April 25, 2019

2019 Senate Session Highlights – Senator Bill Ferguson

The 2019 General Assembly Session ended at midnight on April 9th, capping an eventful legislative session for Senator Bill Ferguson (District 46 – Baltimore City). In his first session as Vice Chair of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, Ferguson would be directly involved with some one hundred ninety-three pieces of legislation and serve as the lead sponsor of seventeen meaningful bills (you can find a link to each of these bills by clicking here). Of the seventeen bills that he carried, ten passed both Chambers of the General Assembly and are now poised to become Maryland law.

Senate Bill 261 – Estates and Trusts – Administration of Estates – Waiver of Fees – Required

This bill requires, rather than authorizes, a register of wills to waive the fees for administration of an estate if (1) the real property of the decedent is to be transferred to an heir of the decedent who resides on the property or is encumbered by a lien and subject to a tax sale and (2) the estate is unable to pay the fees by reason of “poverty.” The bill applies prospectively and does not apply to the estate of any decedent who died before the bill’s October 1, 2019 effective date.

Senate Bill 346 – Public Safety – Regulated Firearms – Sell, Rent, Transfer, or Loan

This bill expands and alters prohibitions against a firearms dealer or other person selling, renting, or transferring a regulated firearm to a purchaser, lessee, or transferee who the dealer or other person knows or has reasonable cause to believe is not able to possess a regulated firearm, to include a “loan” of a regulated firearm, as specified. A recipient of a loan of a firearm is not required to complete a specified certified firearms safety training course. The bill defines “loan” to include a temporary gratuitous exchange of a regulated firearm between two individuals.

Senate Bill 406 – Task Force on Maryland Maternal and Child Health

This bill establishes the Task Force on Maryland Maternal and Child Health, to be jointly staffed by the Maryland Department of Health (MDH), the Department of Human Services, and the Health Services Cost Review Commission (HSCRC).

Senate Bill 484 – Tax Liens – Expiration

This bill alters or establishes the expiration date of specified tax liens including (1) liens related to unpaid taxes; (2) liens on personal property; and (3) liens on real property.

Senate Bill 515 – Community Colleges – Workforce Readiness Grant Program – Established

This bill establishes a Workforce Readiness Grant Program to provide matching grants to each community college to improve the community college’s technology.

Senate Bill 581 – Economic, Housing, and Community Development – Opportunity Zone Incentives

This bill establishes the Opportunity Zone Enhancement Program, to be administered by the Department of Commerce (Commerce). Qualifying businesses within an opportunity zone may qualify for enhanced incentives under specified tax credit programs. The bill also (1) makes specified changes to the Heritage Structure Rehabilitation Tax Credit Program and extends the program through fiscal 2024; (2) extends the More Jobs for Marylanders Program by five years, increases the annual amount of tax credits that may be awarded, and expands geographic and business eligibility; (3) generally extends the geographic eligibility for a number of State economic development/tax credit and financing programs available for priority funding areas (PFAs) and/or sustainable communities to include opportunity zones in Allegany, Garrett, Somerset, and Wicomico counties; and (4) authorizes local governments to create a tax credit against the local property tax for qualified investments made within an opportunity zone.

Senate Bill 584 – Baltimore City – Alcoholic Beverages – Licenses

This bill authorizes the Baltimore City Board of License Commissioners to (1) issue up to two Inner Harbor Park licenses for use by a nonprofit organization, as specified; (2) issue a Class B beer, wine, and liquor (BWL) license for use by a restaurant in the 1400 block of Warner Street, as specified; and (3) issue one Class B-HM (hotel-motel) BWL license to a hotel in the 1200 block of East Fort Avenue. In addition, the bill (1) repeals a restriction pertaining to the exchange of a Class B-D-7 license for a Class A-7 license in the 46th legislative district; (2) authorizes a specified transferee of a Class B-D-7 license to apply to the board to exchange the license for a Class A-7 license by July 1, 2021; (3) alters provisions pertaining to the public market license; and (4) specifies restrictions pertaining to interactions between a specified Class 1 distillery and retail dealer in Port Covington.

Senate Bill 847 – Baltimore Police Department – Commission to Restore Trust in Policing – Alterations

This bill extends the termination date of the Commission to Restore Trust in Policing from January 15, 2020, to January 15, 2021, and extends the due date by which the commission must submit its final report to the Governor and the General Assembly from December 31, 2019, to December 31, 2020. The bill also (1) expressly subjects the proceedings, testimony, and other evidence before the commission to the Public Information Act and the Open Meetings Act; (2) repeals a provision requiring a vote before the commission may deem specified information confidential and privileged; and (3) prohibits commission members and staff from being required to sign a confidentiality agreement to receive documents or files, including personnel files, properly subpoenaed.

Senate Bill 896 – Arts Education in Maryland Schools Alliance Grant

This bill requires the Governor to include at least $100,000 in the annual State budget for a grant to the Board of Trustees of the Arts Education in Maryland Schools (AEMS) Alliance for the development, implementation, and maintenance of the Artlook Map Maryland (Artlook Maryland) Project. The grant must be in addition to and not supplant funds otherwise granted to the AEMS Alliance.

Senate Bill 897 – University of Maryland Joint Steering Council – Renaming, Duties, and Funding

This bill renames the University of Maryland Joint Steering Council to be the MPowering Joint Steering Council. The Governor must include in the annual State budget for the council a general fund appropriation in the following amounts: $2.0 million in fiscal 2021; $4.0 million in fiscal 2022; $6.0 million in fiscal 2023; $8.0 million in fiscal 2024; and $10.0 million in fiscal 2025 and each fiscal year thereafter. The money appropriated under the bill is supplemental to and may not take the place of funding that otherwise would be appropriated to the council. By July 1, 2020, the MPowering Joint Steering Council must report on its research into opportunities to create registered apprenticeship programs in nursing and other specified fields.

After a successful 2019 legislative session, Senator Ferguson now looks ahead to the 2020 session when he’ll bring with him the experience of another productive and effective year in the Maryland Senate.