Grant Program - Established (Real Money for Real Education Act) – would have allowed any family that lives in a school district that fails to FULLY REOPEN by the fall 2021 semester, would be eligible for an amount of money equal to the portion of the per pupil spending that comes from the state. Families will then be able to take those funds and use them at any private or parochial school in the state. The Ways and Means Committee failed to act on this bill
HB 1113 – Education Savings Account Program – Established. This program would allow parents to choose the best educational system for their children, including the options public schools, private schools, or home-schooling. State and local governments would fund educational savings accounts with 25% of the total per-pupil spending in their county for families with incomes equal to or below 500% of the federal poverty level, and 18.75% of the per-pupil spending for families with incomes over the 500% level. Appropriate regulations and safeguards, including a nondiscrimination provision are built into the program, but the money follows the student rather than the public school system. The Appropriations Committee failed to act on this bill.
HB 522- School Resource Officers and School Security Officers and School Security Employees – Revisions. This year, significant attention was focused on eliminating the use of School Resource Officers (SROs). These are police officers specifically trained and assigned to a school. The Howard County Delegation considered a bill to outlaw the use of such officers but met with an outcry from parents, schools, and students, sufficiently strong to prevent the bill from going forward. Ultimately, the legislature passed HB 522 that added training requirements and placed limits on the SRO’s role. The primary focus of the bill was reasonable; unfortunately, other sections of the bill were not. One provision forbade SROs and “School Security Officers” from asking about immigration status. Another provision required “Implicit bias” training with a focus on racial and ethnic disparities. Currently, there is no recognized test for Implicit Bias, and existing tests often do more harm than good. Finally, it was clear by the way the bill was structured that next year, SROs could easily be eliminated and replaced by the civilian “School Security Officers” whose role the bill described to mirror that of the SRO, but without the ultimate authority provided by having an actual police officer in the school. All Republicans voted AGAINST the bill; all but two Democrats voted FOR the bill.
HB 18 – Landlord and Tenant – Residential Leases. The bill provides that the tenants meeting certain income requirements may access legal representation, free of charge, from a nonprofit organization designated by the Maryland Legal Services Corporation. Every Republican voted AGAINST the bill; all but one Democrat voted FOR it.

HB 1312 – Landlord and Tenant – Eviction Actions – Catastrophic Health Emergencies eliminates virtually all landlord rights and protections during a catastrophic health emergency. The bill applies to tenants who experience a “substantial loss of income” due to job loss, reduction in hours, closure of their place of employment, or because they miss work to care for family members during a catastrophic health emergency. If they meet this criterion and do not pay their rent they cannot be evicted for up to a full year, depending upon the length of the catastrophic emergency. All Republicans voted AGAINST; all but three Democrats voted FOR.

HB 1008 - 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 SenateAll Republicans voted AGAINST; all but three Democrats voted FOR.
(Labor Unions)
Virtually every year, the majority party passes bills to (1) expand collective bargaining rights to more public agencies, (2) expand prevailing wage requirements to more private businesses, and (3) otherwise advantage the employee over small business owners. This year yielded a number of these bills; here is a list, just of the bills that expanded collective bargaining, along with the votes:
HB 9 – State Employees – Collective Bargaining – Applicability, bargaining Processes, and MOU
  • All but one Republicans voted AGAINST; All Democrats voted FOR.
HB 13 – Collective Bargaining – Prohibition on Public Funds
  • All Republicans AGAINST; All Democrats FOR.
HB 45 - Baltimore County Public Library - Collective Bargaining
  • All but two Republicans voted AGAINST; All Democrats voted FOR.
HB 556 - Collective Bargaining – Maryland School for the Deaf - Application and Separate Bargaining Unit
  • All Republicans voted AGAINST; All Democrats voted FOR.
HB 894 - Community Centers – Collective Bargaining
  • All Republicans voted AGAINST; All Democrats voted FOR.
HB 904 - State Personnel – Collective Bargaining – Exclusive Representative Access
  • All Republicans voted AGAINST; All Democrats voted FOR.
SB 107 – Labor and Employment – Secure Maryland Wage Act. This bill requires an employer to pay specified wages and benefits to a covered employee. A “covered employee” is a nonexempt employee under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act who performs work at a “heightened security interest location,” which is defined as BWI Marshall Airport or Pennsylvania Station in Baltimore, subject to specified exceptions. The mandated wage is $1 more than the minimum wage. All Republicans voted AGAINST; All Democrats voted FOR.
HB 37 – Prevailing Wage – Applicability.  When the “prevailing wage” is required on a project, it means the employer must pay employees at the union rate of pay. The State forces private employers to pay prevailing wages by placing certain requirements on public work contracts. Originally, the prevailing wage applied to a school construction project only if the state paid 75% of the cost. A number of years ago, the legislature reduced the requirement so that the prevailing wage would apply if the state paid just 50%. This bill expands the reach of the prevailing wage by reducing the necessary State contribution to just 25%. There is also a dollar amount requirement which, currently, is $500,000. This bill reduces it to $250,000. All Republicans voted AGAINST; all Democrats voted FOR.

HB 174 – Investor-Owned Utilities – Prevailing Wage -- This bill requires investor-owned gas and/or electric utilities to require contractors and subcontractors on specified underground projects to pay their employees at least the applicable prevailing wage rate. The bill applies to projects involving the construction, reconstruction, installation, demolition, restoration, or alteration of any underground gas or electric infrastructure of the company, and any related traffic control activities. All Republicans voted AGAINST; all Democrats voted FOR.
(Protecting Nonprofits & Small Business Owners)
HB 1084 - Catastrophic Health Emergencies – Immunity from Civil Liability would have provided immunity from civil liability for small businesses, churches, and other nonprofits if they inadvertently fail to comply with the hodgepodge of often contradictory State and county health orders issued during this pandemic. The bill also shifted the burden of proof to the plaintiff who must prove that the noncompliance was willful or grossly negligent by clear and convincing evidence. This higher standard of evidence would have likely dissuaded frivolous lawsuits that can do irreparable financial harm to businesses even if they win. This bill was not acted on by the Judiciary Committee.

HB 1083 - County Health Officers – Procedures and Oversight.  This bill required each county board of health to establish clear and understandable guidelines regarding when, how, and under what circumstances a business can be inspected, cited, or ordered to cease operation. The bill also required each county to establish an appeals process for decisions made by the health officer and an oversight board to hear appeals and review any complaints of misconduct by the health officer. This bill was not acted on by the Health and Government Operations Committee.

HB 1257 - Business Personal Property Tax – Businesses Affected by COVID–19. In a number of jurisdictions across the state, businesses pay a personal property tax assessed on property such as kitchen equipment, furniture, fixtures, tools, supplies, and inventory – personal property used to generate the business’s income. Even though businesses were closed or had their services significantly reduced, they were still required to pay the tax on this unused equipment. HB 1257 would have allowed businesses that were required to close or significantly reduce services to receive a refund of their business personal property tax paid in 2020. This bill was not acted on by the Ways and Means Committee
(Undocumented Aliens)
SB 218 – Income Tax – Child Tax Credit and Expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit – this bill creates a refundable State income tax credit for low-income families equal to $500 for each qualified dependent child under the age of 17 years and has a disability. Unfortunately, this bill also extends Maryland’s Earned Income Tax Credit to immigrants who are in this country illegallyCaucus members offered a number of amendments to make the bill better by further expanding tax credits for families with developmentally disabled children, for tax relief to retirees, and for assistance to those immigrants who are lawfully present in this state. All of these reasonable amendments were rejected along party-line votes. The bill passed and became law without the Governor’s signature. All Republicans voted AGAINST the bill; aAll but three Democrats voted FOR it.
HB 23 – Personal Information–State and Local Agencies–Restrictions on Access (Maryland Driver Privacy Act) In its relentless quest to thwart federal immigration laws, this bill requires an agent of the state or local government to deny inspection by a federal agency seeking access to matters of public records containing personal information or photographic images for the purpose of federal immigration enforcement unless the agent has a warrant. The bill also prohibits anyone accessing such information through a Public Information Act (PIA) request from disclosing it to a federal agent for immigrant law enforcement. All Republicans voted AGAINST the bill; all but three Democrats voted FOR it.
HB 132 – Mental and Emotional Disorders – Consent (Mental Health Access Initiative). Upon reading the bill, my first thought was, “they CAN’T be serious!” , and when it passed, I had to question the overall sanity of the legislative body in which I serve. Here is what the bill does. It provides that “A minor who is 12 years old or older who is determined by a health care provider to be mature and capable of giving informed consent has the same capacity as an adult to consent to consultation, diagnosis, and treatment of a mental or emotional disorder by the health care provider or a clinic,” and may refer the child to treatment without the consent of the parents. All Republicans voted AGAINST the bill; all but three (level-headed) Democrats voted FOR it. Fortunately, the bill died in the Senate

HB 667 – State Song – Repeal – The cancel culture has been trying for years to rid the state of our state song. I happen to like the song, and if you read the verses, no one who hasn’t studied history would be able to decipher hints of slavery. But the cancel culture won’t be satisfied until they have destroyed every aspect of the Country’s history – good or bad. One thing often overlooked is that this Country went to war, killing huge numbers of young men for the sole purpose of eliminating slavery. All but one Republicans voted AGAINST the bill; all Democrats voted FOR it.
Until next year . . . stay safe, stay healthy, stay hopeful