News from Annapolis
2018 Session:  Week   11           Delegate Trent K ittleman - District 9A
Delegate Trent Kittleman
  • How did we get where we are? 
    • Creating whole new programs?
    • $35,000 salary increase for judges?
    • Expansion of financial aid to undocumented students?
    • Pension System tied to Climate Change?
    • Business laws & Prevailing Wage?
  • Humor: You want a WHAT?
  • Scholarship Information: Deadline to submit is April 9 
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How did we get where we are?
          This year, legislators requested drafts for more than 4,000 bills.  In the House, over 1,800 bills ended up being introduced.
          This edition of the Newsletter is dedicated to bills which have been passed by at least one Chamber, that you probably haven't heard about.  These are the stealth bills -- the  series of bills with "hidden" rules and regulations that we pass each year, continually pushing Maryland further and further away from individual freedom.
          Individually, few of these bills appear to be dangerous.  Indeed, many of them have warm and fuzzy titles -- like HB 315: Breakfast & Lunch Programs--Funding (the Maryland Cares for Kids Act).
Try asking these questions as you read the bill summaries.
          Regardless of how worthy the bill sounds, we should be asking the following questions before supporting new legislation:
  1.  What is the problem we're trying to solve? (Is it really a problem?)
  2.  Do we need legislation at all?
  3.  Will this legislation solve the problem -- if there is one.
          For example, HB 315 referenced above requires the State to pay the students' reduced-price share for all schools in Maryland.  The student's share of the cost for breakfast is 30 cents; for lunches, it's forty cents.  The State's total annual outlay will be $4 million.
           What problem are we trying to solve?  To further help families in low-income households.   While a worth endeavor, I'm not at all sure it's a "problem."  Many families with low income already qualify for the free meals.  Moreover, although legislatures seldom acknowledge it, people generally think smarter and feel better about themselves when they "have skin in the game."  So is eliminating that shared responsibility a wise thing to do?  I'm not so sure.
          If the answer to the first question is "No," the next two questions become irrelevant.
Creating Whole New Programs . . . Why?
         This bill creates a brand new program with its own unique "fund" to provide "financial assistance for community development projects and community development organizations around the State."
          Is there a problem we're trying to solve?  Better communities.
          Do we need this bill?  NO.  Maryland already has a significant coordinated program to address an omnipresent problem and there is no indication that an additional fund is needed.
          Will this bill solve the problem?  No.  If we want to spend more money on community development wouldn't it be much more effective to increase the budget than to create a whole new program with all of its new administrative costs?
          This bill garnered no Republican votes in Committee and only one of 50 Republican votes on the House floor.
Commission Recommends $35,000 Salary Increase for Judges 
          The Commission recommended a $35,000 increase in salaries for the Maryland Circuit Court Judges, over a four-year period.  Considering that the judges received a $14,081 increase between fiscal 2014 and 2016, the House Appropriations Committee reduced the recommended amount from $35,000 to $20,000.
          Although the bill only addresses the increases of the judges, other salaries are linked to the salaries of judges.  See chart below.
          But what is the problem we're trying to solve?  Usually, an employer offers a higher salary in order to attract the best people.  We certainly have no lack of competent applicants to fill these 313 positions.; indeed we have far more applicants than positions.
         For some reason, however, when considering salary increases the legislature's motivation seems to be, "we're paying less than other states!"  Since it is unlikely we are going to lose applicants for judgeships to other states, this logic escapes me.  
          The one question that never seems to get asked is whether we should be giving out average annual pay increases of 7% to 10% to any state employee when the private sector hasn't seen pay increases in years.
Expansion of Financial Aid to "undocumented students" 
          In 1982, the Supreme Court's decision in Plyler v Doe, required public K-12 schools to accept undocumented immigrants.  Since 1996, however, federal law prohibits undocumented immigrants from obtaining a post secondary education benefit that U.S. citizens cannot obtain.  The Fiscal Note to HB 420 notes, 
        "To get around the federal law, states that have passed in-state tuition benefits for undocumented immigrants have crafted legislation that bases eligibility on where a student went to high school, not immigration status."
         Maryland took advantage of this option and passed the Maryland Dream Act in 2011, offer in-state tuition to undocumented immigrant students under certain restricted circumstances.
         HB 1536 eliminates most of those restrictions, including the requirement that the student's parent or legal guardian file a Maryland income tax return to receive in-county or in-state tuition. 
          HB 420 expands the eligibility for the $89.8 million of scholarship funds available under the Delegate Howard P. Rawlings Educational Excellence Award and the Part-time Grant programs to "individuals who are eligible for in-state tuition."
What is the problem we're trying to solve?  
This presents the first issue:  Is there a problem?
The bill's sponsors want to grant undocumented students the same benefits as legal residents. 
Do we need this legislation?
No.  By diverting funds from legal residents of our State to undocumented residents, the legislation is inconsistent with representation of our our registered constituents and all other legal residents of our State
Will this legislation solve the problem?  Yes, if you believe there is a "problem."  No, if you don't believe there is a problem
HB 503 Translation Grant Program Established
          This bill establishes a Translation Grant Program in the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE).  
         The program will provide competitive grants to public schools to translate educational materials into a student's or parent's native language. 
          MSDE must (1) develop the program, (2) give priority in awarding grants to school systems that have a greater number of English language learners, and (3) supervise and monitor the use of grant funds. 
          This bill includes a MANDATE that requires the Governor to include a minimum of $250,000 annually for this program.
State Pension Program Subjected to Climate Change Scrutiny
          This bill requires that the  Pension System's Investment Policy Manual include details regarding the management of climate risks when investing the System's assets.
        In addition, it requires the Pension System's Board of Trustees to conduct a climate risk assessment of the Pensions Systems' investments every 4 years. 
          This bill is pure political whimsy that endangers our already-underfunded pension system.  Climate change is a legitimate issue for our time, regardless of where you stand on the issue.  So is gun violence, abortion, domestic abuse, and certain other issues that tend to dominate our culture for a period of time.
        There is a place to address these issues; the State Pension System is NOT that place!
Business Laws and the 
"Prevailing Wage"
A Quick Tutorial 
          The "Prevailing Wage" is the hourly rate of wages paid in the locality, and is determined by the Commissioner of Labor and Industry.   The local hourly wages must include provisions for significant employment benefits. 
          Thus, Pevailing Wages are almost always equal to the Union rates, which are often as much as 30% higher than those of private employers. 
           The existence of the Prevailing Wage law does not solve any perceptible problem; numerous employees work for private employers that may or more often, may not equal the union rate.
          Nonetheless, expanding the Prevailing Wage into new arenas seems to be one of the legislative majority's favorite bills.  Every year there are more.
           This bill provides for an aggrieved employee to go directly to the courts to file a complaint against an employer for breaching the prevailing wage rate.  
          As you might expect, there are already clear laws on the books creating the Prevailing Wage Laws, along with the penalties for a breach of these laws and comprehensive processes and procedures for an aggrieved employee to file a complaint.  
          This bill is, yet again, a solution in search of a problem.
          The Maryland Code ( Md. STATE FINANCE AND PROCUREMENT Code Ann. ยง 17-221)  provides the opportunity for an informal resolution of the issue and, if necessary, a quasi-judicial administrative hearing.  Only if these efforts fail, must the employee pay to take the matter to court.
          Currently, any employee under a public work contract who believes he has been paid less that the appropriate prevailing wages can file a complaint with the Commissioner of Labor and Industry.  The Commissioner immediately investigates the allegation and if possible, will resolve the issue without any further time or money.
          If the issue cannot be resolved informally, the Commissioner will order a hearing, and if the Commissioner finds that the wages are owed, will issue an order that the public body pay the employee from the money due the contractor.  
          What problem are we trying to solve?  I haven't the foggiest notion!
          Is legislation necessary?  Most employment issues are referred first to an administrative process (MOSHA, EEOC, Worker's Compensation, etc.) in order to allow for a quick informal resolution of issues between employer and employee.  There is no demonstrable reason for changing that process in this case.
          This bill expands the reach of the prevailing wage to yet another corner of the marketplace.  It allows a political subdivision to authorize the application of "prevailing wage" law to all construction work if an entity is in a newly created Tax Increment Financing District.
           This Feel-Good legislation (mightily misnamed the "Contractors Payment Protection Act"), will make a General Contractor "jointly and severally liable for violations of the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law committed by a Subcontractor or the Subcontractor's Subcontractor," regardless of whether the subcontractor is in a direct contractual relationship with the General Contractor!  
           There was no problem to solve?  not that we heard about.
            Do we really need this legislation?  Absolutely not.  There are already hundreds of laws governing private contracts, as well as the how, when, where, and why business must pay employees and independent contractors.  All this bill does is shift responsibility away from the responsible party.  
          This bill was p assed solely by the majority party.  Not one Republican voted for it in the House Committee, in the Senate Committee, on the Floor of the Senate, and is not likely to garner any Republican votes when it comes to the House floor. 
HUMOR: You want a WHAT?
"Me, my liberal wife and what happened when we went to a gun range"
by Joel Stein, TIME Magazine, Sept. 4, 2017

          "There are plenty of people my lovely wife Cassandra rants against -- some of whom don't even live in our house  But the ones who get it worst are gun owners. . . . 
          "Still, it was surprising . . . when Cassandra said she was thinking about getting a gun.  She wanted to protect herself from the people who had guns to protect themselves from people who wanted to take their guns, such as her.  
          "Turns out lots of women feel this way."  (more)
How to apply for a Trent Kittleman Legislative Scholarship 
          District 9A residents attending a college, university, trade school or equivalent in the State of Maryland are eligible for the Delegate Scholarship.
          Current high school seniors and full-time (12+ credits per semester) or part-time (6-11 credits per semester), degree-seeking under-graduate students, graduate students, and students attending a private career school may apply. 
            Click here for the application.  For questions regarding the application process, please call my Annapolis office and ask to speak with Chelsea Leigh Murphy at 410-841-3556.  

DEADLINE:   Please be sure to have your completed application  postmarked by  April 9, 2018.
Delegate Trent Kittleman
District 9A, Western Howard County and Southern Carroll County (Sykesville)
Room 202, Lowe House Office Building
6 Bladen Street,   Annapolis, MD 21401
410-841-3556  *   Trent.Kittleman@House.State.MD.US
Interim Office
3000 Kittleman Lane,  West Friendship, MD 21794
301-661-3344  *
Administrative AideChelsea Leigh Murphy