The Maryland General Assembly concluded early, on Wednesday, due to the spread of COVID-19 in the state, but before its end, 10 of the 18 bills proposed by St. Mary’s County commissioners passed in the House and Senate.
A bill offering commercial property owners a tax reduction for real property, with an amendment to extend the St. Mary’s County transfer tax sunset date to 2024, was voted on favorably and passed through the House.
Other county proposals also made it through, including one which would repeal a 2005 bill that provides installment loans for agricultural land preservation, one which would allow the county to designate emergency snow routes, one that would allow alternative funding for individual rescue squads in the county and one that would revise Chapter 113 in the public local laws of St. Mary’s. According to Del. Brian Crosby (D-St. Mary’s), most of these bills “passed early.”
Proposals including amending a bill that would allow flexibility in the College of Southern Maryland budget passed, as did another which alters the funding formula of the Tri-County Council of Southern Maryland, increasing the amount of money the county commissioners of Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s counties are required to appropriate each year for the council to foster cooperative planning and development in the region to $125,000.
Some proposals from the commissioners related to the St. Mary’s County Open Meetings Act made it through the House — allow closed meetings for investment of public funds, legal advice and cybersecurity; add the public library board, MetCom board and the housing authority to a list of public agencies that must abide by the act; and encourage the use of new technology.
Public facility bonds were voted on favorably, which authorizes and empowers the county commissioners of St. Mary’s County to borrow not more than $33 million in order to finance the construction, improvement or development of certain public facilities in the county, and to effect such borrowing by the issuance and sale at public or private sale of its general obligation bonds.
Crosby said the Southern Maryland delegation voted unanimously in favor of the St. Mary’s bills. The bills will now head to the governor’s office for his signature.
Del. Matt Morgan (R) said this week bonding authority and the sunset extension of the transfer tax were main priorities, but mentioned the county still got their bills through.
“St. Mary’s has been around since 1632, we got this,” he said.
In addition, as a response to the coronavirus pandemic, the General Assembly passed the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act, requiring employers with 15 or more employees to provide paid sick and safe leave for certain employees. It also requires that employers who employ 14 or fewer employees provide unpaid sick and safe leave for certain employees.
Other late-filed bills were passed to combat the spread of the coronavirus, too, including a bill that will allow the governor to transfer up to $50 million in funds from the rainy day fund to fight the virus and a bill that will provide free testing and treatment for the virus, prohibit price gouging and prohibit employers from firing employees who have to quarantine.
Crosby said the General Assembly also “cleaned up” and passed the almost $50 billion state budget on Wednesday. A balanced budget bill was passed as well, which proposes an amendment to the Maryland Constitution. The ballot initiative would ask Marylanders whether or not the General Assembly should be able to add items or increase appropriations in their budget, despite appropriations set by the governor.