Annapolis is expected to be a busy place on Wednesday as the 2014 Maryland General Assembly gets underway. The gavel is expected to fall at 12:00 noon.
While much of the first day is ceremony, legislators are expected to be debating and voting on bills during the 90-day period, as well as considering requests from their districts for funding for local projects.
Frederick County Delegate Michael Hough will be introducing a bill to require collective bargaining negotiations involving taxpayer money to be held in the open. Currently, they're conducted behind closed doors. "I think that's wrong," he says. "I think when you're talking about bargaining for things that involve taxpayer money and taxpayer funds, that should be an open, transparent process."
The Board of Education and the Frederick County Teachers Association will begin bargaining this year on a new contract. Commissioners' President Blaine Young has asked that he be included in the talks taking place behind closed doors. He says if the Commissioners are going to be blamed for low starting salaries for teachers, he wants to be part of that discussion. FCTA President Gary Brennan has called Commissioner Young's participation "inappropriate."
Delegate Hough is also introducing legislation to require term limits for state legislators. "I think one of the continued frustrations I have is just the dominance of a couple of individuals that hold incredible power who've been in office for over 20 years, most of them 20, 30 40 years," he says. "And I think that 12 years should be enough for anybody."
Term limits would require an amendment to the Maryland Constitution, which Hough acknowledges is an uphill fight.
Frederick County State Senator David Brinkley says he and Delegate Kelly Schulz are working on some tax bills. He says one would bring Maryland's estate tax rate to the same level as the federal levy. Another measure would make Maryland's corporate income tax rate mirror that of Virginia.