The 2021 General Assembly Session has finally ended. We knew going into this year the main focus was going to be COVID Relief, Police Reform and changes to existing Election Law. Unfortunately, the police reform and election law bills, took a wide turn to the left.

My Legislative Package

HB 252 Tax Sales – Owner–Occupied Residential Property

As a result of the pandemic, I want to help property owners that may have lost their jobs or seen a reduction in their income levels. This bill would place a two-year moratorium of all property tax sales in Maryland. From June 1, 2021 to June 30, 2023 for owner–occupied residential properties. This bill passed out of both chambers and was signed by Gov. Hogan into law.

HB 563 Pets for Vets Act of 2021

The bill would waive the adoption fee for veterans at animal shelters.

This is a win-win as our veteran’s help give animals a much needed home and the animals gives our veterans a companion. We cross-filed this bill with Sen. Bryan Simonaire. Both bills passed through both the Senate and the House unanimously and both were signed by Gov. Hogan.

HB 573 Baltimore County – Overdue Property Taxes – Waiver of Interest and Penalties

This bill is similar to HB 272 would waive any interest or penalties imposed on a person for late payment on the county property tax on residential real property.

The late-fee would go into effect for this tax billing cycle for two years from June 1, 2021 to June 30, 2023 for owner–occupied residential properties.

The County Executive said he would look into the idea of waiving late fees through his office and said that legislation was not needed. A letter was sent to his office.

HB 921-Baltimore County – Sewer Service Charge – Adjustment

Currently Baltimore City property owners can request to change a sewer service charge if there is a water leak in the interior plumbing of the property. They can show the receipt to prove the repairs and receive a possibility reimbursement from Baltimore City. We don’t have that option for Baltimore County property owners. This bill was defeated in Baltimore County Delegation.

HB 348 — Baltimore County — Homestead Property Tax Credit Notice — Lead Registry and Code Compliance — Pilot Program

SDAT give us some research and found there were 8,237 properties in the zip codes of Essex, Dundalk and Sparrows Point that applied and received the tax credit last year, but 4,743 properties did not apply but were eligible. That is over a third (37 %) of the eligible homeowners that are not taking advantage of this credit. WHY NOT? This bill would start a pilot program in our district that would send out a notification for those who haven’t filled out that application. It is a simple idea but for some reason members of the Baltimore County Delegation voted against this bill. I explained this bill to the Subcommittee Chair and members of his subcommittee but they still don’t understand the bill.

Good News out of Annapolis

RELIEF ACT

This bill will help bring relief of over $1 billion to Maryland working families, small businesses and those who have lost their jobs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our small businesses and families in the 6th District and all throughout Maryland have been hit hard by COVID-19 and this package will provide much needed relief. I was happy to support this bill as this was bi-partisan legislation.

We were proud to approve the bipartisan Relief Act and the bill was signed into law by Governor Hogan.

Police Reform

I am a proud supporter of our police officers as my family is a Law Enforcement Family. I will support any legislation that helps our police and will oppose any legislation that takes away our officer’s funding and rights.

HB 286 Hate Crimes – Law Enforcement Officers and First Responders

I am also proud to be a co-sponsor of Del. Hartman’s bill that would make an attack on law enforcement officer a hate crime. The bill never received a vote in Judicial Committee. Then I decided to place an amendment on another bill, HB 128 Criminal Law — Hate Crimes — Protected Groups and Penalties, which would add an attack on a police officer to that bill.

The amendment failed and Del. David Moon of Montgomery County criticized the amendment as me pulling “shenanigans”. I did not appreciate his comments as I spoke from the heart. I believe that we need to protect our police officers who are under attack on the streets and now in the legislature.

There were many bad bills that were passed this session that will hurt our law enforcement. I voted against of all the following bills. The Governor vetoed all of these bad police bills but the General Assembly overrode all of his vetoes.

SB 71 — Body-Worn Cameras, Employee Programs, and Use of Force –

This changes the standard for evaluating the reasonableness of police use of force. The current standard is whether, from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight, the officer’s use of force was reasonable considering all of the circumstances apparent to the officer.

SB 178 — Search Warrants and Inspection of Records Relating to Police Misconduct (Anton’s Law) – In determining whether to issue a no-knock search warrant, the Senate bill passed last month would have required a judge to weigh increased risk to officers’ lives of doing a knock and announce warrant with the risk posed to innocent people on the property who might be injured during the course of a no-knock warrant. .

HB 670 — Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021 — Police Discipline and Law Enforcement Programs and Procedures –

This bill strikes the current Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights (LEOBR) and replaces it with a complicated, multi-step system that will involve a number of different boards, and appellate processes.

Election Law

After the controversy of the 2020 Election, I would to see more transparency in our elections. Instead bills were passed that will provide less transparency in our election process.

HB 1145 Election Law — Absentee Ballots — Requests and Signature Verification

This bill would require that certain guidelines for absentee voting provide for the verification of signatures on absentee ballot envelopes; requiring a voter to include certain documentation with an absentee ballot application. I voted for this bill in my committee but was outnumbered by my Democratic colleagues.

HB 1048 Election Law — Voting — Permanent Absentee Ballot List, Ballot Drop Boxes, and Reports

This bill will create more problems with our voting process. Instead of requiring an Absentee Ballot for every election, now voters can register one time and will receive a ballot in the mail

HB 222 Value My Vote Act & SB 525 Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services and State Board of Elections- Centralized Booking Facility — Ballot Drop Box

These two bills will help get voting ballots in the hands individuals in a correctional facility and will place a ballot drop box at correctional facilities.

Other Bad Bills

HB 409/SB494- Juveniles Convicted as Adults — Sentencing — Limitations and Reduction (Juvenile Restoration Act)

This bill will reduce the life sentence of juveniles convicted of heinous crimes.

In honor of fallen Baltimore County Police Officer Amy Caprio, I spoke in support of an amendment that would stop juveniles, convicted of killing a police officer, from receiving early release. The amendment failed and this bill passed. Gov. Hogan vetoed this bill but it was overridden by the General Assembly. This means Amy Caprio’s killer could be released in 15 years instead of serving his full life sentence if he obtains a GED.

Conclusion

It is always an honor to serve the citizens of 6th District. If have any questions or concerns please do not hesitate to our Annapolis office at 410-841-3458 or email me at bob.long@house.state.md.us.

Also in The Avenue: End-of-session letters from Delegates Robin Grammer, Ric Metzgar and State Senator Johnny Ray Salling.

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