May 8, 2019

2019 Senate Session Highlights – Senator Ben Kramer

The 2019 General Assembly Session ended at midnight on April 9th, capping an eventful legislative session for Senator Ben Kramer (District 19 – Montgomery County). In his first session in the State Senate after serving from 2007-2019 in the House of Delegates, Kramer would be directly involved with some ninety-four pieces of legislation and serve as the lead sponsor of twenty-six meaningful bills (you can find a link to each of these bills by clicking here). Of the twenty-six bills that he carried, twelve passed both Chambers of the General Assembly and are now poised to become Maryland law.

Senate Bill 232 – Hate Crimes – Threats

This bill prohibits a person from threatening to commit a violation of specified hate crimes and repeals a duplicative provision of law under § 10-304 of the Criminal Law Article.

Senate Bill 245 – Transportation – Ignition Interlock System – Definition

This bill expands the definition of “ignition interlock system” to mean, in addition to current provisions, a device that has a camera (1) with the capability of recording still images of the person taking the test of the person’s blood alcohol level; (2) without the capability to record sound; (3) without the capability to record video; and (4) that records images only while the device is testing the blood alcohol level of the person taking the test or if the device is being tampered with.

Senate Bill 283 – Sales and Use Tax – Cleaning of Commercial or Industrial Buildings – Community Property Exemption

This emergency bill exempts from the State sales and use tax cleaning services of a commercial or industrial building owned by a common ownership community or retirement community that is used for specified purposes.

Senate Bill 331 – Business Regulation – Trader’s Licenses – License Fees

This bill authorizes the governing body of a county or municipality to select a uniform trader’s license fee instead of using the existing tiered license fee. Selecting the uniform trader’s license fee is a one-time, irrevocable decision. As opposed to tiered licensing, in which most licensing revenue is retained by local governments, all revenue from uniform traders’ fees accrues to the State general fund. By December 31, 2019, the State Department of Assessments and Taxation (SDAT) must adopt regulations on the granting of exemptions from the reporting requirements (and associated filing fees) under § 11-101 of the Tax-Property Article.

Senate Bill 415 – Long-Term Care Insurance – Annual Notice

This bill requires each carrier of long-term care insurance to provide each insured an annual notice, in writing or electronically, containing the insured’s policy form number and the carrier’s customer service telephone number.

Senate Bill 477 – Income Tax – Subtraction Modification – Maryland Transportation Authority Police

This bill expands the existing State subtraction modification for local law enforcement officers who reside in political subdivisions with certain crime rates by extending eligibility to Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) law enforcement officers who reside in these qualifying political subdivisions.

Senate Bill 520 – Electricity – Community Solar Energy Generating Systems Pilot Program – Extension

This bill extends the Community Solar Energy Generating Systems Pilot Program through December 31, 2024. A related reporting requirement for the Public Service Commission (PSC) is delayed three years until July 1, 2022. An existing requirement that PSC limit the pilot program in such a way that it may conduct a meaningful study is modified to include annual, increasing, capacity limits for each program category. The bill also specifies that a community solar energy generating system may have an unlimited number of subscribers.

Senate Bill 693 – Maryland Personal Information Protection Act – Security Breach Notification Requirements – Modifications

This bill expands the types of businesses that are required to provide notification to consumers of data breaches under the Maryland Personal Information Protection Act (MPIPA). Under the bill, any business that maintains (in addition to any business that owns or licenses) computerized data that includes the personal information of a Maryland resident that is subject to a breach must conduct a reasonable and prompt investigation when the business discovers or is notified that it incurred a security breach. If a misuse of personal information has occurred, or is reasonably likely to occur, the business must notify the affected individual of the breach. Violation of the bill is an unfair, abusive, or deceptive trade practice under the Maryland Consumer Protection Act (MCPA), subject to MCPA’s civil and criminal penalty provisions.

Senate Bill 694 – Commercial Law – Credit Card Processors – Merchant Processing Agreements

This bill prohibits a credit card processor from assessing or charging a fee, fine, or penalty of more than $500 if a business entity cancels a “merchant processing agreement” before the expiration of the initial term. Additionally, a credit card processor may not assess a fee, fine, or penalty if a business entity terminates the merchant processing agreement after the expiration of the initial term (unless the parties enter into a separate renewal agreement). The bill requires a merchant processing agreement to disclose specified information. The Commissioner of Financial Regulation is authorized to investigate any complaints received as a result of the bill and to use any of the investigative and enforcement powers granted under Title 2, Subtitle 1 of the Financial Institutions Article. The bill applies only prospectively and has no effect on merchant processing agreements entered into or renewed before the bill’s October 1, 2019 effective date.

Senate Bill 695 – Maryland Commercial Receivership Act

This bill establishes a comprehensive process for the appointment, powers, and duties of a receiver for commercial real estate and related personal property. Unless displaced by a particular provision of the bill, the principles of law and equity generally supplement the bill’s provisions.

Senate Bill 701 – Transportation Network Companies – Insurance

This bill authorizes the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) to accept another form of security, in place of an insurance policy, for vehicles operating for a transportation network company (TNC) if (1) the other form of security adequately provides the benefits required under current law and (2) the TNC is an affiliate of a company that provides taxicab services and has between 26 and 300 transportation network operators. A TNC that maintains another form of security in this manner must provide the Public Service Commission (PSC) with evidence of the required security.

Senate Bill 945 – Sales and Use Tax – Taxable Services – Telephone Answering Service

This emergency bill defines a telephone answering service for purposes of the State sales and use tax. A telephone answering service includes a service provided to a customer that consists exclusively of the taking of messages, either by an automated system or by a live operator, and transmitting the messages to the customer. A telephone answering service does not include the physical act of answering a telephone on behalf of a customer, if the act is incidental to and less than 5% of the service provider’s total gross receipts in a calendar year.

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