At the end of every legislative session opinions abound as to who the “winners” and “losers” were for the session. Which groups benefitted the most by the passage or failure of legislation and vice versa. Now that Sine Die is upon us, we thought we would give our view of the Winners and Losers of the 2010 Session.
Trial Attorneys won big this year. They lobbied hard for a bill that doubled the minimum car insurance liability amounts (and will increase your car insurance premiums) and pushed for the passage of the Maryland False Claims Act. They got both…but, it could come back to bite them later. When the False Claims Act drives doctors out of Maryland, the trial attorneys are going to have a longer trip when they’re chasing ambulances.
Labor Unions scored major victories this session as well. Not satisfied with the with the fact that non-union state employees are now essentially required to pay union dues (a la 2009 Fair Share Act), they made certain that this year, all of the state’s daycare providers pay them as well. Another bill dubiously titled “Fairness in Negotiations” is a massive expansion of union power allowing them to settle employment disputes including wages, salaries, and other terms of employment (a role previously played by the State Board of Education). Labor unions also supported a continuation of furloughs in the Governor’s budget. After all, furloughed employees still pay union dues and service fees.
Code Pink, MoveOn.org, and other anti-military activists got special treatment this session with the passage of a bill that would prohibit schools who administer the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) from releasing those test scores to military recruiters. The legislation was billed as protecting our children’s privacy, but parents who do not want their children’s information released to recruiters already have the ability to opt out. This bill is clearly a first step in eliminating the ASVAB testing altogether, disrupting the efforts to build the military which would suit Code Pink and their cronies just fine.
CASA de Maryland scored another victory this year, receiving another $200,000 in taxpayer money to fund the money pit Multi-Cultural Center in Prince George’s County. Of the $13 million in cost for this project, 73% (over $9.5 million) is taxpayer funded through grants, bond bills, tax credits, and other appropriations from the county, state, and federal governments. Now, CASA may not feel too much like a winner, after all, the request was for $500,000 and they only received $200,000. Oh well, maybe next year.
Virginia, North Carolina, and any other state with a better tax climate (which is a lot of them) should be very grateful to the General Assembly and should really be at the top of the winner’s list. They are after all reaping the benefits of Maryland’s uncontrolled spending and reckless tax policies. In 2008 alone, Maryland lost population to 38 states, and lost a net assessable tax base of $993 million. The Democrats in Annapolis again showed their unwillingness to make any meaningful long-term changes to their spending habits and also indicated their willingness to increase taxes again (after the election of course). The House and Senate budget committees barely broke a sweat with what little they trimmed off the Governor’s budget proposal ($12 million and $9 million respectively). All their “work” was really for naught, as just days before the session ended the Governor submitted a supplemental budget. After the Conference Committee completed their work, the total spending was actually $16 million higher than the Governor’s original proposal! Thank you notes from Virginia and North Carolina should be arriving soon.
Anyone who has to pay an electric bill will see their bills go up courtesy of the Governor and the General Assembly. A bill to prop up the floundering solar energy industry directly translates to an electricity rate increase for residential and commercial customers. It’s a bit ironic that the Governor pledged to reduce electricity rates but sponsored a bill that would increase them.
County Governments got bludgeoned with “Fairness in Negotiations” this year and only narrowly escaped the albatross that is the teacher pension liability. With Baltimore City continuing to get the lion’s share of Highway User Revenue and the remainder of the jurisdictions having to divide the scraps accordingly, counties are under increased burden to do more with less. If they continue to take major hits from the General Assembly, county tax increases could be a very real possibility.
Taxpayers…Maryland’s much-abused taxpayers are the ultimate losers this session. While they escaped taxes this year, it is a pretty safe bet that they will be hit again soon, right after the next…well you know. Little was cut from the budget and new spending was approved through several new programs. An amendment that would have declared the intent of the General Assembly not to raise taxes for the next four years was rejected. Given that the Governor and General Assembly have continued their overspending habits and refused to make a commitment not to increase taxes it is abundantly clear that is exactly where we’re headed.
Small Businesses got sold down the river by the Governor, the General Assembly, and the Maryland Chamber of Commerce in one fell swoop. The Maryland Chamber of Commerce initially opposed the Governor’s Unemployment Insurance bill, but true to form struck a deal that will just be bad for Maryland’s businesses. The Governor’s bill may hold off rate hikes for a little while, courtesy of another pot of federal money. But when that federal money runs out small businesses will certainly see their unemployment taxes increase. The bill expands the number of people eligible to receive unemployment benefits (which is what bankrupted the fund in the first place). Small businesses couldn’t catch a break on the Governor’s Job Tax credit bill either. The House rejected an amendment that would dedicate at least half of those tax credits to businesses with 50 employees or less. An amendment to turn the bill into an across the board corporate income tax reduction was also rejected.
Children…For all the talk about strengthening sex offender laws this year, with just a few hours left of the 2010 session, little has been accomplished. The Governor’s bills passed but they barely cross the threshold of actually doing something. The “Lifetime Supervision” doesn’t last a lifetime and we’ll keep our fingers crossed to see if this revamped Advisory Board ever has a meeting. The General Assembly had a chance to make a monumental step by increasing the mandatory minimums for those convicted of 2nd degree rape of a child. As it stands right now, with just a few hours left on the last day of session, this passage of this bill comes down to two men – Joe Vallario, the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and Brian Frosh, Chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceeding Committee. Both chairmen opposed the bill but neither wants to be the one to kill it outright. Up to this point they have played games with the legislation and the fate of this bill is still unknown. Even though the General Assembly began with promises and pledges to protect children, with just hours left until the final adjournment, there is not a lot of meaningful change and our children are no safer than they were in January…unless of course you include protection from military recruiters.