Extra pension fund payment from state surplus would continue under bill approved by House

A bill to pre-fund future pension and health insurance liabilities for state workers passed overwhelmingly in the House of Delegates last week in a 130-5 vote — and now waits in the Senate Budget and Tax Committee for a hearing. The bill, HB28, sponsored by Del. Carol Krimm, D-Frederick, would require 50% of the general fund balance in excess of $10 million be split equally between the pension system and the Postretirement Health Benefits Trust Fund, up to $25 million for each fund.

New septic bill struggles in the Senate

A bill to require Best Available Technology (BAT) for all new construction on septic everywhere in Maryland is struggling to survive in the Senate.

The bill, SB266, sponsored by Sen. Joan Carter Conway, D-Baltimore City, would establish a 2012 regulation issued under former Gov. Martin O’Malley into law that required BAT systems for all new construction in the state, even beyond the critical areas. Gov. Larry Hogan killed the O’Malley-era regulation last summer and limited BAT system requirements to the critical areas only.

Dems move to rescind Md. calls for U.S. constitutional convention

Responding to fears about how President Trump and a runaway constitutional convention might tamper with the U.S. Constitution, Democrats at the State House are moving closer to rescinding decades-old calls for a constitutional convention to deal with issues of the day. A Senate resolution that would “rescind, repeal, cancel, void, nullify, and supersede” four historical applications to the U.S. Congress for a convention was adopted in the Senate on Thursday. Republicans fought in vain for an amendment to keep the 1975 call for a balanced budget open for seven years.

Chickens in chicken house

Large chicken houses spur health concerns

With no help from their state representatives, some residents of the lower Eastern Shore have sought help from a Montgomery County Democrat to address health problems blamed on an explosion of large poultry operations. Respiratory problems have been linked to ammonia, hydrogen sulfides and particulates venting from rows of large industrial fans in chicken houses. Large poultry operations have increased dramatically in the last decade, according to residents who testified in Annapolis on Tuesday.

Trucks plague Dundalk to skirt toll on bridge they don’t take

For years now, southbound trucks working the Port of Baltimore have inundated residential neighborhoods in Dundalk to avoid the toll at the Francis Scott Key Bridge on I-695. A bill in the Maryland General Assembly, SB536, hopes to change that, and boost prospects for a $2 billion redevelopment of the old Sparrows Point steel mill that will bring industry, jobs and traffic to the area. Freight haulers complain the toll is for a bridge they don’t actually cross when their return trip sends them back north with cargo from Dundalk Marine Terminal.

Finance Committee approves mandated reimbursement increases for mental health

Several hundred rallied in Annapolis Thursday in support of the Keep The Door Open Act, a bill that would increase funding for mental health and addiction treatment and tie the reimbursement rate for service providers to the Consumer Price Index. A few hours later, the Senate Finance Committee voted to send the bill, SB 476, to the full Senate after 16 groups representing hospitals, service providers and nonprofits spoke in support of the bill. Opposition from two cabinet officials at the hearing won a small concession from Finance Chair Thomas “Mac” Middleton, D-Charles, who added an amendment that would sunset the act in five years.

Annual corporate filing fee would be raised based on company assets

Maryland businesses have come out strongly against a proposed change in an annual corporate filing fee that would go from a flat fee structure to a progressive tax based on a company’s assets. The annual corporate filing fee is currently a flat fee of $300 in order to maintain the legal entity’s existence in the state; the progressive tax could climb as high as $4,000 based on a company’s fixed assets.

80,000 more salaried workers could get overtime pay under proposed bill

A bill that would make 80,000 more salaried employees in Maryland eligible for overtime pay is not sitting well with business and nonprofit groups, whose salaried employees often work more than 40 hours a week. But the bill’s sponsor says companies have avoided paying overtime for decades by unfairly classifying hourly workers as salaried employees. The bill, HB665, would increase the salary cap for white-collar and service workers currently exempt from overtime pay to $47,476 up from the current $23,660.

GOP legislators offer pension reforms

The legislature can no longer ignore the state’s $20 billion in unfunded pension obligations, a group of House and Senate Republicans said on Thursday. “There is a problem in our current pension system,” said Sen. Andrew Serafini, R-Washington County at a press conference. “The current system is unsustainable, it’s uncompetitive, and most powerfully it’s unattractive.”

Financial aid officers oppose new requirements to help students manage loans

Financial aid officers across the state oppose two proposals that would require state funded colleges and universities to generate an annual “loan letter” to students that spells out their loan obligations and help them manage their finances better. The letter would be required to include payoff amounts, cost of borrowing and monthly payments – even for loans obtained at other schools.