Actor Charles Dutton made a guest appearance in the Maryland House of Delegates Thursday, announcing his return to Baltimore to promote the arts in Maryland’s impoverished communities.
“I am a living testament to the transformational power of the arts,” Dutton said. “In some of our communities, if we had more arts programs and less crack houses and fried chicken joints, I think we’d have less crime.”
Dutton called on delegates to bring arts programs back “to the school systems and into the communities.”
“If it is was not for the arts I wouldn’t be standing here, I’d still be doing time in the Maryland State Penitentiary,” he said.
Dutton was convicted of manslaughter at age 17 and was released in 1976.
He starred in the TV series Roc, a comedy series about a Baltimore garbage collector. He went on to star in movies and earn accolades as a director and producer. Dutton has a home in Baltimore City and a farm in Howard County.
Estate break for farms joins congressional opponents
In an effort to show bipartisan cooperation in Annapolis, Senate President Mike Miller organized a news conference Thursday morning touting five bills with both Democratic and Republican sponsors.
The Family Farm Protection Act has perhaps the biggest price tag and the strangest bedfellows. It joins Sen. David Brinkley, R-Frederick, and Senate Majority Leader Rob Garagiola, D-Montgomery in support of a bill reducing estate taxes on family farms.
Both men are running for their party nominations in the 6th Congressional District now represented by Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, the 10-term GOP incumbent seeking reelection.
The bill would exempt the first $5 million of farmland that will stay in farming from the state’s 16% estate tax.
The bill, not yet available online, is the same as or similar to House Bill 154 already introduced by Del. Kathy Afzali, R-Frederick. Her bill has 22 co-sponsors, including eight Democrats. Afzali, in the same district as Brinkley, is also running against Bartlett.
“This is a very important first step,” said Brinkley, who lives on a farm.
Garagiola noted that two-thirds of the farms in his northern Montgomery County district are already in farmland preservation. “They’re land rich and cash poor,” Garagiola said. Oftentimes, there’s not enough money to pay the estate taxes without selling the farm to a developer.
Gov. Martin O’Malley supported Afzali’s bill last year, but this year his legislative agenda says he supports a bill to defer estate taxes on family farms. He has yet to introduce the legislation, which has missed the filing deadline.