2018 End of Session Letter
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
In 2014 you elected me to serve and represent your interests. I truly value and appreciate your trust in me to represent District 44B in Annapolis. While national politics may not always produce the results that we wish, I strongly believe it is still important to ensure that state government is working for all Marylanders. As I represent you in Annapolis, I am working for a more prosperous district and state.
The 2018 Legislative Session of the Maryland General Assembly has just concluded. This was a busy session and I sponsored and supported significant legislation that will improve the lives of Marylanders. I was the primary sponsor on a total of 21 bills this session which were introduced to improve the lives of citizens within our district and across the state. A number of the ideas for bills I sponsored came from conversations I had with some of you after the 2017 session. The themes of these bills can be summed up into four categories: Protection of Individual Rights, Consumer Protections, Juvenile Law, and Education. Below is a brief summary.
Protection of Individual Rights
The most basic rights that we have are as individuals. Many of these rights are enshrined in the Maryland and United States Constitutions. One must be vigilant or some of these rights can and are being eroded. As such, HB 700 – Hate Crimes – Group Victim was introduced in direct response to a court ruling last year that I felt needed to be addressed regarding our hate crimes statute. After a noose was found hanging in a middle school, a Circuit Court Judge decided that since the act was not targeted at a specific person, thus the hate crime legislation that was in place could not be applied to the defendant. My legislation ensures that when a person commits a hate crime against a group they are punished as if the act was committed against an individual. This bill passed the House of Delegates 131-6 and 46-0 in the Senate. This bill awaits the Governor’s signature!
I reintroduced HB 314 – Cell Site Simulator Technology which is a bill that I have been working on since the 2017 legislative session. As introduced, this bill would have required law enforcement to get a court order that documents the identity of the individual they are targeting, the phone number of the target, and limit the metadata collected through this process when utilizing cell site simulator technology. An amended bill passed the House of Delegates 102-35, and was slightly amended by and passed the Senate 41-3. Unfortunately, the amended bill was unable to be voted upon before Sine Die.
Maryland requires those who wish to work in certain occupations to acquire an occupational license or certificate from the State. If an individual has a criminal history, their ability to acquire an occupational license or certificate can be denied. HB 1597 – Occupational Licenses or Certificates – Application Determinations – Use of Criminal History would make it unlawful to deny such licenses on the basis of one’s criminal history if 10 years has lapsed after all sentencing requirements had been fulfilled. This bill would have allowed an individual to pursue their livelihood without State interference. This bill passed the House 105-31. However, the Senate amended the original bill, changing it to a reporting bill, which passed the Senate, 43-0. The House accepted the change and passed the Senate’s version, 88-46. This bill awaits the Governor’s signature!
I also reintroduced HB 320 – Baltimore County – Nuisance Actions – Community Association Standing, which was passed by the Baltimore County Delegation and became a Delegation bill. It would have provided community associations standing to sue in Circuit Court without having to post a bond. This bill passed the House of Delegates unanimously, 138-0, but failed to get a vote in the Judicial Proceedings Committee.
Finally, to address the gun threats being made against our schools, I worked with the Maryland State’s Attorney Association and introduced HB 1807 – Criminal Law – Threat of Mass Violence and Deadly Weapons on Public School Property. This bill would have ensured that if an individual makes a threat against a school population, or possesses a firearm, knife, or deadly weapon on public school property, the punishment would include their potential imprisonment. However, the bill did not come up for a vote in the Judiciary Committee.
As we are all consumers of products and services, it is necessary for the government to ensure that citizens are protected from potentially harmful actions taken by enterprises seeking to maximize profits, create exclusionary markets, or charge unnecessary fees at the expense of the uninformed or less fortunate in our community. I sponsored five bills this session that sought to protect consumers, of which one was passed by the House and Senate. I introduced HB 656 - Motor Vehicle Insurance – Discrimination in Underwriting and Rating – Use of Occupation or Education Level which would have prohibited insurers from using an individual’s occupation or education level as a determining factor in rate creation. I also introduced HB 657 - Motor Vehicle Insurance – Discrimination in Underwriting and Rating – Use of Marital Status or Gender which would have prohibited insurers from increasing the premium of an insured who becomes a surviving spouse based solely on the insured’s change in marital status. It would have also prohibited gender discrimination in vehicle insurance. Both of these bills had excellent hearings, but never made it out of the Economic Matters Committee. I also introduced HB 1748 – Homeowner’s Insurance – Discrimination in Underwriting and Rating – Status as a Surviving Spouse which would have prohibited an insurer from increasing the premium of an insured policy holder who becomes a surviving spouse based solely on the change in marital status, but never made it out of the Rules Committee. I introduced HB 635 – Courts and Judicial Proceedings – Consumer Contracts which sought to prohibit a merchant from extending or shortening the three year period within which they may file a civil action against a consumer. This bill passed the House of Delegates 129-8, but did not receive a vote in the Judicial Proceedings Committee.
I also introduced HB 556 – Estates and Trusts – Administration of Estates – Waiver of Fees which authorizes the register of wills, under certain circumstances, to waive the fees for administration of an estate. The waiver provides a level of compassion and common sense in the administration of estates. The House passed the original bill 136-0. This bill was amended and passed the Senate 46-0 and went to a conference committee. The conference committee’s report was adopted by the Senate 45-0, and by the House of Delegates 139-0. This bill awaits the Governor’s signature!
Juvenile Law is an extremely important component of the United States legal system. The laws ensure that while children are still developing mentally, emotionally, and psychologically, they will not face the same punishments when they commit crimes as those who have already become legal adults. I sponsored three bills, of which one passed; this was HB 319 – Juvenile Law – Truancy – Affirmative Defense. This bill will ensure that there is an affirmative defense for parents who do everything they can to see that their children attend school and not be criminally punished for their older teen’s failure to attend school. Several Maryland counties already allowed parents this defense, but it was not available statewide. Now, the defense is and penalties were decreased. The bill passed the House of Delegates 138-0, and the Senate 42-0. This bill awaits the Governor’s signature!
It has been said that education is the great equalizer in society. Education ensures that knowledge is gained, intellectual and vocational skills are developed, and job requirements attained. I was the primary sponsor of three pieces of legislation that seek to create a more fair educational system, develop the Maryland workforce, and protect our students. I introduced HB 1062 – Historically Black Colleges and Universities – Appointment of a Special Advisor – Development of a Remedial Plan (HBCU Equity Act of 2018) to codify the framework established by court order into law to ensure that college program duplication between Traditionally White Institutions and Historically Black Institutions was remediated. For too long we have avoided the undeniable truth that the state did not follow through on its commitments to avoid program duplication and develop unique, high-demand academic programs at HBIs. This bill would have ensured that these shortcomings, along with other areas identified by the court order, were implemented after decades of discriminatory practices noted by the federal judge. This bill failed to receive a vote in the Appropriations Committee.
I introduced HB 1606 – Higher Education – Workforce Shortage Vocational Certificate Grant Program which would have provided financial assistance to students enrolled in vocational programs at eligible Maryland education institutions. Students awarded a grant would have been able to apply those funds towards any educational expense for their program. Upon completion of their education, grant recipients would have been required to complete a service obligation in Maryland. The bill failed in the Appropriations Committee.
Operating Budget SB 185
The General Assembly passed an overwhelmingly bipartisan, fiscally responsible budget which leaves a fund balance of $201.4 million and produces a structural surplus of $158 million, including $879 million in Maryland’s Rainy Day Fund. This budget bill maintains our commitment to public schools by providing record funding (over $6.5 billion) for K-12 education. This is a 2.9% increase on last year’s K-12 education funding. Direct aid to local schools increases by over $160 million and school safety programs will receive an additional $41 million (K-12 Education). It provides a 4.1% increase in funding to public colleges and universities, allowing our public higher education institutions to cap tuition increases at 2% (Higher Education). It provides healthcare to over 1.4 million Marylanders through $11.4 billion in Medicaid funding. The budget provides a 3.5% increase in pay for workers who take care of the developmentally disabled (Health Care). Finally, it also gives State employees a 2% pay increase (Salary Increases).
Funding Projects Awarded to District 44B and District Happenings
After numerous discussions with stakeholders regarding the community’s expectations, I expect to receive grant funding from the Department of Housing Community Development to underwrite a feasibility study to examine cultivating opportunities for our district’s economic growth. I expect the work to be performed by University of Maryland’s Colvin Institute of Real Estate Development and Morgan State University’s School of Architecture and Planning this fall.
Delegate Young and I were successful advocating for $250,000, which was included in the budget, for the Paradise business district along Frederick Road for streetscape improvements requested by the community.
Last month the board of Public Works approved a request to certify matching funds and enter into a grant agreement for a $150,000 grant to MSBC Five Star Program, Inc. and Morning Star Baptist Church of Baltimore County for work on the Morning Star Family Life Center. In addition, they received a $100,000 bond grant this session to support this same project.
This session Maryland Historical Trust’s Marker and Monument Programs notified me that my application for a historical marker recognizing the national significance of the current Catonsville Elementary school building was accepted! The marker will recognize Joshua B. Williams, Jr., his daughter Margaret, and Lucille Scott, and Attorney Thurgood Marshall’s efforts to compel Baltimore County’s Board of Education to desegregate Catonsville High in 1935. This culminated in the Williams v. Zimmerman decision which stated that “the existence of a system of separate schools involves allowances of some incidental differences, and some inequalities, in meeting practical problems presented.” In other words, if it is racially “separate,” it will be “unequal.”
Thank you for allowing me to serve as your Delegate. If I can be of further service, please feel free to contact me or my Legislative Aide Gene Clark.
Very truly yours,
Delegate Charles E. Sydnor III