Taxes, Heatlh, Homicides top General Assembly session agenda – Baltimore Sun, Jan. 7th

Erin Cox and Michael DresserContact ReportersThe Baltimore Sun

Congress and the Trump administration will force Maryland’s political leaders to forgo their election-year tradition of limiting controversy when the General Assembly meets this week.

Instead, state lawmakers gathering Wednesday in Annapolis for the 2018 session will wade into the messy business of rewriting Maryland’s tax code and deciding whether any residents should have to pay more in state taxes.

They’ll try to tamp down skyrocketing insurance premiums and debate whether to set aside $110 million for health insurance for children in case Congress does not reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Plan.

And they’ll have a partisan fight over the best way to accomplish the widely shared goal of reducing the record homicide rate in Baltimore, where 343 people were murdered last year.

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McIntosh, chair of the Appropriations Committee, said if there is a windfall for the state treasury, lawmakers will have to balance the need for tax relief against other priorities such as the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which could run out of money in April if Congress doesn’t pass another funding bill.

“If I know we have a windfall and I knew we had $100 million in less health care for kids, I know where my priorities would be, and it’s with the children,” she said.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch, an Anne Arundel Democrat, flatly said, “We’re not going to leave here with 142,000 kids without health insurance.”

Hogan, meanwhile, said in an interview Friday that he’s hopeful Congress will pay for the children’s health insurance program, and declined to speculate on what he would do if it didn’t.

 

Along with taxes, legislative leaders from both parties say they’re considering ways to stabilize Maryland’s individual health insurance market, where premiums have risen by double-digit percentages in recent years. But there’s no consensus on what to do.

“Something has to happen,” said House Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga, a Baltimore County Republican. “The premiums are skyrocketing with deductibles going up, and there hasn’t been any real move to fix the situation.”

Presiding officers Busch and Miller said the session will open with an override of Hogan’s veto last year of paid sick-leave legislation.

Although Hogan has announced plans to introduce a competing paid sick-leave bill this year, Busch and Miller say it’s not necessary. They are confident they have enough votes in their respective chambers to reach the required three-fifths’ majority to reinstate the law the Assembly passed last year requiring many businesses to offer paid sick leave.

 

 

Democrats also plan to expand Maryland’s first-in-the-nation law against price-gouging of generic drugs to include regulating expensive brand-name drugs.

That initiative is among the top priorities for the Legislative Black Caucus, led by Baltimore Democrat Del. Cheryl Glenn.

 

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