Maryland legislators zero in on crime and taxes


A decade-old bill to remove the parental rights of accused rapists will be on the agenda again when the Maryland General Assembly opens next month.

Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-District 17), who backs the rape survivor protection bill, said it is appalling the legislation has not yet passed, especially given its support by the public and political leaders.

Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-District 17).File photo

“When I talk about this issue in Rockville and Gaithersburg, people are confused and angry as to how this can be true in a progressive state like Maryland,” she said.

Under Maryland law, women who conceive a child after being raped may petition the state to terminate the rights of their attacker, but it requires a criminal conviction. Del. Kathleen Dumais’ (D-District 15) rape survivor protection bill would lower the standard of proof in these cases to “clear and convincing evidence” that a rape occurred instead of “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which is normally used in felony cases.

Separate versions of the bill passed in the Senate and House last year, but a conference committee whose role was to reconcile the two versions did not draft a final bill until the end of the session.

“Because it got out of committee so late in the process, we ultimately ran out of time,” Kagan said.

Another piece of legislation from last year’s session that could receive new attention is Delegate Ben Kramer’s (D-District 19) bill to provide a civil compensation to victims of hate crimes. State law punishes perpetrators of hate crimes with a fine of up to $20,000 and as much as 20 years in prison. Kramer’s bill would award victims for economic losses and emotional distress.

Kramer said he has worked on the bill with the input of the Washington regional chapter of the Anti-Defamation League. The ADL reported 23 incidents of anti-Semitism in Maryland between January and September 2017.

“Unless you’ve been living on an island somewhere, everyone knows that hate crimes in Maryland and the rest of the nation have jumped dramatically, and I think we as a legislature need to respond to that,” Kramer said. “As we have seen in the Washington metropolitan area, many of these hate crimes have been anti-Semitic. We want to let the haters know that you will run the risk of civil

Sen. Craig Zucker (D-District 14). Facebook

prosecution as well as criminal prosecution.”

The new federal tax law passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump last month doubles the standard deduction and removes personal exemptions along with other itemized deductions. Maryland requires taxpayers to itemize deductions on their federal returns first before filing their state taxes.

This concerns Sen. Brian Feldman (D-District 15), who estimated that about 45 percent of Marylanders itemize their deductions. This means many residents could see their state taxes increase because they will choose to use the new standard deduction on their federal form, preventing them from enjoying tax relief at the state level.

“That has huge implications for Maryland,” he said. “You’re going to see a lot of discussion about our tax code.”

Part of the discussion could center on a proposal by Del. Ariana Kelly (D-District 16) to expand the state’s child tax credit to families that make up to $150,000 per year, up from $50,000 currently. But to implement the credit, she said the larger goal of reforming the tax code in a way that decouples Maryland’s income tax rules from federal rules must first be achieved. She agreed with Feldman that the new federal law will negatively impact many in the state.

Del. Ariana Kelly (D-District 16). File photo

“To me, there’s no question that it was a direct attack on Maryland and its residents,” she said. “So we now have to deal with this in a responsible way at the state level.”

Sen. Craig Zucker (D-District 14) said he thinks the tax law will harm middle-class citizens in high-tax states like Maryland and Connecticut, and thinks Congress’s decision last month was made in haste.

“There are a lot of residents in a lot of states that may benefit by what Congress has done, but those states don’t drive the economy,” he said. “[Congress] wanted it passed before the end of the year.”

Maryland is in a “wait and see” mode when it comes to determining the tax law’s effect on the state, because the comptroller’s office is still performing its analysis, Sen. Roger Manno (D-District 19) said.

Sen. Roger Manno (D-District 19). File photo

“It’s a mess, and I anticipate that there’s going to be a whole host of legislation and policy packages that go through the legislature because of what the federal government does to us,” he said.

Come 2019, Manno hopes to be part of the federal government. He is among five Democrats — so far — running in the June primary in Maryland’s sixth congressional district, being vacated by Democratic Rep. John Delaney.

Manno said balancing his campaign with his work in Annapolis will be a challenge, but is doable.

“I’m prepared for the hustle of that,” he said. “And the other part is that there are two months after the session to

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