The 2022 General Assembly Session is now over and it was a very busy year with redistricting, inflation and increasing gas prices, the last year of the Hogan Administration and the usual ups and downs with that come with the 90 days. It was an election year so even Democrats were handing out tax relief this session. Some of the keys issues debated this year were, Abortion, Voter ID, Gerrymandering, Homeschooling and our district’s struggles with the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant made it onto the floor debate.
My Legislative Package HB 99 Election Law – Absentee Ballots – Signature Requirements and Verification
All Absentee/ Mail-in ballots would require a signature by a witness 18 and over. HB 113 Elections - In-Person Voting - Proof of Identity This bill would have created a referendum that would place the question of Voter ID on the ballot for the November 2022. If it passed out, it will not automatically require Voter ID at polling places. It would go to the voters for approval or disapproval. We need to let the voters decide. These bill, along with HB 99, did not come out for a vote.
HB 332 Baltimore County - Property Tax - Homeowners Property Tax Credit This bill would help property owners with their taxes. It would increase the income limits for the Homeowner’s Property Tax credits; the income limits have not increased since 2006. Since 2015, I have introduced this bill. The income levels that I have suggested are probably outdated and should be raised, but I decided to keep the modest increase for a compromise. The bill was voted out of a Baltimore County House Delegation community subcommittee, but Democratic members of the delegation (with the exception of Del. Jay Jalisi) voted against the bill, once they heard County Executive John Olszewski opposed it.
HB 654 Back River and Patapsco Wastewater Treatment Plants - Water Quality Testing and Overflow and Pipeline Breakage Notification (Environmental Accountability Act of 2022) I have been pursuing legislative action in response to reports that raw sewage was being pumped into the plant last spring. I had introduced legislation that called for MES to take over the plant, but I was told it was not logistical. I then compromised by requiring an independent third party to oversee all water-quality testing at the plant. The bill was not accepted by the House Environment and Transportation Committee because it targeted Baltimore City wastewater treatment plants. I created an amendment to make it a statewide bill, but the E&T committee still would not hear my bill. I became tired of the political games and added an amendment to the existing House Bill 1200 “Environment — Permit Applications — Environment Justice Screening,” which pertains to problems at the facility.
Similar to my bill, the amendment called for an independent third party to oversee water-quality testing at any Maryland wastewater treatment plant, which falsifies or does not accurately report test results to the state’s environment department, or is experiencing a catastrophic or an ongoing mechanical failure of operational equipment.
The amendment was voted down. The floor leader said the amendment was not appropriate for the bill and should have been a standalone bill. I agree; it should have been. But the committee would not allow it. Nevertheless, it is a moot point, as MDE stepped a few days later following reports on social media of untreated water. I know everyone is upset that there is still raw sewage report in our waterways, but this is not going to be an overnight fix by MES. We need to be patient. It takes a long time to clean up someone’s else mess and incompetence.
My first priority is to ensure that Back River wastewater treatment plant is brought into compliance. I'm mad as hell at Baltimore City for allowing this to happen. We have been in direct contact with the Governor's office. I promise you that this situation will be corrected as soon as humanly possible. We will keep you updated.
HB 1405 - Sales and Use Tax - Alteration of Rate Due to Inflation My Ways and Means Committee has a briefing from the Bureau of Revenue Estimates that revealed sales tax revenue was much higher than expected as a result of inflation. With such a high surplus, I want to reduce the sales tax down from 6 percent back to 5 percent since inflation is above 8 percent. We need to help the struggling tax payers in Maryland. By the time, I received the information from Bureau of Revenue Estimates, it was too late be guaranteed a bill hearing on that bill.
District maps must be redrawn every ten years based on the data from the Census. Governor Larry Hogan appointed an independent commission to draw up what was known as the citizens’ map. Then, the Maryland General Assembly came back and created its own Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission Congressional map, which was extremely gerrymandered. I, along with all Republicans, voted against the map in December. That original map was passed but later rejected by a judge for being too gerrymandered. The General Assembly responded with a new and less gerrymandered map and it passed. Again, all Republicans voted against the new map, but Hogan decided to sign the map into law as a compromise. This new congressional map divides our area. Essex, Rosedale and Middle River remain in Congressional District 2, but Dundalk and Edgemere are now in Congressional District 7, along with Baltimore City. Yes, this map is less gerrymandered than the original LRAC map, but at the expense of the Dundalk/Edgemere area. I wanted to offer an amendment to keep the southeast area in the same district, but I was told I needed to redraw the entire map with precise numbers for each district. We did not have the software or the time to draw up that complex of an amendment; it was not feasible. I spoke on the floor and questioned the majority leader about the map. He explained that the map had to be compacted, and that Baltimore City was close enough to Dundalk to be included in the district. I strongly disagreed. I am heartbroken that the governor did not veto this map. We have fought hard for the past eight years to get fair maps for redistricting. Dundalk and Edgemere have done a lot for this governor, and I was hoping he would have looked out for this area.
One good thing about this map is that it is less gerrymandered statewide. Right now, Republicans have only one of the eight Congressional seats in Maryland. This map will probably result in Republicans gaining two seats and the respectable chance of obtaining a third GOP seat. I just wish it did not divide our district. The state legislature map was also created by LRAC and passed by the Democrats in the Maryland General Assembly. I voted against the bill since it was also gerrymandered. The only good thing about that map is that Dundalk, Edgemere, Essex and southern Rosedale remain in the same district.
Gas Tax Holiday
First the good news, which is now old news. We passed a bill that was a gas tax holiday in Maryland for 30 days that saved us 36 cents a gallon over the month. I support the idea of expanding the gas tax waiver for much longer than 30 days. We offered an amendment in my committee for a 90-day extension but it was voted down. We were told that gas prices were scheduled to come down and the reduction would not be needed after 30 days. Now the bad news as the 30-day gas tax holiday expired and gas is over $4 a gallon again. We offered a similar amendment a few weeks later since it was obvious that gas prices were not reducing. Most of the Democrats voted no or did not vote on this amendment because Democrats said we can’t afford to lose that additional revenue as we have road projects to build. We can afford to push those projects back a few months until we get this gas crisis under control. I also would like to see a permanent reduction from the current 36 cent/a gallon tax on gas. The tax was 23 cents in 2013 and Martin O’Malley signed a bill into law that later raised the tax in 2015 and 2016 to the current 36 cent/a gallon. It is time to reduce that number. What has caused this increase in gas over the past year? First, it started with inflation. Too many stimulus checks were handed out during COVID and inflation went from under 2 percent to now 8 percent since Joe Biden took office. Another problem is that we need to once again rely on gas outside of the United States. The Russian invasion has caused a drop in oil importation, but according to United States Energy Information Administration, Russia imports only 8 percent of our oil. Most of our oil (51 percent) comes from Canada. So high gas prices has been an issue before the start of the Russia invasion. Along with inflation, Gas prices started to increase when Biden decided to shut down the Keystone Pipeline. We need to depend on oil from this country and to stop relying on foreign oil. Yes the old saying “Drill Baby Drill” is appropriate with these high gas prices. We need to take advantage of the oil resources here in the United States. We need to be proactive and restart oil production in the United States.
As I mentioned in the beginning, Democrats have become champions of tax relief during an election year. This year many tax credits and exemptions were passed for baby diapers, baby products, medical devices, oral hygiene products and other items. I proudly cosponsored and voted for these important tax reductions, but we could do so much more. I would have loved to have gotten some of my property tax credits passed to also help working families, but I will take any type of tax relief from this predominantly left-wing legislature. Education Bills I reintroduced two of my bills that would help with public safety but both bills sat in the drawer. There was also bad educations bills that were introduced by other delegates.
HB 114- Education - Student Behavior - Parent Notice and Required Counseling (Parent Accountability Act) My bill would have put some of the accountability of poor student behavior towards the parent. If a student in a public school engages in two or more incidents of violent and/or disruptive behavior on school premises or during school-related activities during a school year, the school principal shall provide a written notice to the parent or guardian of the student. This notice shall require the parent or guardian of the student to seek and participate in counseling with the student as well as provide referrals to community resources and counseling services.
HB1268 Education - Reporting Arrests of Students – Alterations My second education bill called for a protocol where the State’s Attorney’s office must notify the Maryland Center for School Safety, along with both the local superintendent’s office and the school administration and the State Board of Education if a student was arrested for a reportable offense.
HB832 Education - Maryland Homeschool Advisory Council - Establishment This bill would have created the establishment of a homeschool advisory council and create a unnecessary layer of bureaucracy to a system that is already working. As you might have expected, this bill was met with strong opposition from the homeschooling community. We received over 500 emails statewide opposing the homeschooling bill. I signed onto a letter with other delegates asking Delegate Ruth to withdraw her bill. She kept the bill alive for a few weeks, but we believe that all your calls and emails forced her to withdraw the bill. You should be proud of your efforts to kill this bad bill.
HB 192 Baltimore County Board of Education - Members - Training and Student Member Voting This was another bad bill. This will give the student member of the Board of Education in Baltimore County the ability to vote on the school budget. The student member is under 18 and cannot legally sign a binding contract. They do not have enough life experience to vote on a budget. I voted no on this bill, but the radial liberals in Baltimore County voted for this bill and it passed out. Abortion I am pro-life and it is very unlikely that abortion laws are going to be overturned in Maryland but the Democrats introduced HB 937 and HB1171 to make abortion laws in Maryland more extreme. We had a few pro-choice constituents call our office to express that those bills went too far.
HB 937- Abortion Care Access Act. This bill does not just expand abortion access, it sets the procedure apart from a multitude of other medical procedures, including those that save lives. The bill requires insurance companies to cover abortion services at no cost to the patient – while life-saving surgeries, cancer treatments, and even childbirth services do not have the same benefit. The bill also expands the practitioners who can perform abortions and creates a taxpayer-funded program to train providers to perform abortions. I voted against it twice on the floor, but it was passed by the legislature. Gov. Hogan vetoed the bill, but it was overridden.
HB 1171 – Declaration of Rights – Right to Reproductive Liberty This was a proposed amendment to the Maryland Constitution guaranteeing abortion rights. The amendment would add the following language to Maryland’s Constitution: “THAT EVERY PERSON, AS A CENTRAL COMPONENT OF THE INDIVIDUAL’S RIGHTS TO LIBERTY AND EQUALITY, HAS THE FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT TO REPRODUCTIVE LIBERTY WHICH INCLUDES THE RIGHT TO MAKE AND EFFECTUATE DECISIONS REGARDING THE INDIVIDUAL’S OWN REPRODUCTION, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO THE ABILITY TO PREVENT, CONTINUE, OR END THEIR PREGNANCY. THE STATE MAY NOT, DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY, DENY, BURDEN, OR ABRIDGE THE RIGHT UNLESS JUSTIFIED BY A COMPELLING STATE INTEREST ACHIEVED BY THE LEAST RESTRICTIVE MEANS.” I voted against this bill too. If the bill had passed, this Constitutional Amendment would have been on the ballot for voters to approve or reject in the General Election in November. The bill passed the House but luckily it died in the Senate.
It is always an honor to serve the citizens of 6th District. I have served two terms and I have plans to return for a third term. If have any questions or concerns please do not hesitate to our District office at 410-388-1610, the Annapolis office at 410-841-3458 or email me at email@example.com.
Delegate Bob Long
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