At the Halfway Point, Little
to Write Home About
The Howard County delegation is
again involving itself with school board
politics. Atterbeary and Del. Eric Ebersole
introduced a measure in late February to
allow local school boards to fire the local
Under current state law, the local
board hires the county superintendent,
but only the state superintendent can fire
a local superintendent, and only for cause.
Those causes are immorality, misconduct
in office, insubordination, incompetency
or willful neglect of duty. Atterbeary’s bill
would allow local boards of education to
fire for the same reasons.
After the election of three new board
members in November, who unseated
three incumbents, relations have gotten
worse with Superintendent Renee Foose.
In a preemptive strike, Foose sued the
school board she works for in January, alleging that they had stripped her of lawful
authority to hire staff, including the staff
of the school board.
It’s hard to see this ending well.
The Howard County delegation has
also agreed to a compromise on Atterbeary’s bill to elect five of the seven
members of the school board by council
district. The bill now provides that five
members of the school must each live in
a different council district, but they will
still be elected at large.
The legislation was proposed to make
sure that the members of the school board
represent all areas of the county. It will
now be voted on by the standing committees of the House and Senate that handle
Mandatory paid sick leave is on
course to finally win enactment after
several attempts. The version popular
with Democrats covers all businesses
with more than 14 employees. Even the
many larger businesses who already offer paid sick leave are likely to have to
change their accounting and procedures
to conform to the bill, including the state
of Maryland, which does not offer paid
sick leave to contract employees. Smaller businesses will be forced to provide
unpaid sick leave.
Polling shows that paid sick leave is
popular among all demographic groups
and Republicans too. Hogan has offered
his own version that covers employers
with 50 or more workers, and offers tax
incentives for smaller employers. This
approach covers hundreds of thousands
fewer employees. Democratic legislators
prefer their more expansive approach.
The big uncertainty hanging over the
state is what will happen with the federal
budget and health care. Major changes
in health insurance and Medicaid could
knock a huge hole in the state budget.
Reductions in the federal workforce could
cause further loss in state revenues.
Maryland will not know the impact
from Washington until after the session is
over. A special session later this year to deal
with a budget deficit is not inconceivable.
Without a lot of money to play with,
few new state programs can be launched.
This may be restraining legislative action
this year. But putting new burdens on
business, such as mandatory paid sick
leave, doesn’t cost any money from the
The third year of a four-year term
at the State House is supposed to be the
most productive for the legislature and the
governor. However, halfway through this
session, it’s shaping up as a bit of a dud.
Missing are grand plans and bold
new initiatives, or at least none that have
stirred up wide enthusiasm or broad support, except for issues recycled from past
sessions, such as paid sick leave and a ban
The Democratic leaders of the Dem-ocrat-dominated legislature have largely
focused their attention on President Donald Trump and what his policies might do
to Marylanders. That’s why their first big
push was to give Democratic Attorney
General Brian Frosh broad powers to
sue the Trump administration — without
the permission of Republican Gov. Larry
Hogan, who wants to try to get along with
a president he did not support or vote for.
Hogan has offered his most ambitious
agenda to date — 31 bills, if you count
four budget measures. Some of them are
retreads of past legislation that failed, such
as tax incentives to boost manufacturing,
exemptions for military retirement pay,
easier rules for running charter schools and
reductions on spending mandates when
revenues fall short.
Parts May Pass
Parts of Hogan’s package actually
have a good chance of passing. These
include exemption on early retirement
income for first responders (but without
Hogan’s name attached), a wastewater
treatment measure, a more stringent law
against human sex trafficking, tax incentives for investments in cybersecurity,
increasing rebates for electric cars and a
major overhaul of the state procurement
All of these are small potatoes, and
issues legislators mostly like, anyway.
Other Hogan priorities are not likely
to get much more than a polite hearing.
These include setting up an independent
commission to draw legislative and congressional districts, and transferring the
enforcement of legislative ethics to the
State Ethics Commission, rather than a
joint committee of lawmakers.
Hogan’s top priority is a demand that
the legislature repeal the transportation
scoring law they passed last year, over-riding his veto. Senate President Mike
Miller says he’s willing to compromise,
the governor’s staff says no compromise
is possible, and House Speaker Michael
Busch has shown zero interest in making
any kind of a deal with Hogan.
No New Taxes
Looking at the State House this way
presumes that people want government
and their elected representatives to be
doing things. If you take an opposite
viewpoint that government should be
doing less and keep its hands off your life
and business, then the good news is that
Hogan has balanced the budget with no
This may seem no big deal, but it is
not the legislature’s usual approach. True,
Hogan campaigned on the promise to roll
back as many of the 40-some tax and fee
increases passed in the O’Malley years as
he could. He’s done as much of that as he
could do on his own, but all his proposed
tax cuts in the first two years have not got-
ten very far with Democratic legislators,
even though they were fairly minor. Now
that state revenues are again coming in
below estimates, there is no sentiment to
cut them further.
Hogan has emphasized that Maryland
is open for business. That has not stopped
liberal legislators from proposing changes
that are opposed by significant segments
of the business community, such as raising
the salary ceiling at which workers are
entitled to overtime pay.
Del. Vanessa Atterbeary, chair of the
Howard County delegation this year, is the
lead sponsor of a bill that would change the
annual corporation filing fee of $300 for all
businesses into a sliding scale. Businesses
with more personal property assets such as
equipment could pay thousands of dollars
Smaller businesses would get a fee cut,
but the bill turns the fee into another tax
for larger corporations.
Saturday, April 29
10 AM to 3 PM
Gary J. Arthur Community
Center at Glenwood
2400 Route 97
Cooksville, MD 21723
• Dynamic Seminars
• Engaging Workshops
• Important Health Screenings
• Over 100 Vendors and Exhibitors
• Cooking and Fitness Demos
• PLUS, All Day Door Prizes!
INFORMATION • INSPIRATION • IDEAS
for living a more balanced, healthier and fulfilled life!
Howard County’s 9th Annual
If you need accommodations to attend, contact
Maryland Access Point (MAP) at 410-313-1234 at least one week prior.
FREE ADMISSION AND
CONVENIENT ON-SITE PARKING