Delegate Long Reflects on the 2024 Legislative Session

-The following article has been submitted by Delegate Bob Long of the Sixth District as he shares his thoughts on the 2024 Legislative Session-

The 2024 Legislative Session ended on April 8th. I am honored to have the opportunity to serve the residents of the Sixth Legislative District. I must admit that it was one of the most difficult sessions with the collapse of the Key Bridge. I always believed that you shouldn’t take anything for granted. It is becoming more evident again after this tragedy.

Key Bridge

The collapse of the Key Bridge was a tragic event that has been hard on our community. My thoughts and prayers are with the people and families who have been impacted. This tragedy will not only have a traumatic effect on our county and state but also will affect the country.

I was proud to co-sponsor (HB1526) Maryland Protecting Opportunities and Regional Trade (PORT) Act. It will establish certain temporary relief programs to provide assistance to individuals and businesses impacted by the closure of the Port of Baltimore. The bill will take care of everyone affected by the bridge collapse from warehouse and maintenance workers to longshoremen. The PORT Act was signed by Governor Moore last week and will help us recover faster.

I spoke on the House Floor to stop wrong efforts of renaming the Francis Scott Key Bridge. Several groups have been recommending removing Francis Scott Key completely from the bridge and renaming it something different. This is not only a bad idea, but it is also disrespectful trying to do something in the midst of this tragedy. The name needs to remain the Francis Scott Key Bridge. This would forever pay tribute to the six men who lost their lives on that tragic day and to all the dedicated law enforcement officers and first responders who risked their own lives. I was assured by the committee chair on the record that the name could not be changed.

The Budget
I have been watching the spending that this administration has done. Former Governor Hogan left Governor Moore with a healthy surplus. In this economy, with inflation at a record high, we must watch every penny that we spend. By Fiscal Year 2028, the structural deficit is estimated at over $3 billion. A big portion of that is due to investing nearly $4 Billion over 10 years to transform education in the State through the Blueprint.

This budget was calling for tax and fee increases by creating a per-trip tax on transportation network companies such as Uber and Lyft, raising the Auto Dealer Processing Charge from $500 to $800, and many new tax increases. I voted against these increases. The Moore Administration must prioritize its spending instead of increasing taxes and fees.

I mentioned last month that Internet Gaming was a bill that we needed to watch this session. This legislation would allow casino games online and they said it would create additional revenue for the state and easier access. I opposed this bill as I believe it would create job losses for our businesses and can cause more addiction problems.
I voted against this bill. It was passed in the House, but luckily did not go anywhere in the Senate. The good news is even if this bill passed, it had to go up for referendum for the 2024 Election. With no scheduled election until 2026, this bill will be dead for the next two years.

Stopping Bad Bills
My office received a lot of emails opposing HB935. This would impose an excise tax increase on certain gross receipts of certain firearms from 6% to 11%. I do not support increasing the tax on firearms to reduce crime. Instead, we need to have tougher penalties on criminals. This bill did not make it out of my committee.

The reason for this tax increase was to help fund Shock Trauma because of the continuing revolving door for gunshot victims that continue to be involved in criminal activities. They are impacting not only the cost of health care but the extreme stress that nurses and doctors endure. Dr. Simon Scalia of University of Maryland Shock Trauma said that he continues to see the same people with gunshot wounds.

Another bad bill was HB1515 Sales and Use Tax – Rate Reduction and Services. It would reduce the tax rates to 5%, but it will add a tax to many services such as lawyer fees, accountant fees, tax preparer fees, auto repair, other everyday services and even a death tax. I always thought after death we would not pay any more taxes and I was wrong. Included in HB1515 there is a death tax. Thankfully that did not pass, but that doesn’t mean we won’t see that bill again. The state will continue to operate at a deficit and will need to come up with more money in the upcoming years as well.

HB 1524 was created and passed as a last ditch-effort to save Pimlico in Baltimore City. I voted against this bill. We have been trying to save Pimlico for decades and I am tired of wasting taxpayer money on this project for a one weekend a year-event. The state needs to stay out of this and let the private businesses save this racetrack.

Supporting Our Veterans
I sponsored a legislative bond initiative for the VFW and McComas Post 2678 for an outdoor memorial. This project was passed in the budget and will be a great way to honor the veterans in our community. This is a small thank you for their service and dedication. I am looking forward to seeing the finished project at a Veterans Ceremony in the near future.

I am looking forward to what the rest of the year brings us, and I am going forward with an optimistic view on the future of Baltimore County and the State of Maryland. I will continue to serve my constituents and we will continue striving towards a better future. Thank you.

Benjamin Joseph

Benjamin Joesph has covered news in Eastern Baltimore County since 2006. He started as a reporter with the original East County Times in 2006. He started East Baltco News and later in 2022.