Friends & Neighbors:
We're halfway through Maryland's 2021 legislative session, and I have many updates.
First, we voted to override Governor Hogan's veto of school & pre-K funding (aka the Blueprint for Maryland's Future). But we quickly moved on to much more.
Check out my status reports on our state's new stimulus funding, police reform & more.
Thanks for staying engaged in our community!
Delegate David Moon
P.S. Your team of Montgomery County legislators has been pushing Gov. Hogan on mass vaccination in our county, equity concerns & a single sign-up site. While he thinks on that, we're directing you to informal resources like this resident-created site that tracks availability from 16 clinics around Maryland: https://mdvax.info/.
For those 65+ (Phases 1B & 1C), you can also pre-register with Montgomery County for an appointment: [ CLICK HERE ].
College & Grad School Scholarships
The state makes college & grad school scholarships available to residents of District 20 attending a Maryland school. Applications for 2021 are due 5/15/21: [APPLY ONLINE].
Maryland Stimulus Plan & Low-Income Tax Credits
Maryland Stimulus Funding Approved - With initial pandemic stimulus long gone, I eagerly voted on additional state funding. The Maryland RELIEF Act provides emergency benefits & loans (on top of the Biden plan in Congress), including:
- Exempting current unemployment insurance benefits from the income tax
- Increasing the refundable EITC to make Maryland the most compassionate in the nation for low-income tax filers
- Hiring more staff to assist with unemployment insurance claims & problems
- Allowing small businesses to keep some short-term sales tax collections
- Converting numerous loans to grants
- Targeting funding to food, utility assistance, non-profits, restaurants & hospitality
- Providing funds to help businesses transition to telework and to offset transportation agency revenue losses
- Restructuring unemployment insurance to avoid a huge spike in business payments
EITC Benefits & Aid for ITIN Filers - With so many of our neighbors left out of relief funding, I voted to include ITIN-filers in Maryland's Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC):
BALTIMORE SUN: "Tens of thousands of low-wage workers — including many immigrants — now qualify for a significant tax break, after Maryland lawmakers voted to expand the program and the governor did not block the measure from becoming law Friday. The law allows workers who pay taxes but lack a Social Security number to claim an earned income tax credit, which is designed to help low- and moderate-income workers keep more of their earnings...."
"Lawmakers pushing for the expansion of the earned income tax credit framed it as a moral imperative to help working Marylanders who had been shut out of recent pandemic aid, despite paying taxes.... The eligibility ranges based on the taxpayer’s earnings and family situation, from a maximum of about $16,000 for a single adult to a maximum of about $57,000 for a married couple with three or more children that’s filing jointly."
Police Reform Moving Forward in Maryland
After serving on workgroups to study policing & bodycams for months last year, I'm excited to finally see reform legislation advancing:
WASHINGTON POST: "In the House of Delegates, a different police accountability proposal, backed by House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones, is being discussed in a public safety subcommittee. Jones’s omnibus bill includes the repeal of the bill of rights but also a body camera requirement, a use-of-force policy that bans no-knock warrants except under 'exigent circumstances' and bans chokeholds, and other changes...."
"It is Jones’s top legislative priority, and therefore will pass out of her chamber. But a 90-member coalition of social justice advocacy groups is hoping to make changes before it reaches the House floor, including amendments put forward by Del. David Moon and other members of the public safety subcommittee."
"Moon said the subcommittee has already approved one of his proposals, which would prohibit local unions from bargaining with their departments over whether officers must use body cameras. Other lawmakers are expected to offer amendments including a higher bar for when officers can use force — changing the standard from 'objectively reasonable' to 'necessary.' The subcommittee will bring the changes to the House Judiciary Committee, which will decide how to amend the bill. Any differences in what is passed by the House and the Senate probably will get hammered out in a conference committee...."
Indeed, the State Senate just passed a package of police reform bills, which you can read about here. But in the House of Delegates, our public debate is just heating up. The Speaker's omnibus reform bill had already sought to create new criminal charges for use of force violations, repeal the police Bill of Rights, require bodycams, ban chokeholds & no-knock warrants (when lives are not at stake), and much more. But I'm on the House Judiciary Committee, and I'm pleased to report that we just added a wave of upgrades, including:
- Making lethal force a last resort & only if necessary to stop death or serious injury
- Releasing police misconduct records under the Public Information Act
- Substantially increasing compensation for victims of police misconduct
- Creating rights for victims of police misconduct
- Requiring officers to state their reason for stopping you
- Reaffirming your right to tape police encounters
- Allowing immediate suspension for police misconduct
- Banning police from receiving inappropriate military equipment, and more
The bill still needs to be voted on by the full House of Delegates. There are many steps left in Maryland's police reform debate, so stay tuned.
A Few of My Bills Are On The Move
Update on My Legislative Agenda - I've been hard at work introducing numerous reforms these past few months, and I'm beginning to see results. Here's a status check on some of my legislation in the General Assembly:
- Substantially Fairer Compensation for Those Injured by Police (HB 721 & SB 602) - In Maryland, victims of police violence receive far less than they would from a car accident, with total possible compensation capped at $400,000 (even if the medical bills are more). I was able to amend the Speaker's police reform bill to put those injured by police on par with those injured by ordinary residents. I'm teaming up on this with Sen. Will Smith.
- Give Voters More Say Over Legislative Vacancies (HB 265 & SB 6) - The Senate passed SB 6 to require special elections for state legislative vacancies that occur with enough time to add a special election to the Presidential ballot. I'm teaming up on this with Sen. Clarence Lam.
- Warn Homebuyers About Montgomery County School Boundaries (HB 541) - With a MoCo school boundary study underway, the House passed HB 541 to require home sales contracts in Montgomery County to warn buyers that the school boundaries are subject to change.
- Increase Marijuana Decriminalization to 1 Ounce (HB 324 & SB 143) - The House passed HB 324 to increase the marijuana decriminalization amount from 10 grams to 1 ounce & further reduce criminal charges for marijuana in Maryland. I'm teaming up on this with Sen. Jeff Waldstreicher.
- Expand Efforts to Catch Corrupt Government Officials (HB 489 & SB 440) - The House passed HB 489 to expand authorization for law enforcement to wiretap government officials engaging in misconduct. I'm teaming up on this with Sen. Susan Lee.
- Decriminalize Display of a Suspended Drivers License (HB 115 & SB 20) - The House passed HB 115 to eliminate jail as a penalty for displaying a suspended drivers license. I'm teaming up on this with Sen. Jill Carter.
- Give Montgomery County More Speed Limit Control (HB 562) - The House passed HB 562 to give Montgomery County a wider range of speed limits to use on its own roads, after performing a traffic investigation. It was requested as a tool for the Vision Zero program, which aims to eliminate traffic deaths. I'm teaming up on this with Sen. Will Smith.
- Push Counties to Stop Charging Fees While Defendants Await Trial (HB 126 & SB 229) - The House passed HB 126 to prohibit counties who receive state pretrial grants from charging fees to those hoping to use alternatives to cash bail. I'm teaming up on this with Sen. Jeff Waldstreicher.
- Require Bodycams to Save More Footage Leading Up to Incidents (HB 727 & SB 583) - Bodycams can preserve footage for a good stretch of time leading up to an incident, but Maryland police have their cams set to the lowest setting -- the factory minimum of 30 seconds. I was able to amend the Speaker's police reform bill to require police to capture & save at least 60 seconds of footage leading up to an incident. I'm teaming up on this with Sen. Shelly Hettleman.
- Automatic Shielding of Petty Marijuana Possession (HB 83 & SB 699 - 2020) - We voted to override Governor Hogan's veto of this bill to automatically shield old District Court marijuana possession cases on the Maryland Case Search website. I'm teaming up on this with Sen. Jeff Waldstreicher.
- Syringe & Paraphernalia Harm Reduction (HB 372 & SB 420) - Maryland's drug paraphernalia laws come with 4 years in prison & were written to target drug producers & distributors. But they also include language criminalizing users. In an effort to promote harm reduction, clean needle exchange, and safe disposal, this bill decriminalizes syringes & similar paraphernalia. It has been sent to the House Public Safety Subcommittee for discussion. I'm teaming up on this with Sen. Jill Carter.
- Allowing Victims of Violent Crime to Tape Their Abuse (HB 720 & SB 629) - This bill modernizes Maryland's laws requiring two-party consent to be taped. First, it changes the penalty for taping without consent from a five-year prison felony to a 90-day misdemeanor. This reform was triggered by Rep. Andy Harris having a college student charged with two felonies for livestreaming a protest at his office. Additionally, the bill would allow victims of violence to prove the crime by taping it. The bill is up for discussion in the full House Judiciary Committee soon. I'm teaming up on this with Sen. Susan Lee.
- Shielding Restaurant & Small Biz Owners From Personal Ruin (HB 719 & SB 582) - For businesses shut down by the Governor's Emergency Order, this bill would block clauses in commercial leases that ordinarily allow landlords to go after the personal assets of small business owners. I'm keen to keep pushing this one, after the Judiciary Committee heard powerful testimony from Silver Spring business owner David Fogel. I'm teaming up on this with Sen. Shelly Hettleman.
- Compensate Those Caring for Abused Animals (HB 1080 & SB 760) - I'm taking another crack at making sure animal welfare agencies who take in abused & seized animals are compensated for their care. Right now they get stiffed when taking in abused animals during lengthy cases. I'm teaming up on this with Sen. Justin Ready.
Live From the Pandemic Legislative Session
I was proud to serve as floor leader on a bill from Del. Nicole Williams to ban Maryland police having sex with suspects/victims/witnesses during open investigations. But I really didn't expect such wild & persistent GOP resistance to HB 411. The bill expands existing laws banning police & prison guards having sex with people in custody. You can watch video of my floor debate at https://youtu.be/coprhnPv5Fc?t=454.
By Authority: Friends of David Moon. Chair: Marlana Valdez. Treasurer: Usman Ahmed.