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With session beginning Jan. 8, Assembly members file bills

1/2/14 | By Sheila R. Cherry, Associate Editor

MARYLAND—They’re back. The Maryland General assembly convenes for the 2014 legislative year on Jan. 8, but that hasn’t stopped local Sen. Jim Mathias (D-38) and Delegate Michael McDermott (R-38B) from gearing up by pre-filing bills in the legislative hopper as early as October.

The strategy is apparently to build momentum for the legislation by getting the bills entered on the calendar under the first reading procedures as soon as possible.

Proposals address phosphorus management rules are on both the lists of both legislators. Mathias is seeking an economic analysis on the impact of the regulation on Eastern Shore farm businesses with SB 27, Nutrient Management-Phosphorus Risk Assessment Tool or Index - Economic Impact Analysis. McDermott is proposing to require regulators to submit a fiscal impact statement to the General assembly’s Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive, and Legislative Review and the Department of Legislative Services before implementing the phosphorus management tool with  his bill, Administrative Procedure Act-Fiscal Impact Statements for Proposed Regulations, HB 26.

Mathias is the primary sponsor of a bill that would compel state officials to fly the POW/MIA flag along with the United States and Maryland state flag at state-owned buildings (State Government-Display of the POW/MIA Flag on State Building Grounds SB 36). The proposal was introduced in response to requests from veterans’ organizations, according to a legislative aide.

Mathias has also signed on to two tax-related bills. In the first, he is the primary sponsor of Income Tax-Subtraction Modification-Payroll Taxes on Employee Tips, SB 59, which would reduce an employer’s Social Security and Medicare tax obligation for their employee’s tip income. In the second, he is a co-sponsor of Income Tax-Expensing of Business Property and Bonus Depreciation, SB 47, which would allow certain businesses increased expensing by conforming state income tax rules to the maximum aggregate costs of expensing allowed under the Internal Revenue Code, and also to allow them to claim certain “bonus depreciation” amounts.

Meanwhile, McDermott pre-filed three bills that were referred to the House Ways and Means Committee relating to making grant funding available to improve security in public school facilities (Public School Facilities Security Improvements Program, HB 15); establishing a statute of limitations for false tax returns filed by income tax preparers (Income Tax Return Preparers - False Returns or Claims for Refund - Statute of Limitations, HB 34); and allowing certain retirement plan income to be subtracted from gross income that would be taxed by the state for certain individuals who are at least 65 years old or who either is disabled or whose spouse is disabled (Income Tax - Subtraction Modification-Retirement Income, HB 75).

Two bills sponsored or co-sponsored by McDermott were referred to the House Environmental Matters Committee, including a proposal that would allow vehicles used for law enforcement to have tinted windows (Vehicle Laws - Law Enforcement Vehicles - Tinted Windows, HB 32); and a re-proposal of McDermott’s 2013 attempt to repeal the so-called “rain-tax” (Stormwater Management -Watershed Protection and Restoration Program – Repeal, HB 50).

McDermott proposed two law enforcement measures including  a reproposal from last year to give the State Comptroller’s Office the option to allow local government authorities to conduct contraband seizures within their jurisdictions, rather than requiring that the procedure be conducted through the State Comptroller’s Office (Contraband Tobacco Products and Conveyances - Seizures and Disposition, HB 30); and a proposal to criminalize secret compartments in vehicles that are designed specifically to transport contraband (Vehicle Laws - Hidden Compartments - Prohibition and Penalties, HB 28).

With the bill Sentencing Procedures - Statement by Victim or Victim’s Representative (Alex’s Law), HB 31); McDermott is attempting once again to give the victims the right to try to present  impact statements in district court rather than leaving the decision to include those statements at the discretion of the state’s attorney.

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