Approximately 3000 bills are filed in the Maryland General Assembly annually. They range from one-page bills dealing with tax sale fees in Garrett County to one hundred plus page budget reconciliation acts that can impact recording costs throughout the state. Each one is reviewed by the chairman of the Legislative Committee and our lobbyist to determine its potential impact on the title industry.
Those that affect the MLTA are examined by the Legislative Committee (via teleconference calls) and categorized as to the degree of response necessary to communicate our position to the Legislature. While many bills are assigned to a “monitor” status (no initial action needed), others are designated for support or opposition. The degree of support/opposition dictates how aggressively we pursue a particular bill. Typical responses include: contacting bill sponsors, writing letters to legislators, testifying at hearings; etc.
In the course of working a bill, the MLTA often networks with other trade and professional associations (such as, Maryland Bankers Association, Homebuilders of Maryland, Maryland Association of Realtors, Maryland State Bar Association, etc.) and government agencies (such as, Administrative Office of the Courts, Maryland State Archives, Maryland Insurance Administration, Circuit Court Clerks’ Association, etc.) to determine their levels of interest in various bills, and if we can, work together to help insure the success of our position. We also use the American Land Title Association as a resource. Thanks to several MLTA members (most notably, Sally McCash and Ted Rogers), active involvement in the ALTA, and our close proximity to Washington, DC, the ALTA provides valuable support.
We are fortunate to have J. William Pitcher, Esq. as our lobbyist. Bill has been with us for more than 26 years, and is well respected in Annapolis. He is on a first-name basis with many of the legislators, and has access to the legislative leaders.
The Legislative Committee focuses mainly on state legislation, but does get involved in local and national legislative matters when warranted. While most of its time is spent during the General Assembly’s regular session (mid-January to mid-April – involving 10 to 12 conference calls and testifying at hearings), it does operate year round to deal with industry needs.
To join, contact us at MLTA@mdlta.com.
Law Office of J. William Pitcher
January 26, 2013
The Governor introduced his gun control bill as expected, a long, comprehensive piece of legislation which addresses various issues: a BAN on rifles that look like military assault weapons, even if they are semi-automatic (one shot per trigger pull); banning ammunition magazines containing greater than 10 rounds; a licensing process for anyone over 21 who wants to buy any new gun (excluding shotguns), plus background checks and mandatory training classes of at least 8 hours classroom and live firing instruction; funding for improved school security and for better access to mental health services. This will be a hot button issue for the rest of the Session and will dominate much of the conversation in Annapolis. The first public hearing is set for Feb. 6th in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.
This week President of the Senate Mike Miller announced that he intends to introduce legislation to increase taxes on motor fuel by allowing Baltimore and Maryland's counties to impose their own 5-cents-a-gallon tax on gas to pay for local roads and buses. Among Miller's ideas is a two-tiered increase in taxes on gasoline-- in addition to the optional increase the state's counties and Baltimore could adopt, he is suggesting a 3 percent sales tax on gasoline that would apply statewide. Miller also proposed Thursday leasing the InterCounty Connector, a State toll highway in the Washington suburbs, to a private operator to raise money for mass-transit projects in Baltimore and the Washington suburbs. Miller also floated the idea of setting up regional taxing authorities in Maryland's urban areas to fund transit systems. According to a Miller aide, the proposal could involve a surcharge on the state's property tax within the boundaries of those authorities, the intent being to put a heavier burden on transit-dependent urban regions than on rural areas.
CLOSING PROTECTION LETTER
After the Maryland Insurance Administration made it clear in their report to the legislature that they do not feel there is a need for legislation like we have proposed to allow for a fee to be charged the consumer at closing to cover the liability of the underwriters and agents, the MLTA Board of Directors surveyed the membership on the question of whether the agents would support a CPL fee to be paid before the commission on each policy written. The fee would be used to cover the costs of a underwriting closing protection letter. The Agents Section was opposed and the Underwriters Section was not able to reach consensus. So the Board has decided not to seek the introduction of legislation this year on the matter. However, some members are in ongoing discussions with the MIA in an attempt to continue to educate them as to the need.
The MLTA legislative committee is holding weekly conference calls to review and discuss new legislation being introduced each week. This week we will be discussing proposed amendments to two Senate bills being heard later in the week in the Judicial Proceedings Committee, SB 28 and SB 199.
Attached is a status report on those bills introduced this past week which may be of interest to you. I will update you immediately if there are any changes to the status, for instance when a committee hearing or vote is scheduled. Each week our report will include the status and any new bills introduced. Please let me know if any of them are of particular interest and if you want to weigh in on them, for instance by writing a letter, written or oral testimony, or if you want to testify at the hearing.
If you want to view and read the bill, click on the bill number in the left column. That will take you to the full status page. If you then click on the bill number, it will come up in pdf. Call anytime to discuss.
Law Office of J. William Pitcher
27 Maryland Avenue
Annapolis, MD 21401