By Ed Reilly
State Senator, District 33
The 439th session of the Maryland General Assembly convened on January 9. It is my honor to once again be sworn in as your state senator for the next four years. Thank you so much for putting your trust in me to represent you in this esteemed body.
I would like to bring to your attention six of the pieces of legislation that will be submitted to the General Assembly for consideration this session. Some of these pieces have been submitted to the General Assembly in past years, while others are being discussed for the first time.
One of the reoccurring bills pertains to how the congressional district maps are currently drawn in Maryland. These districts are heavily gerrymandered. Several bills have been submitted in past sessions pertaining to the redistricting of these congressional districts without much success. A lawsuit pertaining to the gerrymandering of the Maryland’s 6th congressional district was recently heard in a federal court. The court ruled that the boundaries are unconstitutional and they were ordered to be redrawn. However, Maryland’s attorney general, Brian Frosh, has appealed this ruling. The case will be heard in the United States Supreme Court sometime in March, with the opinion coming in June. Meanwhile, Governor Larry Hogan introduced legislation to form a commission that will redraw the lines for the 6th congressional district. This commission would institute a nonpartisan redistricting process to ensure free and fair elections.
The Maryland Healthy Working Families Act, also known as the Paid Sick Leave Bill, was passed in 2018. Governor Hogan is concerned that this legislation has placed financial hardship on many small businesses in Maryland. He will submit legislation called the Small Business Relief Tax Credit Act of 2019. In order to qualify for this tax credit, a small business must employ 14 or fewer employees, and provide employees with paid sick and safe leave as mandated by the paid sick leave bill. The governor’s legislation will allow small businesses to claim a refundable tax credit for the accrued paid sick and safe leave for each employee — up to $500 per employee, or $7,000 per small business.
There will be a push this session to legalize recreational marijuana. House Speaker Mike Busch is in favor of creating a task force to consider a referendum on this legislation, with the referendum potentially being on the 2020 ballot. Senate President Mike Miller’s opinion, at this time, is to have the issue decided in the legislature. I foresee that this issue will be contentious.
Raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour will once again be considered. Governor Hogan continues to have concerns of raising the minimum wage to this level. There is a possibility of businesses leaving Maryland for neighboring states where the minimum wage is lower. Currently, Virginia’s minimum wage is $7.25.
Both Speaker Busch and President Miller are in support of legislation that would create a prescription drug advisory board. This board would decide whether the cost of prescription drugs is fair to the consumer.
The last piece of legislation I would like to bring to your attention is the possibility of legalizing sports betting in Maryland. Speaker Busch and Governor Hogan have both indicated that they are open to exploring this item. Money raised would fund education and possibly transportation. Currently, the states that have legalized sports betting are Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New Jersey, Delaware, Nevada, Rhode Island, New Mexico, Mississippi and the District of Columbia. Maryland is essentially surrounded by states that allow this form of gambling. This issue would be decided by voters in a referendum on the 2020 ballot.
These few pieces of legislation will be part of approximately 2,500 to 3,000 bills introduced in the Maryland General Assembly this session. I am totally dedicated to you, my constituents, to consider each piece of legislation that comes before me. I will vote to best represent the people of my district. You may contact me through my office by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 410-841-3568.